Simple answers to complicated questions drive me crazy. I’m not convinced by the stand of those who marched for peace this past weekend. Their positions seem pretty simple, almost naive at times. I’m not saying that they aren’t right in some respects, but I’m not prepared to say that war is never necessary. As one editorial said last week, “War is hell. Appeasement is worse.” I’m not convinced by the U.S. position either. War is always a defeat and should be our last resort. Has the U.S. demonstrated that war is inevitable? I’m not sure. Some appeal to Jesus’ teaching, which is a good thing. He said, “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:39,44-45). Some conclude that we should just love Iraq, or greatly simplify Jesus’ teaching to say “Jesus wouldn’t drop bombs on people.” Really? The issues are a little more complex than that:
No matter how much we wish to follow Jesus seriously, we discover, sooner or later, that seriously following Jesus entails hard thinking about what he said and what he did not say. We may not come to perfect unanimity on all points; but we must agree that absolutizing any text, without the due respect for the context and flow of the argument, as well as for other things Jesus says elsewhere, is bound to lead to distortion and misrepresentation of what Jesus means. As I understand these verses, I do not think that Jesus has policemen and soldiers in view…Instead, Jesus is speaking in Matthew 5:38-42 of personal abuse and personal self-sacrifice, using the misunderstandings of Old Testament law as his starting point. The four examples he gives bear this out. (Don Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount)
I wish I could say that war is always wrong. It isn’t. I believe that war is always regrettable, but sometimes necessary. You can’t just quote a verse from Jesus and conclude that all war, in all circumstances, is wrong. The U.S. hasn’t been completely convincing, but neither have the anti-war protestors. The people who are making the most sense to me on this issue are the ones who don’t yet have closed minds on either side, and who acknowledge the tensions that demand some hard thinking and serious reflection.