There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
The inspired writer knew that in this life and in this world there are times when there is war. Not that war is always the best or right or wise course of action. Not that war must be inevitable. But humans, being who they are, and this world being like it is -- there is eventually a time for war whether we like it or approve of it or not.
This was true 3000 years ago when this was written and it is true today, even if the tactics and technology of war have changed. For example the terrorist bombers in London a number of years ago.
If we understand the times and circumstances correctly, the time for war has come upon us and as Christians we need to be prepared for this fact. How do we, as Christians, respond and react to our world and our nation when the time for war is at hand?
One first thing we can do as believers is to see past the various misconceptions that people have concerning God and His attitude on war. For example some people think that:
1. War is always against God's will.
This is an easy and comfortable position to take. A "one size fits all" view that may give one a feeling of self - righteousness, but ignores both the reality of this world and the history of the Bible. We see in the Old Testament that God used war in many instances for His own purpose, to accomplish His will in various ways:
- To punish sinful and unbelieving nations - The Jews destroying the Amalekites.
- To warn His people - The Assyrians destroying the northern kingdom
- To fulfill His Word - The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD in accordance with Jesus prophecy
- To advance His purpose - The destruction of the Roman Empire by various nations setting free the Christian religion and Church from - Roman persecution.
These and other Biblical and historical examples show that as ugly as war is, God sometimes uses it to directly serve His plans and always indirectly to serve His purpose. This doesn't give anyone a reason to start a war, but it does destroy the misconception that war is always against God's will or purpose.
2. God doesn't take sides.
This may be true for the post-modern gods of this world who have no opinions, no standards, no righteous indignation over evil and ungodly behavior - but it's not true for the Holy God of Heaven!
The Holy God of heaven does take sides and does so without apology. He is on the side of righteousness, He is on the side of those who love and serve Him. The Holy God of heaven:
- " .. will repay those who hate Him". Deut.32: 41
- " .. hates the assembly of evildoers." Ps.26: 5
- " .. hates those who regard vain idols." Ps.31: 6
- " .. will condemn those who hate the righteous." Ps.34: 21
The Holy God of heaven definitely takes sides:
- "The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked and His soul hates those who love violence." Ps.11: 5
- God supports those who love Him, serve Him, and support His will and purpose.
- "When the righteous triumph, there is great glory" Proverbs 28: 12
- Of course to say that God is partial to America because we are "Americans" is also a misconception.
We shouldn't ask, "Whose side is God on?" We should ask ourselves, "Are we on God's side? Are we acting and thinking according to His will and purpose?" The only way God is on our side is if we are consciously and obediently searching and doing His will in Christ -- then we're on His side and whenever two or more are gathered in His name (whether it be in a classroom or foxhole) He is there with us too.
The most dangerous misconception is...
3. The Righteous Always Win.
In war, God permits the side to win that serves His overall purpose. Winning or losing a war doesn't save or condemn us before God - only the word of God has the power to do this. (Rom.1: 16)
War, however, is used by God to further the ministry of His Word.
Don't get me wrong. God doesn't cause wars (sin does that) but in the midst of great evil, God finds a way to glorify Himself and win souls anyways and win souls anyways. There is both Biblical and historical support for this idea:
- In Acts 9 at the height of persecution against Christians the gospel was spread rapidly throughout the region.
- In the book of Revelation John speaks of the powerful witness given by those who were killed because of faith.
- After WWII the church made its greatest expansion into Western Europe.
- After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the cold war with the USSR, the church made great progress into Eastern Europe.
God doesn't need the righteousness to win wars in order to act. Even when the righteous have terrible casualties or lose the war altogether -- God still manages to fulfill His divine purpose. We need to remember that no matter what happens in this war, God can and will use it to glorify Himself and to lift up the name and power of Christ.
What About The Enemy?
As Christians we have a greater burden when our nation is at war. Aside from the concern for our men and women in harm's way, we also have a moral and spiritual duty to love and pray for our enemies. How do we reconcile these two seemingly opposing ideas?
A. First of all in the present war, I pray for the spiritual enlightenment of the Muslim world.
- I believe that they are mistaken religiously and that the errors of their faith have led them into spiritual as well as political chaos.
- If this conflict teaches me anything it's that we've failed miserably in bringing the gospel to these people.
I pray that they will discover the true and final prophet, Jesus Christ, and see the fulfillment of all of God's prophecies in Him, and we will eventually bring that message to them.
B. As a Christian I realize that conversion comes from hearing the gospel, not from waging war.
My prayer is that the church will do more to proclaim the gospel in the middle - east, more to witness to these people about the freedom and power that is theirs through Christ. There is war now, but I know that the final solution will come through the gospel, not the barrel of a gun.
C. I am realistic enough to understand that this war is not about religion however.
It may be about economics, global power, revenge, politics - but not about religion. Some have used religion to incite violence or to defend their cause but war is never about religion. Men use religion as a pretext for war but rarely can they defend their actions based on any religious idea. In the end I know that religion will triumph over war because God will judge those who started and engaged in this and all wars and then justice will be truly done!
What About This War?
When I see the events of the last few years, things that pit east against west, religion vs. religion I remember Jesus saying that right up to the end there will be conflict, war, upheaval, natural disasters - Matthew 24.
We live in perilous times but not in times that are unexpected, surprising - things are exactly the way He said they would be throughout history, right up to the end of time.
And so we find ourselves living in a time of crisis, even a time of war.
What am I to think about this situation?
Well, as an American (I have dual citizenship) I hope that the military objectives set by our leaders can be reached with the least number of casualties on both sides and that the end result will be a greater peace and stability in this region.
Sometimes war is necessary to guarantee peace.
As a parent of two children who were in the military, I remember praying that if they were called on to serve in any way, they would do so honorably. And my prayer was not only for them but also for the other sons and daughters who served and their parents and families who wait anxiously. And I did not forget that our adversaries were also beloved sons and daughters of parents who also worry about their children.
You see, in the end, war is failure. It is the failure of mankind to find a way to live in peace despite differences.
- It is the failure of justice, mercy, restraint, goodness, patience, love, good will and common sense.
- It is the failure of the spirit to overcome the flesh on a collective level.
- It is an ever-present reminder that this world is a very sinful, dark and dangerous place.
Now, as a Christian who once lived here and still cares for the U.S.A., I pray that God will use this failure for His own purpose and good in some way. When I say "good" however, I don't necessarily mean good or glory for America.
My earnest prayer is that God will use this human failure called "war" for His ultimate glory and for the good of all human beings -- both American and Iraqi or Iranian. And so the question arises:
What Do We (Christians) Do In Case of War?
Despite these times of trouble, as Christians let us remember that the ultimate will of God is not that we.. Remain free or wealthy or powerful or even victorious over our enemies. These things only serve and support what His main objective is, and that is the saving of souls through Christ.
" This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 2: 3-4)
This is God's overall plan and purpose, saving souls - not winning wars. If God decided that the church in America could do a better job of winning souls with America being poor and oppressed then we will become whatever God chooses for us as a nation so that His will be done, not ours!
In the meantime we, as Christians and as Americans are part of this whether we agree with the military objectives or not; the politics and the timing, or not -- we're part of it and we must decide what we will do as Christians who live in America. I suggest three basic things that, in good conscience, we all can do:
1. We can give ourselves to serious prayer.
Praying for our leaders, our military even our enemies is no longer just a theological idea, a good habit -- it's become a necessity. You have a well-developed prayer ministry here at Choctaw where prayer needs and requests are handled by the elders and made known to the congregation.
May I suggest another prayer initiative?
One of the national prayer initiatives is called the Presidential Prayer Team. The goal of this national movement is to enlist 1% of the American people to pray for the President and other leaders on a regular basis.
Each week updates and prayer needs are posted on their website presidentialprayerteam.org
There is no cost and you can become part of the team by signing up on the Internet, and keeping up with their news on their website. This is one way we can respond as Christians to the war that is raging in Iraq.
2. We can step up our commitment to Ministry.
This will be a difficult time for many families who have a member on deployment. It's also difficult for many single Christians who are in the military and away from home. In a time of war, people move around, schedules changed, new challenges abound even for the ones who are not directly involved in the fighting.
We need to be sensitive to the special needs of families and individuals at this time. We need to provide:
- Emotional support for loneliness and worry.
- Encouragement to those far away.
Practical help with child care and the regular things necessary to keep a household running for military families we know - in or out of the church. Don't wait for a "program" or a "project", you know who you're brother and sister is and how they need help now -- just get in there and serve as a Christian doing your part during this time of war.
3. Support your nation in good conscience.
Not everybody is in the military, not everyone agrees with war in general or this war in particular. Isn't it wonderful that we live in a country where we can do both without being persecuted?
Whether we agree or not, our nation is in a time of war and so as citizens and Christians we can support our nation in crisis -- even if in good conscience some of us don't support the war. Wherever you are at work or school, retired or in transition or in the home - do your job well, keep a positive attitude, remember that in a difficult time we need to encourage each other as fellow citizens of a country whose ideals we believe in and in whose bounty we have all shared.
Families sometimes squabble and fuss but when threatened they come together - we have to come together during this time as well so we'll not be divided and weakened by this war. Solomon said,
"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Further more if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart."
- Ecc. 4:9-12
In case of war let us become a cord of three strands in this nation.
For some, this war is very personal. Family members, friends, even you may be deployed to fight it. We pray that your congregation will embrace your family and loved ones with support and encouragement at this time.
For everyone reading this however, there is a personal war that we are all engaged in, a war that never stops --- the war being waged for our souls. This battle is not reported on the news, has no politicians debating it, engages no military action, but it rages on nonetheless.
On one side is arrayed the power of the evil one entrenched in this world using every seductive weapon in his arsenal to capture and enslave us to sin and death. His main tactic is to draw us into the position where we refuse to acknowledge the divinity of Christ, His Lordship over our lives, and His call to discipleship.
A quick check of our battle position will reveal if he has succeeded in capturing us.
- Have we confessed Christ been baptized?
- Have we submitted to His Lordship in every area of our lives?
- Do we serve Him as a disciple in some ministry or other?
A "no" answer to any one of these reveals the extent of Satan's victory over us. On the other side is the Holy Spirit of God repelling the dark forces with the light of God's word. He enlists all who will believe to follow and serve Christ into the safety of His church.
Wars for power and land in this world will come and go until the end of time. The battle for your soul however is fought only once, there will be no re-match, no 2 out of 3. Please claim the victory today by coming to Christ in repentance and baptism and be safe from the battle forever.