The newest trend on libertarian websites is to invent names for evangelicals who join forces with the “hawks” in our government. Some have thrown out terms like warvangelicals, or relligerents (religion and belligerents). Name-calling is never the answer to our problems, but Christians should always be concerned with how the world sees us. It will hate us for following Christ, but at the same time should be profoundly affected by our godly lives. However, the derision that many have for conservative evangelicals comes not from their association with Christ, but from their association with war. Conservative evangelicals have had two main approaches in dealing with war. One is enthusiastic endorsement. An example of this is Jerry Falwell’s statement that God is pro-war. Others have passively supported the wars without the thinking about the ramifications for the gospel. I am not criticizing anyone who supports any specific war. However, I do want to encourage people to carefully consider the ramifications for the Christian, and only support a war after careful and skeptical consideration.
I would like to highlight two reasons why Christians should take care when supporting or engaging in military conflict. The first is Jesus command to seek peace.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
This does not mean that force can never be used, or that all wars are evil. It does mean that Christians should seek peace first. God is not pro-war. In the past, he has used war to punish evil men, but that was only at his express command and authority. We are not the nation of Israel. We are a spiritual nation and our weapons are not physical. The Christian must consider wars with suspicion, realizing that God has called us to peace, and also realizing than men are evil and often go to war for unjust reasons.
The second reasons Christians should be very serious when contemplating war has to do with Jesus’ final command to his disciples. Perhaps the most important mission for Christians is to bring the gospel to the unbeliever.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20
The gospel is the Christian’s number one priority. War presents the Christian with a tremendous difficulty. Christianity teaches that there are two types of people in the world. Those who have accepted the gospel and those who are still in unbelief. War is about killing. There is no way around it. A Christian involved in a war is doing one or both of two very solemn things. Either the Christian is killing a fellow Christian, or an unbeliever for whom Christ died and to whom he is to bring the gospel.
If the Christian kills a fellow Christian he is going against some serious commands in Scripture and seriously compromising the testimony of the church in the world.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12
Christians were not even supposed to have lawsuits against one another.
I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 1 Corinthians 6:5-7
On the other hand, if a Christian kills a non-Christian, he is sending him to face God’s judgment without telling him the gospel. How can a Christian carry out the Great Commission in Afghanistan.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:12
Either way, a Christian involved in war is taking a very serious action that has an effect on the gospel. This does not mean that a Christian can never participate in war, just that it should never be taken lightly, and that the Christian must weigh the justification of the war against the effect on the gospel.
The church must commit itself never to blindly follow anyone or anything except Jesus Christ. When the church becomes affiliated with war in people’s minds, whether justly or unjustly, this is a very serious matter. The church must seek peace and the communication of the gospel of first.