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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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The War Less Travelled

Posted by admin in October 14th, 2008
Published in faith

It’s tough to write about war. My husband continually reminds me that I live in a free country with all its privileges because people were willing to give their lives in war for the sake of democracy. I am grateful. Truly I am. My father is a veteran; my grandfather was a veteran. I love my country, but as a follower of Christ I truly struggle with the whole idea of war. I think about Jesus’s words

“I say to you…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Wow. How can I reconcile that with war? How can I DO Jesus’s words and FIGHT a war? It doesn’t match up for me. Then there’s the even harsher passage out of Luke 6:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Really Jesus? Is that what you REALLY meant to say? Because those are horrifically difficult words to follow. But Jesus either said those words or he didn’t. He either meant those words or he didn’t. There are no known conditions on those words–those incredibly hard sayings of Jesus.

One of the things that bugs me so much about Jesus’s words in these passages is that Israel was occupied by a foreign army at the time Jesus was preaching this message of love your enemies. The Jews hated the Romans. Rome’s occupation of Israel over-taxed the people, took away their basic right to self-govern. In fact, the very words Jesus spoke about “if anyone forces you to go one mile…” is actually referring to the Roman army when soldiers would grab civilians off the street and force them to carry military equipment a mile or two. It is in that context that Jesus is telling his disciples, “Hey, when the Roman army forces you to carry their crap a mile, offer to carry it two miles for them.” His words are so contrary to everything normal in human nature. His words are so conflicting with every fiber of my being. His words contradict all my natural instincts. And yet, they are his words–words spoken to his followers during the time of occupation by a horrible, dominant, oppressive, dictatorial, invading army. Rome was determined to enforce its worldview on all in the empire–its language, its culture, its entire belief system. And yet Jesus said to do good to them so that we may be children of our Father.

Tough stuff. I know. I grapple with it daily. I try to bring the subject up with friends and most of them are sick and tired of discussing it with me. One guy told me “Hey, you’ve exhausted the subject.” He probably meant I had exhausted him. I even have folks get angry at me for just asking the questions. Is war okay? Is there such thing as a just war? Is it ever okay for a follower of Christ to take a human life? Even in self-defense? What does turn the other cheek really mean? Can that phrase have multiple meanings?

How can I be anti-abortion and pro-war? Aren’t they both contributing to a culture of death? Tomorrow I want to address how England overcame slavery without firing a single shot. I also want to discuss how nations threw off the tyranny of the British Empire without fighting a war. In the meantime, let me hear your thoughts on this. Let me know what you think about it. It is important as disciples of Christ that we grapple and wrestle ideas to the ground so that we know what we believe and why we believe it. Blessings for the journey.

3 users Responded In This Post

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4. Kevin said,
October 14th, 2008 at 8:09 pm

I have struggled with this too. But I think people misinterpret it as a all or nothing choice. The strategy outlined by your comment, “Hey, when the Roman army forces you to carry their crap a mile, offer to carry it two miles for them” makes sense if you are dealing with a rational enemy and you are trying to show the light so to speak. However, Jesus also made a stand and resisted the Romans too (although not in a physical way) did he not? I think that we too should be willing to pay the ultimate price to defend our country against tyranny and those that intend to kill our people as well as our allies. I don’t believe that turning the other cheek would have changed Hitler’s mind and millions more of people would have died because of it.

Here’s a stupid question of mine: what about loving Satan? Isn’t he our enemy? Should we follow his wishes 2 fold as well?

Great topic Teri, very interesting questions for discussion! See if you can get big D to chime in here too 🙂

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5. artandsoulfoto said,
October 14th, 2008 at 8:32 pm

Teri,
Great posts! This is such a hard topic. I feel like there are some situations in which war has helped large numbers of people escape from horrific dictatorships (like Kevin mentioned) Hitler in World War II and to some extent the Taliban for a more modern day example. So, I guess the question for me is,” Can we help one group of repressed people while taking lives in the process?” Does that make it more right? or less wrong? Or just wrong wrong?

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87. ndhorton said,
February 19th, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Teri, I think the previous response is key. There are times that war is to block a greater evil. Such was the case with Hitler in WWII. There are also times that God uses war as a means of punishing evil, so much so that He will even use evil nations to punish His children (Hab 1:6-11). Consider also the implications of Genesis 15:16. It seems destruction was decreed for the Amorites, but not until their sin had “reached its full measure,” which it did, resulting in their defeat at the hands of Israel (Joshua 10:1-27). Yet God viewed the destruction of the Amorites as His own doing (Amos 2:9). In addition, God the Father, who is perfectly reflected in the Son, not only sent His Son to die in our stead, but He also ordered that nations be destroyed in war (1 Sam 15:3). Fast forward to the New Testament and, with the caveat that we ought to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29), we have Jesus, Peter, and Paul telling us to obey the government. And as you pointed out, the Romans were not exactly benevolent rulers. This brings me to an interesting dilemma. Although I love my country very much, I have a hard time justifying the American Revolution in light of Romans 13.
This issue is like so many others in Christianity, it’s not either/or, it’s both/and. Knowing the difference is something we approach with fear and trembling!

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