Our Pastor told us, “The root word of happiness is happen. Happiness is a good feeling or contentment because something good happened to us.” I’m happy because I ate a good breakfast. An hour later I’m not happy because my computer crashed and I lost 15 minutes of work on my document.
Joy on the other hand is peace and well being of the spirit because we have Jesus in our lives. Jesus can give us joy when we are in the middle of great pain and difficulty. Joy does not depend on the circumstances of our lives.
There are also two kinds of freedom.
The freedom the military and our government
laws gives us and the freedom Jesus gives us.
The military can give us freedom to build church buildings and to use those buildings for worship. The United States has the most powerful military in the world. Who can defeat it?
The freedom Jesus gives us does not depend on circumstance. A Christian from North Africa beheaded by Boko Haram has more true freedom than the average American.
Jesus said, 44 But I
tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that
you may be children of your Father in heaven… Matthew
How can we kill for transitory freedom when Jesus tells us to love our enemies?
It is often the bee who gets the credit for being busy; however it seems the spider could claim the title as well. Courtesy Leon Kauffman.
7 Reasons the Old Testament Cannot be used to Justify Christian Violence
By Jon Kauffman
Many Christians claim that because God commanded Joshua to use violence in the Old Testament, then violence is acceptable for Christians.
reasons that Christians cannot use the Old Testament to justify violence:
JESUS: Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Jesus very clearly taught and demonstrated non-violence even in the face of death. No other reason is necessary for a follower of Jesus to reject violence and war.
Jesus, an innocent man, did not use violence to protect himself, instead Jesus said, “’Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” Luke 23:34
The Old Testament tells the story of humanities journey to God and healing through His revelation. It takes time for mankind to draw closer to God just as it takes time each of us to draw closer to God.
Moses says: “Show no pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” – Deuteronomy 19:21
But Jesus contradicts this and says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” – Matthew 5:38–39
And Jesus continues: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-48
That journey of God’s revelation took a huge leap forward when Jesus came to earth as He taught us to Love our enemies. That journey will not culminate until we see Jesus face to face and we will be like him because we will see him as he is.
We see many indications in the Old Testament of the journey to non-violence. Just as sometimes God deals with our sins one at a time, so God sometime deals with mankind’s sins one at a time. .
EARLY CHRISTIANS: The early Christians very clearly taught and demonstrated that they understood Jesus to be saying that Christians must not participate in violence. For example:
Justin Martyr said, “For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God, and we who formerly used to murder one another do not only now refrain from making war upon our enemies, but also, that we may not lie nor deceive our examiners, willingly die confessing Christ.” Justin Martyr, 100 AD to 165 AD, First Apology, Chapter 39.
Arnobius said, “For since we, a numerous band of men as we are, have learned from His teaching and His law that evil ought not to be repaid with evil, Matthew 5:39 that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another.” Arnobius (Died 330 AD) Book 1, Section 6.
GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE: Israel was God’s chosen people. God was their King. God separated Israel from the rest of the world so that he could reveal himself to them and make a way for Jesus to be born.
Today God’s chosen people come from every race and live in every country and speak every language. God’s Kingdom is no longer confined to one country. Jesus is our King, our President, our Prime Minister. Jesus is a higher authority than any earthly king or president. As his followers, Jesus does not ask us to crush our brothers and sisters and the poor in foreign lands to make America greater. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in foreign lands are citizens of our own country or kingdom. The kingdom of God spread throughout the world.
GOD FOUGHT FOR ISRAEL: When God commanded Israel to fight wars, God fought for Israel. When Gideon was given the task of fighting Israel’s enemies, God told him to whittle down the numbers of his troops until there was no doubt but that God had won the victory. The United States wins it’s battles by brute strength.
WAR AND WEALTH: God did not allow Israel to gain wealth when waging war. Often God commanded Israel to destroy everything their enemies possessed when they conquered them.
Primarily the Crusades, European wars, and the wars of the United States have been about the gain of wealth. The United States used brutal tactics to steal land from Native Americans. For the last 40 years, the number one reason that the United States has been fighting in the Middle East is to ensure a large supply of oil for the United States. See America’s War for the Greater Middle East, by Retired Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich
OLD TESTAMENT AS METAPHOR: Much of the Old Testament is foretelling the coming of Jesus and a metaphor for His coming. For example, the story of Jonah’s 3 days in the belly of the whale is a metaphor for the 3 days Jesus was dead. God had the whale spit Jonah onto dry land. God raised Jesus from the dead. The physical warfare of the Old Testament is a metaphor for the spiritual warfare Christians are involved in during the Church period. King David is like Christ. David fought the physical enemies of God. Jesus fought the spiritual enemies of God. King Solomon is like Christ ruling in peace now and in the future. We must join this Kingdom of Peace.
TIME FOR WAR: Ecclesiastes 3:8 says there is a time for war and a time for peace. The Old Testament period was a time for war. The Church period is a time for peace. And yet the Church is living in a time of war, an eternally important war. . Paul said,“Some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:2-5. NIV
Recently I went to a baseball game. When it came time to sing the National Anthem, everyone arose with great reverence and adoration. Suddenly I had to leave.
In Daniel 3 we read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego:
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and required everyone to worship. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down and worship. As a result they were called before King Nebuchadnezzar. Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the fire. The fire was so hot the soldiers throwing them in the fire were killed by the heat. God rescued the three men from the fire.
Back in 2016, Colin Kaepernick, taking a stand for civil rights
did not stand during the playing of the national anthem. This raised a
firestorm of protest against him. Is the flag so sacred that one cannot raise
awareness of injustice at its expense? Even if we disagree with his position,
Kaepernick’s intentions were certainly just.
Have Americans replaced the Babylonian worship of the gold statue with the worship of the flag, the military and extreme patriotism?
Some Christians claim that because Paul used military language in Ephesians 6, then that means Paul is condoning military service for Christians. Is that true?
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you
can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.12 For our struggle is not against flesh and
blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the
powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the
heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so
that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and
after you have done everything, to stand.14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled
around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that
comes from the gospel of peace.16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of
faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil
one.17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword
of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:11-17 NIV
In verse 12 Paul distinctly says that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Our mission is to fight against “the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms.” The mission of the human military is to kill and control human beings through violence. Why would someone say that Paul is condoning human military service if military service is not addressing our real mission?
However, using military language to explain our real mission is very appropriate. We are at war. Our battle is against the evil one and his rulers, authorities, and powers in the dark spiritual world. And how does Ephesians 6 say we defeat the evil one?
First: We need the belt of truth: If we are lying to ourselves
about our real mission, how can we even begin to address our mission?
Second: the breastplate of righteousness. If we look at the Sermon on the Mount, we see the actions of the righteous. Let us look at a few actions Jesus says that the righteous do:
If someone is righteous, he will not murder. Matthew 5:21-36. We shouldn’t even offer our gift to God when a brother or sister in Christ has something against us. Christians live in every country in the world. In the United States, our enemies in military battles always include Christians. If we kill a Christian in our war-making, haven’t we done great harm to our brother or sister in Christ? How can we make things right with the one we harm when we have killed them?
If someone is righteous, he will be faithful in marriage: Matthew 5:27-32. It is wrong for us to even look lustfully on another woman or we could end up in hell.
If someone is righteous, he will turn the other cheek and go the extra mile: Matthew 5:38-42. In the time of Jesus, going the extra mile referred to the Roman legal privilege for a soldier who could require a citizen to carry his bag for him for a mile whenever the soldier wanted. If you are going the extra mile to help the enemy soldier, it is difficult to kill him. But if you do go the extra mile, perhaps you will become friends with your enemy? Perhaps your enemy will become your brother in Christ?
When someone goes the extra mile for his enemy, he may die. In the Sixteenth Century at least 1500 Anabaptists were tortured and killed because they insisted on living by the teachings of Jesus. An Anabaptist, Dirk Willem was imprisoned to be killed.
He escaped prison and was fleeing for his life. He crossed a pond covered by a thin layer of ice. His pursuer fell through the ice. Dirk turned back and saved his enemy from drowning. The man he saved, grabbed him and held him for arrest. On May 16, 1569, Dirk Willem was executed by fire.
If someone is righteous, he will love his enemies: Matthew 5:43-48. It is doubtful that it is possible to love someone and kill them at the same time.
Third, our feet must be fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He laid down his life on the cross. He did not kill his enemies when they were killing him. Jesus had the ability come down from the cross and kill them. Jesus said we are to take up the cross and follow him. If we follow his example, we cannot kill our enemies.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Jesus explained
his mission with a quote from Isaiah. This is also our mission. In Luke 4:18
& 19 Jesus quoted Isaiah.
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]
Luke 4: 18 & 19 NIV
It is interesting to notice that Jesus did not finish Isaiah’s quote. “…..and the day of vengeance of our God,” in Isaiah 61:2. NIV. Did Jesus ignore this passage because he is the Prince of Peace and because he came to bring reconciliation? Did Jesus ignore the passage because his mission is not violence and revenge? Is our real mission to bring peace and reconciliation?
It appears to me that Ephesians 6 completely fails to give a Christian ethical support to use violence against his enemies. Christians who would like to live a life following the teachings of Jesus while using violence cannot find ammunition for violence in this scriptural passage.
Many of us have used violence or supported the use of violence against our enemies. If we are to follow the Prince of Peace, we may need to change our thinking. We may need to admit we have been mistaken in the past.
Sunlight streaming through the morning fog. Courtesy Leon Kauffman.
Jesus and the Roman Centurion
By Jon Kauffman
Some Christians feel that because Jesus did not rebuke the Roman Centurion for military service, then Jesus is condoning military service.
The Faith of the Centurion
Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,”
he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But
just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I
myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’
and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do
this,’ and he does it.”
Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I
tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to
you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places
at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the
subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where
there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let
it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at
that moment. Matthew 8:5-13 NIV
In the story, Jesus does not specifically mention the
centurion’s career. We do not know that Jesus did not discuss his career with
him also. The point of the story is the centurion’s faith. This story comes
immediately after the ‘Sermon on the Mount” in chapters Matthew 5-7 where Jesus
makes it very clear that we are to love our enemies.
Jews felt the Romans were their enemies. The Romans were brutally violent and evil. Seeing rebelling Jews on crosses around the country was a common sight. Later, at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, Barabbas who was freed was a rebel against Rome and many Jews agreed with him. A Jew joining the Roman military would have been considered a traitor. Most of those among the Jews following Jesus would not have considered joining the Roman military. Far more startling to Matthew’s audience was the fact that Jesus would offer healing, salvation, and forgiveness to an enemy and a gentile.
Jesus healing a servant of a Roman soldier was a striking contrast to the disciple’s desire to see Jesus overthrow the Romans. One of Jesus’ disciples was a zealot. Simon the Zealot. Zealots were a group of Jews who promoted armed rebellion against Roman rule. Perhaps Matthew felt that discussing how the centurion’s career built on violence contradicted the teaching of Jesus was unnecessary.
Perhaps if we follow Jesus’ example with the Roman centurion, we will heal our relationships with our enemies and make friends with soldiers from ISIS and Boko Haram?
Imagine if an American missionary with the gift of healing went to Iraq. Suppose an Isis leader came to the missionary and asked the missionary to pray for healing for his friend. Suppose the Isis leader had heard the missionary preaching. Suppose the Isis leader demonstrated his faith in Jesus in a similar manor as the Centurion demonstrated his faith. Suppose the missionary did pray for the Isis leader’s friend and his friend was healed. The missionary would no more be condoning the Isis leaders career than Jesus was condoning the Centurion’s career. Such a situation would show a Christian following Jesus’ command to love our enemies.
Later in the book of Matthew, in Chapter 24, Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple and violence resulting from the rebellion of the Jews. In 70 AD this destruction occurred. Those who followed the advice of Jesus fled and survived. Those who participated in the rebellion died. One source says a million Jews died in this destruction of Jerusalem.
Jesus saw Roman soldiers killing and abusing his fellow Jews, friends and relatives all his life. He knew he would soon die on a cross at the hand of Roman soldiers. He knew Roman soldiers would soon kill his people, the rebelling Jews in Jerusalem.
Perhaps this story verifies that Jesus loved his enemies with a wild, reckless, healing, forgiving love. He even healed the friend of his enemy the Roman soldier!
It seems to me that it takes a great leap of logic to believe that the healing of an enemy’s servant by Jesus would in any way justify us killing our own enemies today.
Suggesting that because Jesus healed his enemy’s servant means that Christians should join the military is like suggesting that when a Muslim terrorist becomes a Christian, that means we should join the terrorists in fighting the United States.
Maybe Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant was similar in 2001 to an American doctor giving Osama Bin Laden a dialysis machine a few months after 9/11?
I was trying to open a conversation with someone online to find out why they felt it was acceptable for a Christian to use violence. He gave some reasons that did not seem logical to me and when I asked him to explain, he said: “We must agree to disagree.”
Agreeing to disagree is an excellent comment to use to maintain peace between Christian brothers. It is useful when the difference in opinion does not have consequences to our lives and by holding either position, we can still easily follow Jesus. For example, we can agree to disagree about the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
The comment “Agree to disagree” can also be used if we are not yet ready to defend our position or if someone is treating us disrespectfully.
Is our position on violence relevant for a Christian living
his life in this world?
I believe that this question is very relevant and that the
consequences both now and in eternity are very real.
Our answer to this question may determine if we feel it is acceptable to use violence to protect our families or should we find alternate means of protection? Our position on violence could easily lead to the life or death of our families.
Our answer to this question can quite easily determine
whether we will join the military or not.
Our answer to this question may influence our position on US foreign policy.
Our answer to this question may affect how we think about our enemies. What about their souls? What about their innocent women and children who are killed? What about the “enemy” Christians we kill?
My position is that if we claim to be followers of Jesus, we must live as Jesus lived and follow his teaching. I do not see anything in the teachings of Jesus that would allow his followers to use violence.
Jesus said that there is no greater love than to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters(Fellow Christians).
If Christians had refused to fight Christians even if it meant their own death, the American Civil War would not have been fought. If Christians had refused to fight in the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis would have been forced to non-violently negotiate agreements about cotton taxes and slavery.
Yes, a position on violence is very relevant for living the
Christian life. What are the eternal consequences of Christians fighting wars
that could have been avoided? What are the eternal consequences of a Christian
allowing his family to die? What if a Christian family died because they were
following the example of non-violence Jesus gave us by dying on the cross when
he had the power to prevent his own death?
Perhaps agreeing to disagree is a good method for keeping the peace between brothers and sisters in Christ, but it seems to me that it is very important to discuss the ramifications of our positions on violence to our Christian faith.
The predicted snow didn’t amount to much here, but up a little higher there was enough to help this colorful bushstick out even more. Courtesy Leon Kauffman
Does Romans 13 Justify Christian Participation in Violence?
By Jon Kauffman
Some Christians claim that Romans 13:1-5 justifies Christian participation in violence or the military.
13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. Romans 13:1-5
From the time of the Maccabees, many Jews rebelled against Rome. In AD 55 when Paul wrote Romans 13, many zealot Jews were rebelling against Rome. Nero, Emperor of Rome when Romans was written was one of the bloodiest and unjust emperors to ever rule Rome. In 55 AD, Nero who followed Claudius as Emperor had been emperor for a year. Prior to Paul writing Romans, Emperor Claudius had expelled the Jews from Rome, resulting in the expulsion of Christians. Paul is advising Christians not to violently rebel against Rome even if the Romans treat Christians with injustice.
In the face of such persecution, it is unlikely that Christians would have been tempted to join the military.
Later in the reign of Nero, Jews rebelled against Rome. Rome sieges Jerusalem. Christians who followed the instructions of Jesus in Luke 21, fled to the mountains and escaped. Very few Christians were killed in this siege. As many as a million Jews died in this revolt against Rome.
God sometimes uses violent men representing the state to control evil and violence, but Jesus does not ask Christians to participate in anything that goes contrary to his teachings. Jesus demonstrates and teaches that it is better to refuse to obey the state than to participate in their evil.
Jesus is not asking non-Christians or Christians to behave in a violent matter. In Romans 13, Paul simply observes that because violent men use the government violently, God will us that violence for good and to control control evil men. Because God is in control he uses even the violent as his agents for good.
Jesus asks Christians to build the kingdom of God by taking up their cross and following Jesus. Jesus died on the cross without resistance against those killing him. Jesus said twelve legions of angels were at his disposal and yet he did not ask for their help. Nowhere in the teachings of Jesus is Christian participation in violence shown to be acceptable. Jesus asks his followers to love their enemies.
The Apostle John told us: 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18
Many Christians live in countries the United States has made war against. How is it possible to love our brothers and sisters in Christ while we kill them? The government war drums are currently beating against Iran, but Iran has the fastest growing Christian Church in the world.
Was George Washington fighting an unjust war when he was fighting a war of rebellion against England during the Revolutionary War? Certainly!
Romans 13 is an admonition not to use violent rebellion against the government and in no way asks Christians to join the military or join in contributing to Rome’s injustice.
Romans 13 does not justify Christian participation in violence or the military.
The setting sun gives some last light to a bunch of fireweed with McDonald Peak and lhe Mission Mountains looming in the background. Courtesy Leon Kauffman
My Objections to Christian Participation in the Military
By Jon Kauffman
I considered arguments for Christian Participation in the Military. I have several objections to this philosophy. Please feel free to offer arguments that overcome my objections.
Objection One: Jesus taught Non-violence. Nowhere in the New Testament or in the writings of the early Christians nearest to Jesus is violence taught to be acceptable. .
Objection Two: Jesus demonstrated Non-violence. Even when men were killing him, Jesus refused to fight back. The apostles and many early Christians died without fighting because they took seriously the command of Jesus to love their enemies. .
Objection Three: If Christian refused to fight Christian, many wars would not take place. Wars that would not have happened include the hundred-year war between France and England, The American Revolutionary War, The American Civil War, World War I, World War II, The Vietnam War, and many other wars. .
Objection Four: theUS has an evil Foreign Policy. The US bombed every village in North Korea during the Korean War. The US bombed Laotian villages during the Viet Nam war if they would not send their 13-year-old boys to fight the Viet Cong. Every day the US kills innocent men, women, and children with drones. I could give many, many, more examples. .
Objection Five: Soldiers cannot refuse to take unjust actions if their commanding officers tell them to take that action.
If you know convincing arguments for why I am wrong, please “Leave a reply”.
Many, who support Christian use of violence, say that they base their position on the teaching of St. Augustine. Augustine based his teaching about war on the teachings of Ambrose, Plato, and Cicero.
After Constantine came to power in 306 AD the 300 Bishops in the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) called Christians to leave the military and this seems to be the official view of the Roman church at that time.
“Those who endured violence and were seen to have resisted, but who afterwards yielded to wickedness, and returned to the army, shall be excommunicated for ten years.” Excerpt from Cannon 12 of the Council of Nicaea.
Ambrose was the first Christian to write about just war. Ambrose was a highly loved and respected Roman Governor stationed in Milan and by popular demand became Bishop of Milan in 374 AD. Ambrose was a masterful politician and was able to overcome highly volatile situations using peaceful negotiation.
When Ambrose wrote about just war he was upsetting 350 years of Church teaching.
Did Ambrose write about just war because he realized that if Christians were to fully leverage their political positions then they needed the ability to ask young Christian men to slaughter enemies of the state at the state’s request?
With Ambrose did the Church begin to succumb to the third temptation of Jesus?
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Matthew 4:8-10 NIV
Ambrose was St. Augustine’s Bishop. Did St. Augustine write justifying war to bolster the ruling classes ability to maintain the status quo by allowing Christians to fight? Rome was in decline. St Augustine was arguing to give justification to leaders sending their constituents into battle. Did St Augustine write about just war because so many people were becoming Christian and the number of people available for battle was dwindling?
St. Augustine was teaching against the position of the Council of Nicaea. Should we expect him to have strong arguments demonstrating how the church teaching was counter to the teaching of Jesus? What did Augustine teach?
St. Augustine used Roman’s 13 to justify his position. As I have explained in a different blog post, Romans 13 does not justify violence on the part of Christians, but quite the opposite. (1) St. Augustine really did not bring his position back to the teaching of Jesus.
St. Augustine also tried to use the Old Testament to justify his position that Christians could join the military and follow Jesus. He tried to synthesize the love of Jesus with violence of God in the Old Testament.
Origen saw a problem with all that Old Testament violence.
If we agree with Origen that it is doubtful that a loving God would slaughter infants, we must look for alternative explanations of Old Testament violence attributed to God. If we follow Origen’s example we must remember that the Bible is infallible and we must find an explanation that reveals Jesus and God as loving us. We must read the story and interpret it as Jesus would interpret that story. See “God is not Violent, Korah’s Rebellion.” (2)
St. Augustine’s criteria for Just War included Just Authority, Just Cause, Right Intention, and Last Resort.
Does a Just Authority exist? If an authority contradicts the teaching of Jesus can it be just? Jesus refused to resist and died on the cross and said: “Take up your cross and follow me.” How can a Christian find greater authority than Jesus? If Jesus is the final authority on how we should live, and if we follow him, and if Jesus does not authorize Just War, then does a “Just Authority” exist who has the right to ask Christians to fight. If world leaders do not have Just Authority, Augustine’s other points – Just Cause and Right Intention are mute.
Does Just Cause exist? True justice replaces what was lost and brings reconciliation of the wronged party with the one who did the harm. Only Jesus can bring true justice. Someday he will he wipe away every tear. How can a government who is more interested in retaining power than following Jesus hope to determine Just Cause?
Is “Right Intention” a justifiable reason? I’m sure Winston Churchill thought he had right intention when he pushed for war against Germany prior to World War I. However had peaceful negotiations taken place instead, World War II and perhaps the Cold War with USSR could have been prevented. Our best intentions often end in disaster when we make mistakes. (3) If we are working with a government and military who are not following Jesus and if the foreign policy is formed by people who are not following Jesus, how likely is it that Right Intention in war will bring about results that follow the intentions of Jesus?
Is Last Resort a justifiable reason? “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. Jesus holds the future, we can wait. We do not know when the last resort occurs.
Pax Romana lasted from the time of Jesus until 200 AD. Was this a result of praying Christians or brutal tactics of a brutal Roman government? 30 years after Christians began openly entering the military in 170 AD, Pax Romana ended. A few years after Augustine as theologians continued to justify Christian participation in the military Rome fell apart. Are the two circumstances related?
Do St. Augustine’s teachings on war conform to the teaching of Jesus? I have been unable to find anything that legitimately allows Christians to participate in violence in the teachings of Jesus. Many of Jesus’ teaching can be used to demonstrate that violence is unacceptable for a Christian.
St. Augustine, Ambrose, Cicero and Plato were all smarter than I am. They have been admired for centuries. Many followers of Jesus have agreed with their teachings. That certainly gives their teaching respectability. But do the teachings of Augustine, Ambrose, Plato, and Cicero have the authority to trump the teaching of Jesus?
Cicero said, “In times of War, the law falls silent.”
Compare Cicero to Jesus:
Jesus said, “18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:18.
Both of these statements are true. If Jesus is suggesting that we are responsible for our actions when we break God’s law and if Cicero is suggesting that in war we will ignore the law to participate, how can such a situation contribute to a “Just War”? Should we participate in “Just War” if we must reject the teachings of Jesus to do so?
In 408 AD Augustine wrote, “The earlier time of that king represented the former age of emperors who did not believe in Christ, at whose hands the Christians suffered because of the wicked; but the later time of that king represented the age of the successors to the imperial throne, now believing in Christ, at whose hands the wicked suffer because of the Christians.” Augustine, Letter 93, Chapter 3, Vs 9, 408 AD. To Vincentius.
I find little similarity between Jesus and his command to love our enemies and Augustine’s statement in Letter 93.
Because of Augustine’s mistake in giving Christian’s “justification” to fight, maim and kill, he set the world up for constant war.
In the Magnificat in Luke 1, Mary says, “51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 2 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”
When the US military bombed villages in Laos because the Laotians would not send their 13-year-old sons to fight against North Vietnam, were the US pilots fighting for the “rulers on their thrones” or the “humble”?
Where do we fit in when we join the US military? Where do we fit in when we sit in our fancy homes and enjoy the cheap oil brought about partly by US foreign policy and military action in the Middle East or enjoy cheap bananas and cheap coffee brought to us by the Central American poor, kept cheap partly by our foreign policy and military action?
Will we be the rich that he has sent away empty?
When we support American soldiers killing defenseless women and children with drones are we like the Rich Ruler?
The Rich Ruler came to Jesus seeking to inherit eternal life. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21.
Do we have the talent to be like a camel squeezing through the eye of the needle? If we are fighting to increase and protect our material wealth and are willing to kill the weak and downtrodden to do so, are we endangering our souls?
If St Augustine was intending to help the Church and political rulers retain political power, he was successful.
Was St Augustine successful in calling people to build the Kingdom of God by calling them to fight with violence? Refusing to fight and and as result dying like sheep worked very well for Christians to build the Kingdom of God during the first 3 centuries. If the Church had continued to be non-violent, perhaps the church would have been much more successful in building the Kingdom of God in the following centuries?
Some Christians do not even limit their wars to the Just Wars described by Augustine. These Christians blindly follow their political leaders and indiscriminately kill in any war the state desires to wage.
The Blackfoot River on a hot summer day. Courtesy Leon Kauffman.
What About Hitler?
By Jon Kauffman
When I asked if war could be prevented if Christian refused to fight Christian, Bob Spiess asked, “What about Hitler?”
Bob’s question is quite valid. It often seems logical that violence is the answer to prevent further violence and evil.
We need to look at the bigger picture.
Death, violence, and evil are the natural consequences of sin. Because he loves us, Jesus allowed the natural consequence of man’s sin to take place and died on the cross. Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” If we fight evil and violence following Jesus’ example, we can expect to die. Violence and evil are real and Jesus showed us the only way it can be stopped. Jesus interrupted the cycle of violence by refusing to fight.
If Christian refused to fight Christian and neighbor, the 100-year war would not have been fought between France and England. If the 100-year war had not taken place, Europe would have had a different attitude about war and most likely World War I and many other European wars would not have taken place. If Christian had refused to fight Christian, the faulty foreign policy of Great Britain would not have caused Germany to desire a naval fleet. Love for Christian Brother would have brought about negotiations and World War I would not have been fought.
According to Stanley Weintraub in his book “Silent Night”, in Flanders in 1914, German, British and French soldiers called a truce on the field of battle and celebrated Christmas together. Soldiers refused to fight for several days, but generals made the fighting continue.
True heroes shot above the enemy instead of at the enemy. True heroes refused to fight their Christian brothers and were brought to trial and shot as traitors. True heroes refused to join the military and were thrown in prison as a result.
In the thick of the fight, it is difficult to see the truth. In hindsight, we can see many errors of Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and the US Congress.
Estimates vary but, about 10 million soldiers and 7 million civilians died in WWI. What if 100,000 Christian soldiers on each side had refused to fight and had been shot for treason? Most likely the war would have stopped, negotiations would have taken place and the death toll would have been much less. After the war ended on November 11, 1918 hundreds of thousands of Germans unnecessarily starved. If the US Congress had voted to sell food to the Germans instead of participating in the Starvation Blockade, perhaps Hitler would not have been voted into power and World War II would not have taken place.
It would have been difficult to do, but if Christians all over the world had followed Jesus’ teaching and loved their enemy and turned the other cheek and fed the hungry, Hitler would have had no power.
Today violence and evil take place every day. The natural consequences of that violence are taking place every day. If we follow Jesus, what can we do to interrupt the cycle of violence and revenge in our world today?