“A time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:6-8
For generations Christians have struggled to reconcile their faith with the terrible demands of war. The biblical perspective seems to be that war is sometimes in the will of God.
I realize that to say that war may sometimes be in the will of God is to jump into a firestorm of controversy. Such a view is not popular today. I ate lunch with several fellow pastors and heard one of them say emphatically that war is always a sin.
Let me say that I think my pastoral friend is partly right and partly wrong. War is terrible in all its aspects, and I would never want to be known as someone who is “for” war. I’m not even sure what a statement like that would mean. I don’t know any sane person who is for war.
I think my friend is right to this degree: Wars come about because of the sinfulness of the human race. Warfare comes from the fallen nature of man. Whenever two nations go to war, sin is never absent. There may be sins of pride and oppression, or there may be sins of brutality and naked aggression, but sin is always part of the equation.
I would go a step further and say that there is rarely a war so “pure” or “clean” that one side is totally right and the other side is totally wrong. Even where such a case exists, there will almost always be some wrong motives on both sides.
But is going to war always and in every case sinful? I think not. Just before the Persian Gulf conflict started, Billy Graham said, “There come times when we have to fight for peace. Unfortunately, that’s been true of the whole history of the human race.” That doesn’t make every war right, but it does mean that some wars are indeed justified in the eyes of God.
Better days are coming. In the last days God’s kingdom will finally be established on the earth and all the nations will be at peace. The law of the Lord will go forth from Jerusalem and the Lord Jesus Himself will settle the disputes that today end in war. So wise will be His rule that weapons of war will become obsolete. People will take their tanks and turn them into combines; their cruise missiles will become tractors; B-52 bombers will be melted down and transformed into solar-powered water purifiers. Bullets will become obsolete. All the gas masks will be thrown away. They won’t be needed in the kingdom Jesus will establish.
Best of all, the nations will not take up swords against one another. The old spiritual says it very well: “Gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside. Ain’t gonna study war no more.”
That’s how God intended it to be. Between now and then, nations will still go to war, but let us keep our eyes on the goal and let us work and pray for that day of lasting peace to come.
Prince of Peace, show me what it means to be a peacemaker in a world filled with war. Amen.
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.