The Iraq War: Is it Right to Fight?
Psalm 23 : Romans 12:9-21
the grave events of the last few days I felt it was more appropriate for us to
consider what our response should be. I realize that some of you believe that
it is right that we go to war and others who feel that we should not. I want us
to consider what God has said about war and see if the Bible can guide us in how
we should understand these events or respond to questions friends or family may
have. Most of us have been glued to the TV or radio this last week as the
war broke out. If you have children you will know how difficult it is to shield
them from the awful reality of what is happening, or to have answers for their
I am grateful
to DavidCockburn for his very helpful and informative seminar last Sunday
afternoon on the ethical issues surrounding the Iraq crisis. I commend to you the tape of his seminar which
is available from the reception. This evening I am going to take a more reflective
look at Psalm 23 and God’s antidote for dark days. This morning, however, I want
us to consider what the Bible says about war by asking a series of questions.
What is the real cause of war?
Is it ever right to fight?
How should we respond to this particular war? Please look at the very first verse
on your outline, Romans 12:18 "If it is possible, as far as it depends
on you, live at peace with everyone." Circle "if it is
possible". I think the Bible is very practical here.
It says "as much as it depends on you... as far as it's possible on your
behalf, live at peace with everybody." However, I think this is
also implying that sometimes it is impossible to live at peace. Have you
ever met somebody that, no matter what you did, you just couldn't get along with
them? No matter what you did, they could not be appeased. The Bible
says, "If it is possible." If somebody abused my children,
I wouldn't have peace with them at all. I don't think God would expect me
to be at peace with them. I would expect justice. Genuine repentance might lead
to forgiveness but without it there would be no peace.
1. What is the real cause of war?
Bible says that most wars are caused by two things: greed and pride. Greed
and pride are at the root of most wars.
“What causes fights and
quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?
You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what
you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.”
It was greed that led to the Gulf War. SaddamHussein wanted something that wasn't his. He wanted the
oil fields in Kuwait so he just took them. They weren't his but he took them anyway.
And for the last twelve years he has reneged on the commitment he made, and the
Un imposed in 17 resolutions, that he disarm and destroy
his weapons of mass destruction. Whenever there is a battle between two nations,
a battle between two businesses, a battle between an employer and employee, labour
and management, husband and wife, parent and child, whenever there's conflict,
somebody (maybe both) is exhibiting selfishness, greed or pride. I want
it my way. You want it your way. We're going to have conflict or somebody
is going to have to compromise. The Bible says in Proverbs 13:10 "The
effect of pride is fighting." Pride causes conflict.
Visualize the word
sin. What is the middle letter? - “I”.
When I want my way and ignore you and your wishes it leads to pride and pride
causes conflict because sooner or later I am going to meet someone who says… ‘no’.
How many times in
the last few months have diplomats and UN inspectors gone to Iraq to say, "Why don't you back down? Why don't
you comply?" Proverbs (New English Bible) "A brainless
fool causes strife by his presumption." Presumption on someones
part has led to this war. So what are the real causes of war? Answer? Greed and pride. That is why war is always a tragedy.
2. Is it ever right to fight?
short answer is - “Yes”. There are times when it is the lesser of two evils.
There are times when it is appropriate and there are times when it is inappropriate.
Ecclesiastes 3:8 "There is a time for war and a
time for peace." The Bible is very realistic. Sometimes war is
the right thing. Sometimes war is the wrong thing. "There is
a time for war and there is a time for peace."
are many, many examples in the Bible where God commanded a war, where God specifically
says, "Go to war!" When you look at the heroes of the faith in
Hebrews 11 -- Joshua, David, Gideon, Samson -- these people were all warriors. When you look
at the Bible you find that sometimes war was the right thing to do. When
you study the ministry of Jesus you see a number of things. In the first place,
He never told a Roman soldier to leave the army. If Jesus had been a pacifist, He would have said to the soldiers, "Leave your
army! Come follow Me." Not once did He ever
say it was morally wrong for them to be in the service.
did John the Baptist. When soldiers came to him and asked what they should do, what did he say?
Luke 3:14. "Don't extort money and don't accuse people
falsely—be content with your pay."
Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is directed primarily
at the individual Christian not a
government or nation. In Matthew 5:38-48 Jesus commands us not to retaliate, not
to resist an evil person, but love our enemies and pray for those who persecute
us. However, on two occasions Jesus cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem by force. John says Jesus made a whip.
A whip made out of chords and used it to drive all from the Temple area. He didn't politely ask them, "Would you
please stop what you are doing and kindly leave". He forced them out.
They were in the wrong. So He forced them out.
Thursday when Jesus explained to his disciples that he was about to be
murdered and that they will be scattered he tells them to do what? “If you don’t
have sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” (Luke 22:36)
What was more important? A cloak to keep you warm at night or a sword? What a
choice. Perilous times lay ahead for the disciples and Jesus wanted them to be prepared. The Bible says there is a time for war and a time for peace. So the question we
ask is, “when's the right time?" How do you know a good war from a
bad war? The “Just War” tradition, which Augustinedeveloped provides a very useful set of criteria.
1. A legitimate authority must declare the war. In other words,
wars must not start because of a personal grudge or an accident. A sovereign head
of state must make the decision. 2. The war must
be carried out with a right intention.
The purpose must be to protect or restore peace, not to seize land or oil. 3. The war can be approved only as a last resort.
Other alternatives must be tried first. 4.
The war must be waged on the basis of the principle of proportionality.
The good to be accomplished by the war must outweigh the suffering
and killing that will be unleashed by the war. 5.
The war must have a reasonable chance of success. 6.
The war must be waged with all the moderation possible.
That is, the accepted rules of The Hague
and Geneva Conventions must be followed. To the greatest extent possible, civilians
and prisoners of war must be protected. Augustine based his six principles on biblical principles. Two
or three times the Bible says we ought to fight:
2.1 In order to preserve
freedom In Genesis
14, for example, Abraham risks his
life in battle to rescue his cousin Lot
and his family who have been taken captive. You have to decide what's worth dying
for. If you don't know what's worth dying for, you don't know what's worth
living for. There are some things that are worse than war. Many historians believe
that if Britain and France had intervened in 1936 when Hitler
illegally occupied the Rhineland, the Second World War might have been averted.
2.2 In order to defend innocent people Proverbs 21:15 "When justice is done
it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers." Circle "justice".
Christians are not just interested in peace. We want peace, but we want
peace with justice. Peace at any price is not peace. Peace at any
price is appeasement. God reveals in Scripture that he is not only a God
of peace but also a God of justice. Things should be done right. That's
why the Civil War was fought. Blacks were being treated unjustly. It was
necessary to use force to liberate people being treated unjustly.
2.3 In order to stop the spread of evil
Bible makes very clear that God has authorized the government to enforce the law
and punish offenders. ”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. (Romans
There are three facts of life: We live in a fallen world.
Every person has sinned. And wherever there is sin, people hurt each other.
So there must be laws enacted to prevent people from hurting each other.
God has authorized law and government as part of life. He started by giving
us the Ten Commandments. "You shall do this and you shall not do this..."
God has established laws to restrain evil. God has authorized government
to enforce those laws, because if there's no enforcement, laws are worthless.
Paul assures the Christians living under Roman rule, “if you are doing good you have nothing to fear from good government.” However,
"If you break the law you may well have fear." Have you ever been
driving and seen a blue light flashing in your rear view mirror? How did you feel?
Fearful? Then the police car overtook you and ignored
you! Why did you get uptight? Because you have a
guilty conscience. If you have never broken the law, you’ve no reason
to be afraid of law enforcement.
The Bible says that God has established
government to be the agent of enforcement to maintain the peace, because we live
in a world where people will hurt each other. So God says there are laws.
instance, the eighth commandment, "You shall not steal." That means
you have a right to private property. So do other people. Most of
the world would agree that Saddam tried to steal Kuwait, just as Turkey appears to be stealing the Kurdish homeland, just as
Israel wants the land on which the Palestinians live. That
is why the impartial implementation of international law is so important.
You don't go in and take over somebody's country by force. We shouldn't
do it. They shouldn't do it. So God has instituted governments to
punish evildoers. "Doesn't the sixth commandment say, `You shall not
kill.'" No it doesn't. It says "You
shall not murder." The word is used
47 times in the Bible and it always means murder. Is there a difference
between killing and murder? Absolutely.
C.S.Lewis said, "All killing is no more murder than all
sexual intercourse is adultery." There is a world of difference and
it has to do with intent. Many times in the Old Testament, God commanded
capital punishment for certain kinds of crimes. When is it right to go to
war? To bring about justice.To preserve freedom.To reduce evil in the
world. I will leave it to you to decide whether the present war with
Iraq is therefore a just or unjust war.
now the world’s media is focused on Iraq. But it was not the first war, it is not the only war
going on right now and it most likely won’t be the last. According to RickWarren, in the last 3,421 years there have only been 268 years
that have seen no war. During the last 5,560 years of recorded history --
there have been 14,531 known wars which averages out
to a little over 2.6 wars for every year of recorded human history. In the
history of 185 generations, only ten of those generations have experienced unbroken
peace. So when Jesus said "There's going to be wars and rumours
of wars" He knew what He was talking about. We live in a fallen world.
3. How should we respond during war? What's the Christian response? Four things:
3.1 Pray 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says "First of all pray for kings and
all others who are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceful life."
The first thing you're to pray for are our leaders.
They make decisions on our behalf. Pray
for our prime minister, pray for our Parliament, pray for our military leaders.
Notice the benefit of praying for your leaders: You'll end up living quiet
and peaceful lives. We're to pray for leaders. We
ought to pray for our soldiers, the men and women who are over there. The
Bible also says we also ought to pray for our enemies. Matthew 5:44. We need to pray for our enemies.
"Pray for those who hurt you and despitefully use you and persecute you."
We ought to pray that they will have a change of heart.
3.2 Trust God Trust God in all situations. The Bible says
"The Lord is my light and salvation. Whom shall I fear? Though
an army besiege me and war break out against me, even then I will be confident."
(Psalm 27:1, 3) While we pray for our soldiers, we also accept the
fact in reality when war happens, there are casualties. There will be people who
lose their lives. So we're to pray and trust God realizing that God is in
control, that God knows what He's doing, and that God will carry us through whatever
situation we face. We have families in our church whose husbands, sons and daughters
are in the Gulf right now. God is with you. He will help you face
whatever the future brings. So we pray and we trust God.
3.3 Seek peace What does it mean to seek peace? "Turn from evil and do good.
Seek peace and pursue it." (Psalm 34:14). Seek peace means do whatever
you can to bring about peace. Not only peace between nations
but peace everywhere. You need to seek peace in your family.
You need to seek peace with your husband/your wife. You need to seek peace
with your children. You need to seek peace with people you are estranged from
at work. That's the mark of a Christian. "Blessed are the peacemakers,
they shall be called the sons of God." During the Second World War,
Bishop WilliamTemple said "We Christians in war are called to the hardest
task of all -- to fight without hatred, to resist without bitterness and in the
end if God so grants it, triumph without vindictiveness." We seek peace.
3.4 We need to support each other The Bible says "Carry each other's
burdens and fulfill the law of Christ."
(Galatians 6:2). In a crisis time like this, the church really shows itself
as a family. We are a family, an extended family, an extended network of
support for those lives influenced and affected by this war. We need to
support those serving in our armed forces and their families and also look for
ways to support the people of Iraq, especially the Christians of Iraq. If you're
not in a small group, I encourage you -- get in a small group. If you missed last
week’s sermon on small groups, please pick up a tape at the reception and find
out how important being part of a small group is. You need one especially in a
time of international crisis like this.
me close with a scene from one of my favorite films, "High Noon" starring
GaryCooper. The film is at least forty years old, but well worth
renting from the classics section of Blockbuster. GaryCooper was the sheriff of a small western town. Earlier a
gang of four outlaw brothers had terrorized the town. The sheriff had brought
them to justice and sent them to prison.
In prison they vowed that when
they got out they would kill the sheriff. The movie focuses on one particular
day. The sheriff has just married the beautiful GraceKelly. She happens to be a devout Quaker utterly opposed
to all violence. The sheriff resigns from law enforcement and the couple is about
ready to leave town on their honeymoon. He is going to start a new life as a rancher.
Suddenly word comes that the outlaw brothers have been released from prison and
are due to arrive that very day on the train. Everybody urges the couple to get out of town
quickly. They ride away, but the sheriff is troubled. Finally, he turns the wagon
around and heads back to town, much to the consternation of his bride. He cannot
stand to run away from his old enemies. He pins the badge back on his shirt. Quickly
he tries to round up a posse. It's a Sunday morning and lots of people are in
church. The sheriff interrupts the service, explains the emergency, and asks the
men of the congregation to help him form a posse. Several people stand up and
respond. One of them says, "We'd like to help you, Sheriff, but we're not
trained gunmen. That's what we hire sheriffs for." Then another says, "You
know, Sheriff, we Christians don't believe in violence." Still another says,
"Sheriff, you're a brave man but it would probably have been wiser if you
had not come back to town."
The Sheriff turns and walks out in
disgust. In the background you hear Tex Ritter singing the theme song-"I
do not know what fate awaits me; I only know I must be brave, and I must face
the man who hates me, or lie a coward, a craven coward, or lie a coward in my
grave." In case you haven't seen the movie, I'm not going to tell you how
it turns out.
How does the movie relate to the crisis with Iraq? Nations are so interconnected now that the world could
be compared to a small western town. The United Nations through countless resolutions
has declared SaddamHussein to be an outlaw. The job of sheriff has been thrust
on President Bush and TonyBlair. We are like those citizens in church. We must prayerfully
decide how big a threat the outlaw is, and what we should do about it as our leaders
have called us to support them. May God grant us wisdom and courage and may freedom
and justice be His gifts to the entire world.
we do pray for peace in Iraq. We pray that the war may be over quickly.
We pray for strength and wisdom for our leaders. Help them to lead with
compassion, integrity, sincerity, and wisdom. We pray for our enemies, that
peace and reconciliation may come quickly. We pray for the families in our
church and for those who are affected by war right now. We ask for your
protection and grace and blessing on them. Help us as a church family to
reach out to our community and to all who need encouragement and support during
this time. In Jesus' name. Amen.
am deeply indebted to RickWarren
for the inspiration and much of the content of this sermon. For more information
on his ministry visit: www.pastors.com The image is taken from
the BBC website http://news.bbc.co.uk