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Frank L. Hoffman Interviewed: Peacemaking
Comments by Charles F. Stanley Referred to by Pat Zimmer
Ecclesiastes 3:8 states that there is a "time for war and a time for peace." In these times of warfare, we often ask, "How should we respond? What should be our attitude?" We will find biblical answers for these questions when we explore the ultimate issue: What does the Word of God say about warfare?
When a nation goes to war, God’s people need to fully understand their heavenly Father’s viewpoint about this matter. Naturally, God is not excited about war. He does not enjoy bloodshed and vengeance. However, He is dealing with a world of people who have a fallen nature—sinful, wicked and vile. Romans 3:10-11,15-17 describes mankind without God: "…there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God. . . . Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known."
God battles with people who oppose Him, who fight against Him and His followers. So, even though He hates war, God is not against it. Throughout the Old Testament, there are examples of God using warfare to carry out His plans, to punish the wicked and preserve His people (Deut. 9:4-6; Deut. 20; Jer. 5; Numbers 33:55-56). You may think, "How could God do that?" He says in Isaiah 55:9, "My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts." God has divine reasons for choosing to use war as a vehicle to accomplish His will.
In Scripture, God clearly establishes the government’s responsibilities and authority over us, as well. In Romans 13:1 and 4, Paul writes, "every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. . .for it [the government] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil."
The government is ordained by God with the right to promote good and restrain evil. This includes wickedness that exists within the nation, as well as any wicked persons or countries that threaten foreign nations. Obviously, there are times when a country should not go to war; but there are also times when, if a nation does not do so, they suffer the consequences. Therefore, a government has biblical grounds to go to war in the nation’s defense or to liberate others in the world who are enslaved.
You may think, "Well, how do we reconcile that with what Jesus said about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek?" (Luke 6:27-30) In that passage, Jesus was speaking to us as individuals. If someone treats us badly, we should love him anyway. We can pray for our enemies, and do good to those who hate us. The way someone treats an individual is one thing; the way he treats an entire nation is a completely different issue. The Bible teaches that it is the responsibility of the government’s leaders to protect the nation against those who would destroy it.
The Bible also instructs citizens in the proper way to respond when their country goes to war. For example, it is a violation of the Word of God to refuse to defend your country if ordered. Recall Romans 13:1-2: "every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God. . .Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." According to this verse, we’re to be submissive to the laws of the land. The only reason we have for disobeying the government is if it requires us to behave in a way that clearly violates some specific verse or command of God (Acts 5:27-32).
Someone might say, "But I can’t go to war because shooting the enemy would be murder, and the Bible says ‘you shall not murder' " Exodus 20:13). Actually, when a man in combat shoots his enemy under the command of the government, without personal hatred, he is not committing murder. Instead, he is simply being obedient to the purpose for which he is fighting. To commit murder, a person must have vengeance and hatred against another. Many men have died on the battlefield without animosity toward anyone--they were fighting for a cause, defending or freeing their land. Therefore, if called, it is a citizen’s national and biblical responsibility to defend his country.
Even if we do not actually participate in the fighting, we are also called to create unity and harmony within the country. We need to support whatever decisions our nation makes, as long as they do not directly violate the Word of God. How can we justify the protests and marches against war? I understand that, in America, for example, we have a right to express our different opinions. However, there comes a time when our personal opinion is not a priority. The only reason we have the freedom to protest in this country is because thousands were willing to die for that liberty in the past.
Instead of resisting, we should offer to serve the war effort in any way possible during this time, especially by encouraging and helping the families of our soldiers. And the most important and powerful thing we can do for our nation is pray. Pray for our President, leaders, military, and even our enemies. God honors the prayers of His children and expects us to support those in authority.
Despite the many different opinions and philosophies about war, the most important consideration is God’s viewpoint. Throughout Scripture there is evidence that God favors war for divine reasons and sometimes uses it to accomplish His will. He has also given governments and their citizens very specific responsibilities in regards to this matter. This is a frightening time for all of the world’s citizens, but it is also a time for God’s people to rise up as a unified body against the global threat of evil and terror. I challenge you, as a child of God, to respond to this conflict as He desires: with an attitude of prayer, submission, and an unwavering dependence upon your heavenly Father.
—Charles F. Stanley
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