- Written by Shawn Hayes
War! What is it good for? That is the question that rang in song across America many years ago. But is the answer really “Absolutely nothing”? Is there ever a time or good reason to go to war? What would Jesus have us to do?
While some say war is ordained by government and is always right (a view called Activism), some suggest that it is never right to participate in war (pacifism). Selectivism is the view that war is sometimes justified, and while it presents some challenges, it offers a biblical perspective on the subject. The writer of Ecclesiastes suggests that there is a time and season to every purpose under the heavens, even a time for war.
1 Chronicles 5:20-22 says, "for they cried to God in the battle, and he was entreated of them because they put trust in him. ...For there fell down many slain because the war was of God." In fact the Jews understood the name "YHWH Sabaot" to mean "Lord of Host," "Omnipotent Warrior Leader" or "the God who fights my battles."
Great men and women who waged war against injustice and sin were given the victory and called faithful for their military acts, including Moses, Samson, Gideon and Deborah. In Luke 22:36 Jesus commands his disciples to sell their outer garments in order to purchase a sword. The word "sword" here (Greek: maxairan) is a dagger or short blade used by Jewish travelers for protection against robbers and wild animals. Here Jesus insisted that if they did not have one, to be sure and purchase one because they would need it.
What about "Thou shall not kill"? The word here is not the Hebrew word harag ("kill") but ratsach, which means "to murder" (malicious intent). Romans 13:4 says that God gave government the sword and they do not bear it in vain. So sometimes war is justified. The question is when.
It is justified if:
The war is in defense or self-defense.
The war is declared by a nation, not individual.
The war is necessary for justice, when all else fails.
The war is justly waged (even a just war waged unjustly is unjust).
It is reasonable to believe you can win. What purpose would nuking each other do for either side? Will my efforts bring peace?
God's love demands justice. Who really believes that crime should go unpunished or that there should not be a consequence to our actions? We cannot live in a world with privileges without responsibilities.
War! What is it good for? Sometimes justice. When it is good for justice is not determined by man but discovered by carefully applying godly principles to each situation The Bible teaches that there is no greater love than one would lay down his life for a friend (John 15:13), and that is precisely the example that Christ has given as a gift to all mankind.