Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Christians and war (part four)

Before we get to Paul I want to look at what I take to be a key passage on this subject, referring to Christ and what this means for us.

I take the 1 Peter 2 passage (verses 21-25) to have reference to more than just Christian slaves in Peter's day, but to all of us as followers of Jesus. His suffering for us is for our sins. But it is also as an example, that we should follow in his steps. Here we find in Christ's atoning work both example for us and recapitulation. Recapitulation I understand to include the idea that Christ takes up, in himself and his work, the entire human race, so that humans can share in this new reality and life in Christ that he has lived out before us. In Jesus we are "called" to this.

So this passage suggests to me that we are to carry the same attitude and practice forward in Christ that he did in this world. And that Christ has prepared the way for us. That in him by the Spirit and together, we are to walk in that way.

I cannot see Christians in military engagement as not contradicting this call to us from God. It is a call not only to passive resistance, but to redemptive action. War may seem necessary. And killing, a necessary evil at times. But are Christians, we in Christ really to be involved in that kind of action? I have my doubts. This to me does not reflect the life of Christ and "in Christ" we find in Scripture. It's a life in mission to the world as the one "holy nation" scattered throughout the earth. A common life that does not resist enemies, but does good to them.

Tomorrow we'll look a bit at Paul, specifically at his writing in Romans 12 and 13. And a more Anabaptist reading of it, which I have been gravitating back to, myself.

What thoughts or questions come to your mind on this?


Betsy Lin said...

I stumbled across your blog. I appriciate many of your views. Right now I am a christian struggling to believe- as I have searched for answers to so many of my why questions. I have been teaching myself a lot about the middle east, and teaching myself modern hebrew in hopes that I can go to jerusalem as a peacemaker. I struggle with christianity and its lack of compassion for social justice and issues on war. So thanks for caring.

L.L. Barkat said...

I'm an avid studier of history, now that I home educate my children. We always say that war is the story of the world. Indeed, it is.

Here's my struggle... there are always aggressors present in the world who will seek to overtake "weak" countries." The resulting suffering is tremendous. So, which is worse, the suffering of war or the suffering of being conquered? Here's the other thing: I don't think we have to become aggresssors in order to protect ourselves. And there is a difference between trying to protect our resources and trying to protect our borders. I know Lewis had the concept of a "just war." (Now I am rambling.) Thoughts?

Odysseus said...

Another set of good comments here Ted. I think you are spot on. One thing that I would add, one that is very scary, is what Jesus said at the close of John's gospel. There Jesus said, 'As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you...If you forgive anyones sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.' In other words, and forgive me if this is 'too much', we are to be the Word made flesh. Just as Jesus was the Word of YHWH made flesh, his followers are to be the Words of Jesus made flesh. And, in doing that, how can we take arms against another person 'for whom Christ died'?

As an Episcopalian, I am deeply shaped by our Baptismal Covenant. In it we are asked a series of questions. A few of them that have had a very profound effect on me are:

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

That one about seeking Christ 'in all persons' reminds me of the passage from Paul that stated God 'revealed Christ in me' (Galatians 1.15-17). If we really believe that Christ has redeemed the world, then how can we support violence of any kind, including war? Again, history shows us that before Constantine Christians did not partake in the military. They believed that they were part of a different kingdom.

On that note, Jesus himself stated that if his kingdom was like the kingdoms the 'world' produces, his followers would fight for his release. The implication is that his kingdom and his followers are not like the kingdoms of the world. They should not be using violence to accomplish anything. That is not the way of our King.

If Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, then we get our instruction and very life from the vine. And the Vine is not violent. Therefore, neither should we be violent. On any level. We must come up with creative ways of discipline, sure. But violence should never be an option for us.

Peace be with you.


Ted Gossard said...

Betsy Lin, Thanks for coming on the blog and commenting. And for your kind words.

I think as we focus on Jesus and the prophets (Old Testament), this can help us immensely, in our reading of the rest of the Bible.

You are in a good struggle. Keep working through it, for by that, you can be a blessing to many. We need a Jesus witness, I believe, more in line with the witness of the gospels and Scripture. And I say that sadly. And look in the mirror myself, at my own life.

Ted Gossard said...

Also, Betsy, I'm sure you'll find other like-minded believers out there. We need to keep trying to bring the light of the kingdom of God come in Jesus, to critique everything, especially starting with ourselves. And seek to live this out in community, in mission to the world. Thanks.

Ted Gossard said...

L.L., You raise excellent points. There is a "just war" theory, started by Augustine, that whether one agrees with it or not, deserves respect, and consideration.

God is sovereign, and the true Ruler over all. As we'll see from Romans 13, God does use government for order, and for peace, so the gospel can go forward (I think in 1 Timothy 2, this is mentioned). So I take it that in this present order, God is at work through powers. And with reference to the spread of the gospel and the promotion of his kingdom. Though it often doesn't look like, the way we would "write" it, for sure.

Easy to say a suffering church is purified and ends up taking root and bearing fruit. Not as easy to live there. Though I notice those believers consistently (I believe), as only for prayer from us, for them, not for their deliverance, as much as for their witness (or, but for their witness).

But yes. From your thought, there certainly is a difference in protecting borders or resources.

Thanks. (Did I slip those "punches"? Ha).

Ted Gossard said...

OD, Thanks for the good comment. I resonate with what you say. Yes indeed, we are to be Christ's Body in this world, another way of saying it. Though what you say, I don't think, is too strong. I find it scriptural. And one we can live out, only through Christ, to be sure.

Craver Vii said...

Ted and Odysseus, as I began a response, I found it to be too long, so based on your comments here, I intend to put a post on my own blog with an alternative view. Whether or not you visit or comment, I expect to be honest and firm, but respectful.

If you feel that I cross the line, please hold me accountable to proper conduct. Also, if the conversants over there, remain decent and civil, I will happily reference this page, but otherwise, I will try not to stir up a hornet's nest.

Ted Gossard said...

Craver, I greatly value what you have to say, agree or not. Besides, we can get some insights along the way, at least to what the other's belief and thought is, as well as sometimes being helpful for our own belief. So I look forward to your post.

scott m said...

Perhaps because of my extremely varied spiritual background, one of the clinchers on this for me was a recent insight into Mohandas Gandhi, a Hindu. Everyone knows about his revolution against the empire on which the sun never set. I think it is less well known that he developed his ideas through reading the gospels. There is no evidence that he was ever anything but a Hindu, but his ideas on non-violent revolution did not develop from his Hinduism, but from the Christian gospels. (Thus his famous quote, "I like you Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.")

Last year, in a discussion with some students I help teach or whatever, it suddenly hit me. If Jesus truly is Lord of the world and the one in whom all power in heaven and earth resides, then we should expect to see the way he describes the proper working of the world to hold true for everyone, not just those who follow in his way. And do we not, in fact, see that in Gandhi? The ultimate tool in the arsenals of the powers of this world is the threat of death. If you do not allow that threat to hold power over you, what can they do? Kill everyone?

I came at this both as ex-military and operating originally from a decidedly non-Christian perspective. I moved first into a limited Just War position simply because it seemed necessary to me that, at times, evil means (and war is certainly that by any sort of Christian definition) must be used in this fallen world to protect the innocent and so that good would not be overwhelmed and evil reign supreme. Gandhi has made me question whether that view of our King and his Kingdom is too limited.

Just more food for thought.

scott m said...

In other words, when Jesus talks about the peacemakers with a Jewish Messianic voice, or when Paul writes about how we are to live in the 'peace of Christ', should we not perhaps consider that the 'shalom of the Messiah' described, for example, in Isaiah 11? Would Paul and Jesus have had anything else in mind?

Yes, there is certainly a sense in which it is 'not yet'. The new creation is not completed and cannot be completed until the full appearing of our King in glory. Nevertheless, if those of us who claim him as Lord do not live in his shalom, who will?

Does a Hindu have more confidence in our King than we do?

Ted Gossard said...

Scott M., I appreciate your take on this.

I do think I may be a bit limited into how much actually can be accomplished in the way of peace in this present fallen world. I believe in some form of original sin, still influencing all "in Adam". But the way of Christ can certainly impact the world now. So that others can see a better way to resolving issues.

I love the example of people like Ghandi (whom I want to read about) and Desmond Tutu. There are good answers out there. At the same time, the "terrorists" do seem bent on evil. And while I think it is good to try to turn over every stone to find better solutions, I'm not sure that everyone is interested in that, in their view of and vision for the world.

Thanks for your good thoughts. Stimulating.