A man left the church I served because, as he said, “I think you are anti-war.” He was right. And it is astonishing that any disciple of Jesus Christ could consider that to be a negative criticism. Isn’t every human being with a head on straight and a heart in the right place opposed to war? How could anyone be pro-war?
Most Christian traditions have long held that, in this fallen world, some wars are justified. A just war would be one to defend the helpless; it would not be for the purpose of plunder or to enlarge a country’s borders. Sometimes it is difficult to determine which wars of our own country fit that criteria, but most people agree that our part in WWII was justified. We had to defend against the aggression of the Axis powers.
That enormous conflict is the perfect example of the great evil that war foists upon otherwise peace-loving people. How many husbands and wives saw their spouses go off to war never to return? How many children were left fatherless or motherless? How many parents gave up a son or daughter?
But dying for one’s country is not the worst thing about war. Killing is. Warriors on neither side know the people they are killing. They could not possibly have any hostility toward them. In any other setting, they might be friends, but there is no opportunity to question the validity of the war itself and no easy way to resist the call to battle. Warriors on both sides are simply following orders. Even those fighting for a just cause bring bereavement to millions of innocent parents, spouses, and children of the enemy. And it is not just the warriors themselves; all of us are involved. Especially in this democracy, all of us make possible the wars of our nation, justified or not.
The message flaunted by that crafty Enemy of humanity is this: “You – even you who trust in the Prince of Peace – cannot avoid involvement in the greatest evil imaginable.” Having failed in his attempted temptations of the Son of Man, that Devil delights to entrap the sons and daughters of men and women.
Yet we must not think it will always be so. Amid the banal folly, a realm in which God reigns is present and expanding. God will set every head straight and locate every heart in the right place. And there will be no room for hatred.