God, government and “the sword” – pt. 2

WARNING: RAMBLING AHEAD. You may want to just skip to the bottom and read my comment, because I think it makes more sense than all this mumbo-jumbo I wrote here… ha ha! Thanks for humoring me 😉

We’ve been having a pretty cool discussion in the comments section of my last post, God, government and “the sword”. As I started to respond to the last comment, I realized that it was getting long, so I decided to make a new post out of it. Feel free to go back and read the comments on the first post, and then jump on back here to continue the discussion…

Anyways, here’s what Matt asked:

I still want to hear how you handle the wars in the old testament.

I also believe that while Jesus would prefer to act peacefully he was also willing to act in other ways as need be. I look to Mark 11:12-26 and see Jesus acting quite forcefully when he sees injustice.

What do you think?

ok, here goes…

wars in the OT:

Honestly, I don’t know how to handle them… But I’m going to attempt to figure it out by stating the things that I DO know:

A) God’s knowledge/understanding far surpasses what we have the ability to understand (this is ALWAYS a good place to start, in my opinion)

B) God is Holy and thus cannot (or will not?) do anything that is sinful or “wrong”

C) In the past, God has directly commanded people to war (OT times)

Ok, so knowing these things, what do I do? I think that an analogy might help me to figure it out:

Lying is sinful, according to the 10 Commandments, however I don’t think anyone would disagree that there are times when telling a lie is actually the right thing to do. Take the Holocaust for example, or the Underground Railroad: I’m sure that there were many lies being told in order to save lives, and to free slaves. No one in their right mind would say that it was wrong that people lied then, but does that now mean that lying is OK, and not sinful? No, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would say that, either.

So, what do we do with that? You have 2 options I think:

1) Lying is usually a sin, but sometimes, there are Lies that aren’t sinful… “Just Lies” maybe? (like “Just War”)

2) Lying is ALWAYS a sin. But you have to do it anyways sometimes…

So… how does this correlate to the concept of “Just War”?

It seems to me….

well, you know what. Nevermind. I think that I set out to propose that there is never a “Just War” however I think that I’ve just convinced myself that maybe there is… ha ha ha.

I think I’ll end with this: Even if there are cases where war may be Just, there are plenty cases where an unjust war was proclaimed to be Just by the people fighting it… (Conquistadors in South/Central America, Crusades, conflicts in Africa)

So, I guess my point is that we should be REALLY careful with that label… I’m done for now, it’s late…


11 thoughts on “God, government and “the sword” – pt. 2

  1. I guess what I’m trying to say is this…

    Have there been wars in the past that, looking back on them, seem to have been “just”? YES

    Does Jesus seem to be, in general, about loving your enemies, peace and restoration? YES

    In light of these 2 things, is it possible that wars have been necessary in the past, and may continue to be necessary in the future, but that ultimately God is NOT FOR war and that in fact it is COUNTER to His intended design for His creation; and thus we should constantly be striving and yearning to return to that intended design?

    YES? Well, at least, that’s what I think…

    I guess that’s really my only point… probably could have spared you all my ramblings above…

    Does this make sense?

  2. GREAT! We agree! (phew…)

    So, then let me turn it back on you then… In light of what I said above, how do we speak about the concept of “Just War”?

    Specifically, if we can agree that:
    “…ultimately God is NOT FOR war and that in fact it is COUNTER to His intended design for His creation…”

    Then what is a “Just War”? And how do we reconcile the (apparent) conflict between God DESIRING/INTENDING peace, yet somehow CONDONING war at certain times?

    …Feel free to make this a post on your own Blog, and pingback to here… if you think this is getting too meaty for the comment section 😉

  3. I believe that God desires to act in ways that do not cause war, but I also believe that in light of the fact that we are in a sinful, fallen world that there are times that God must act through war, and it is those times that war is just.

    In our current situation we can only theorize if a war is just… and wait for God to let us know if it is/was

  4. “…there are times that God must act through war…”

    So God is causing war? Is that really what you mean? Or maybe I’m just misreading it…

    “what if the faith of George Bush is more than a marketing campaign, and God directed him to get involved in this Iraq thing?”

    I suppose that I have to say that this is a possibility… but, come on. We went there looking for WMDs, and when we didn’t find any, we tried to rewrite history and say that all along we were really going in there to liberate the oppressed people of Iraq…

    If they had used the liberation line from the get go, then I’d be less skeptical. But even if they had, I would have probably wondered why we didn’t act elsewhere first… somewhere where the injustice is far greater (Africa comes to mind…)

  5. “Then what is a “Just War”? And how do we reconcile the (apparent) conflict between God DESIRING/INTENDING peace, yet somehow CONDONING war at certain times?”

    the way I see it, at times God ordains war as a means to peace. and certainly, this is the primary reason we entered WWII – to stop the bloodshed. God doesn’t initiate war – evil men initiate war. but sometimes, you must enter a war to end it.

    also, what do you think about Romans 13:1-4?
    “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. … For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. … For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

    it sounds to me like God still approves and ordains the use of the “sword” by the authorities (government) to enforce justice as necessary. though violence is often NOT the right answer, this passage seems to say that violence can be a Godly tool, to keep the peace and punish those who do wrong.

    we had a thread on this topic a while back at shanebweb, http://www.shanebweb.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=7072
    feel free to revive it!

  6. I’m going to start a new post on Romans 13 soon… watch for it. We can pick this up on that. 🙂

    Thanks for the link to your forum, I’ve been reading it… seems like it was a very similar discussion.

  7. Somewhere on your blog talking about Rob Bell you said: “I’m starting to think that if we just get out of our church buildings, and start doing and saying the things that Jesus did while he was here, then…”

    Then heaven might come to Earth?? Hey, here is an even more radical idea. Instead of “getting out of our church buildings” how about we not build them in the first place and instead use the money to feed and bring clean drinking water to the poor? How many billions in wealth does the Catholic church have while their members around the world starve? Sounds pretty evil to me. When will we do what Jesus told us to do?

  8. Craig-

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Welcome to “the tension”…

    I agree wholeheartedly with you, that heaven needs to come to earth… and that God desires that we would join Him in doing that. It’s interesting that you just mentioned the point about bringing “clean drinking water to the poor”, because I just talked about that the other day on a newer post. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments section!!!


    …God, YOUR Kingdom come (and not the kingdom’s that we create), YOUR will be done (and not our will) on Earth (right here, and right NOW) as it is (and will ever be) in Heaven…

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