By Chuck Griffin
Psalm 144:1-2 A psalm of David. Praise the Lord, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle. He is my loving ally and my fortress, my tower of safety, my rescuer. He is my shield, and I take refuge in him. He makes the nations submit to me.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we should have a deep aversion to violence. Our savior and teacher had a lot to say about radical forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and forgiveness for enemies.
And yet, evil remains in the world. Since the days when the church and institutional power first began to blend, Christians have struggled with how to follow Jesus’ teachings when confronted with the potential for great violence.
There are two basic paths thoughtful Christians have promoted through the years. The first is pacifism, where Christians say violence is unacceptable under any circumstances. True Christian pacifists are relatively few in number, although that doesn’t necessarily make them wrong—I have enormous respect for the creative ways they will try to confront violence with nonviolent countermeasures.
The second involves something called Just War Theory. Essentially, war is never good, but sometimes it is necessary in a broken world. There are, however, principles that should never be violated in deciding to go to war or during its prosecution.
I pray there are no more wars in my lifetime for Americans to justify, but if one arises, we likely will hear a leader at some point describe the cause as “just.” He or she will be trying to convince the public that principles of a just war have been considered.
We should always be dubious, by the way. Just wars inherently should be rare events, far more rare than what we have experienced since the end of World War II.
By the way, some of these just war principles can be applied to the “when and how” of Christians individually defending themselves. It has been my experience that martial arts training will cause people to back into these ethical debates without realizing they’re touching on Just War Theory.
For most Christians, it is a reality that some will train their hands for war, trusting God to give their fingers skill for battle. Certainly, soldiers should train, as should our police and others willing to protect innocent lives.
We need to pray for those who train, asking that they also maintain their humanity and their connection to God. Indeed, let’s pray they feel guided by God if forced into action.
Simultaneously, we need to pray for political leaders who will not abuse how they make use of these willing warriors.
I look forward to the day when Jesus’ sword of truth has overcome all evil, and violence is part of a former world.
Lord, grant us creative solutions to ancient problems, and may we all learn to think of violent solutions as acts of last resort. Amen.
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