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’s impossible to live at peace with others. Have you ever met someone who – no matter what you did – you just couldn’t get along with? No matter what you did, he could not be appeased.
The Bible says, “If it is possible…” For instance, if someone abused my children and abused my wife, I would likely not have peace with him. I don’t think God would expect me to be at peace with him as long as the abuse remained a threat.
So what about war?
First, you have to look at the real causes of war: The Bible says that two things cause most wars: selfishness and pride. James 4:1-2 (Jerusalem Bible) says, “Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you’re prepared to kill. You have an ambition you can’t satisfy, so you fight to get your way by force.”
Whenever there is a battle between two nations, a battle between two businesses, a battle between an employer and employee, labor and management, husband and wife, parent and child – whenever there is conflict – somebody (maybe both) is exhibiting selfishness or pride. I want my way. You want your way. We’re going to have conflict.
I remember reading a story about Abraham Lincoln. He was walking down the street one day with his two boys, and they were both crying and frustrated. A man passing by asked, “What’s wrong with your little boys?” Lincoln said, “Nothing more than what’s wrong with the world! I have three walnuts and each boy wants two.”
Is it ever right to fight?
Yes! There are times when it’s the lesser of two evils. There are times when it is appropriate and there are times when it is inappropriate. Ecclesiastes 3:8 says, “There is a time for war and a time for peace.” The Bible is very realistic. Sometimes war is the right thing.
The Bible is very honest about this. There are many, many examples in the Bible where God commanded a war – where God said, “Go to war!” When you look at the great heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 – Joshua, David, Gideon, Samson – these guys were all warriors.
When you study the ministry of Jesus, you see He never told Roman soldiers to leave the army. If Jesus had been a total pacifist, every time he saw a soldier, He would have said, “Leave your army! Come follow Me.” But He never once said it was morally wrong for them to be in the service. In fact, in Matthew 24:6, He said there will always be wars in the world until the Prince of Peace comes back.
So, was Jesus a pacifist? I DON’T think He was! Twice in the New Testament, He cleansed the temple by force. The Bible says He made a whip, and He went in and cleansed the temple. He didn’t politely ask them, “Would you guys, pretty please, get out of here?” He forced them out.
So how do you know when it’s right to fight?
It’s right to fight…
1. IN ORDER TO PRESERVE FREEDOM. There are many examples in the Bible of this. Once God told Joshua to wipe out the Midianites because they were very oppressive. They had all kinds of evil practices like throwing babies into the fire. It was a terrible, atrocious culture. In Numbers 32, God gets very upset – in fact, He expresses anger at two tribes in Israel – because they WOULDN’T go to war. 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.
2. IN ORDER TO PROTECT INNOCENT PEOPLE. Proverbs 21:15 says, “When justice is done it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evil doers.” Christians should not just be interested in peace. We want peace, but we should also want justice. Peace at any price is not peace. Peace at any price is appeasement. Our God is not only a God of peace; He is also a God of justice. John Stuart Mill said, “A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for – nothing which he cares about more than his personal safety – is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free.”
3. IN ORDER TO STOP THE SPREAD OF EVIL. The Bible makes it very clear that God has authorized the government to enforce the law and punish offenders. Romans 13:4 says, “The authorities are sent by God to help you. But if you are doing something wrong, of course you should be afraid, for you will be punished. The authorities are established by God for that very purpose, to punish those who do wrong.” (NLT)
Will The World Ever Have Permanent Peace?
Someday it will, but it’s not going to happen until Jesus Christ comes back. There are actually more verses in the Bible about Jesus’ second coming than there are about His first coming at Bethlehem. In John 14, Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am there you may be also.”
The Bible says that when Jesus comes back, He will set up a reign of peace on the earth. According to Isaiah, this is what it’s going to be like: “He (Jesus) will settle disputes among nations. They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again to go to war, never prepare for battle again.”
Do you know this verse is at the United Nations building? – “They’ll hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives.” But they forgot the most important part ? “He will settle the disputes.” Jesus, not the United Nations! We’ll never have ultimate peace until the Prince of Peace establishes His reign on the earth.
The question I’ve probably been asked more than any other one in the past few weeks is this:
Is This The Final War?
Is this the one that leads to the second coming of Christ? It could be, BUT WE DON’T KNOW. The Bible is very clear that history is moving toward a climax and a last great battle, but we don’t know if this is it or not. I’m no expert on the Second Coming, but I do know somebody who is – His name is Jesus. Let’s look at what He has to say about the End of Times.
Luke 21:8-9: “Don’t be fooled. Many will come in My name saying, ?I am He!’ and ?The time has come!’ But don’t follow them. Don’t be afraid when you hear of wars and revolutions; such things must happen but they don’t mean the end is near. Countries will fight each other and kingdoms will attack one another.”
First, He says, “Don’t be fooled …” Don’t believe everything you hear or read. There have been dozens and dozens of books that have set dates for the last days, and every one of them have been 100 percent wrong!
Notice it says, “…such things must happen …” In the last 3,400 years there have only been 268 years that have seen no war. During the 6,000 years of recorded history, the world has averaged about two and a half wars per year. In the history of 185 generations, only ten of those generations have experienced unbroken peace. So when Jesus said, “There are going to be wars and rumors of wars,” He knew what He was talking about. We live in a fallen world.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:36, “No one knows that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Not only did He say nobody knows, He said it’s none of your business. Acts 1:7-8 says, “It’s not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you are to be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world.”
Three times in Matthew 25 He says, “Be ready!” He could come at any time but nobody knows the time. Acts 1:7-8 contains the last words of Jesus before he went back to heaven. You figure the last words are probably the most important thing He wants to talk about. Isn’t it interesting how the disciples asked a question about prophecy, and Jesus turns the question to evangelism?
They want to talk about when He’s coming back. He wants to talk about winning the world – that’s the priority of Jesus’ heart. He wants everybody to know Him.
How should we – as Christians – respond during war?
First, we should 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.” Let’s pray for are our leaders. Pray for the president, pray for the generals, and pray for the Congress.
Notice the benefit of praying for your leaders: You’ll end up living quiet and peaceful lives. We also ought to pray for our soldiers, the men and women who are over there.
The Bible says we also ought to pray for our enemies. We ought to pray that they will have a change of heart.
Second, we should trust God
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.” While we pray for our soldiers, we also accept the fact that when war happens, there are casualties. So we’re to pray and trust God, realizing that God is in control.
Third, we should seek peace
The Bible says, “Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it.” I think it not only means peace between nations, but also peace everywhere else. You need to seek peace in your family. You need to seek peace with your spouse. 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!
Fourth, we need to support each other
The Bible says, “Carry each other’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ.” In a crisis such as this, I think the church can really show itself as a family. We are to be a family – an extended family – where we act as an extended network of support for those whose lives are influenced and affected by this war.
By Rick Warren, used with permission.
Dr. Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of America’s largest congregations. Warren also founded Pastors.com, an online community for ministers on the Internet and has over 60,000 pastors worldwide subscribe to his free, weekly email newsletter. .