War

When it comes to the political climate of the 21st century it would be wise of us to remember one thing: appearances are always to the contrary – always. Politics, whether on the side of the aggressor or pacifist, has become the art of political correctness, and catering to the popular will of the masses which is often fickle and easily moulded. Maybe this is why the “sea” of scriptural imagery – unstable, easily tossed and without foundation – is used to depict the populace of mankind. And so, while the politically correct response is given in most situations, the real underlying motive often remains hidden from the masses, at least for a time.

This is not a criticism, but simply a statement of fact. Because of a global demand to know whatever can be known, a leader has little choice but to play along in this game of politics.

As we have heard so often, we are living in a day of information overload. And yet it is amazing that so few of us are able to genuinely contrive our own opinions. Just take a listen to people talk about the latest crisis and you will quickly realize that most of what you hear is simply regurgitated information from another source. Rarely are our thoughts our own.

In fact, the whole concept of propaganda is that if you are bombarded with an idea or statement hard and long enough, you will most likely accept it as normal at the very least, and embrace it at best.

But as Christians who are striving to maintain vigilance in all things, a global issue such as the war in Iraq is a good opportunity for us to see where we stand in terms of our ability to not only think for ourselves, but to see things through the light of God’s word. Whenever a crisis strikes, a person’s first impulse is to try to quickly formulate an opinion on the matter. It seems people actually expect to be involved in every backroom discussion and decision their leaders are involved in. You’ll notice that suddenly everyone knows the history leading up to the event, what all the contributing factors are and what the outcome is likely to be. But yet, for every expert that is right, ten are wrong.

So when it comes to war in our day, what should the Christian attitude and perspective be?

Can you stand alone?

Try this test. The next time you hear a debate, see if you are able to stand against the temptation to side with one party or another. The illusion that prevails is that if you don’t quickly shape an opinion you are indecisive, out of touch or just plain ignorant. But what if you decide to listen and wait to understand what God is doing, refusing to be manipulated by the dishonesty and trickery that comes from both sides? Today, one of the greatest weapons in any nation’s arsenal is its ability to use the media to shape the minds and opinions of its own people in an effort to gain support. And so far it appears that fear-mongering is the greatest strategy for immediate action.

Now this does not mean that a Christian ought to be passive. Far from it. But unlike the masses who immediately flock to one of two camps, we should look more deeply into the matter before making rash decisions and formulating a position, especially as we draw closer to the end of the age where it seems deception will be the name of the game. In the case of politics or a political war, ask yourself, “As a disciple of Jesus Christ, do I choose the greater evil or the lesser evil?”

Today is not quite as simple as the days of biblical war or even wars fought 200 years ago. Nowadays, a carefully orchestrated propaganda campaign must first be launched months in advance in order to lay the groundwork before the official declaration. In the end, what the masses get is what the media refers to as the “spin,” perhaps so called because of its dizzying effects on the hearers! To separate truth from lies or half-truths is like trying to separate the milk from your tea once it’s been poured.

We must resist the urge to follow blindly and do all we can to maintain vigilance and support for what is right. This may mean standing alone against the onrushing tidal wave of media, debate, talk show conversations, people on the job… As the psalmist wrote, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor tandeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” (Ps. 1:1).

The Right Attitude

From the time Cain slew Abel until now, war has been a part of humanity. And until the Lord Jesus Christ comes to establish His kingdom on this earth it will continue to play a major role. It is even fair to say that in such a world as ours, war is necessary. Anyone who blindly takes a pacifist stance on all matters is naïve since some cases require action without reservation.

War is never a pleasant event, and for those who suffer innocently it can be absolutely disastrous, carrying harmful effects for several generations. Yet war is a reality in a world where people are aggressive, evil, oppressive, manipulative, greedy and self-satisfying. Without a doubt, destructive leaders and their governments should be deposed by force by those who have the ability to do so.

When faced with war, we ought to pray for our leaders, that their decisions be properly guided, and for the brave soldiers who are fighting on the front lines, many of whom might also be Christians themselves. Nothing is wrong with being patriotic and proud of our heritage as long as our first allegiance is to our citizenship in heaven. This point cannot be overstated: God must hold priority and allegiance to any state, group, person or thing.

The problem is that in our age things are very complex. We all like to put things into neat little categories so we can understand them better, but this does not always work. People will accuse America of entering Iraq solely out of greed, others will see the “freedom” of Iraq’s people and getting rid of the ruthless Saddam as a major motive, while others will look at weapons of mass destruction, Israel, or Iraq’s strategic position in the region as legitimate factors. The fact is that a number of factors may be in play— some motives may be good and upstanding while others are shockingly sinister. Remember, we are dealing with a beastly system.

Today, both sweet and bitter waters appear to come from the same fountain. How much should we, as Christians, drink from this source? In truth, God and His word is our only refuge if truth is what we’re after.

Another important aspect we must consider when it comes to a nation’s international policy is that it is often driven where gain is to be had. This is where human nature rears its head again. True, self-defense is also a necessary reason as well, but overwhelmingly gain is a main driver. We may look at the removal of a horrible dictator as a noble undertaking, and it is, but we can’t be so naïve as to think there are no other motives at work. Look at the Congo for a comparison where more than 3 million people have been brutally killed in civil war since 1998. Most of us don’t even know there is a brutal war going on in Central Africa even though it is the scene of the world’s bloodiest conflict since World War II.

Let it first be said that much of the blame lies with the region’s ultra-corrupt leaders. But why is there no moral outrage, no marching in the streets, no calls for peace or intervention by force, no impassioned speeches by Western leaders? Simply because there is no economic or political gain to be had. In turn, the media has lent little resources to the region. There are really no bandwagons to jump on. The news of more than 3 million people dead in 4 ½ years boggles the mind; apparently it’s easier for the West to focus on the fate of Congo’s gorillas and the loss of rainforests.

In this world we are living in, despite what we are told and the heart strings that politicians so effectively pull, international policy is driven where gain is to be had for the most part. That goes for war and humanitarian aid. Again, we don’t have to get upset about this fact—it is the way things have always been.

Consider this for a moment. In scripture, is it not remarkable that the representation of the Gentile nations are all beasts and birds of prey from the beginning of humanity to the end? (Dan. 7:3-7, Rev. 13:2). As one writer correctly put it: “The true character of Gentile world-government is rapacious and warlike, established and maintained by force.” This was true in the days of Egyptian, Roman and Greek glory, and it is still true today, though diplomacy does a good job of covering it up.

We must always remember that the beast is called a beast for a reason. And the fact that the beast has the wherewithal to adorn itself with “two horns like a lamb” should alarm us all. (Rev 13:11). There is only one motive for this: deception or the need to cater to the masses on the surface in order to accomplish a more sinister and self-interested will.

Again, as Christians do we choose the greater evil or the lesser evil? I suggest neither. Is there anything wrong with refusing to be manipulated? Our position should always be on the side of right, never compromised by mainstream media or religion.

Self-Righteous?

Another critical area to consider is our personal outlook on the villains of other nations. A person like Saddam Hussein is disgusting, and undoubtedly the world is better off without him in power. To recount all of his crimes against his own people alone would be sickening, putting him in the same category as Hitler, Stalin and other notorious “leaders” in recent history.

The fact is that in the face of these outrageous crimes against human beings, we often lose sight of our own backsliding and departure from the things of God, especially on a national level. In times of war it seems there is little time for introspection.

Though many leaders recently tried it—both religious and secular—it is unbalanced and dangerous to invoke God’s name and assume His blessing on our acts while we wallow in immorality and filth. As self-proclaimed “freedom-loving people” our nations seem to feel quite comfortable even though our bondage is of a much different, yet equally destructive sort.

On our recent journey to Des Moines for the May Convention, it was astounding to see the number of billboards promoting gambling, alcohol, sex or a combination of all. Apparently, this is what sells. Look at the movies and television programs promoted. Consider the music and the way people dress. Look at the Internet. It appears that to a great extent, North America prefers to coddle itself in its heritage while it slips further and further from God, almost like the backslider who constantly looks back to his days of active service in the church as a means of soothing his own conscience.

The plain fact of the matter is that, more than any other nation, Canada and America are in drastic need of repentance. But, of course, the need for repentance only comes through introspection and that is something we prefer not to do. (John 3:19). Let us not think for a moment that our heritage or religious façade will shelter us against the judgment of God. (Rom. 2:1-3). Nevertheless, in His mercy, God has left us as a remnant in an apostate land that does not know where to find its “master’s crib”, which may have once had “righteousness lodged in it” but is now a “people laden with iniquity… children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord…” (Is. 1). For this reason, we will be judged along with other nations who depart from God, His laws and His truth.

Our Responsibility

Beyond the physical war we see raging around us, Christians must not lose sight of where the real battle is being fought and get involved accordingly. Today, the challenge lies in identifying the truth in a matter and not being the simple victims of well-put-together propaganda campaigns. Of course, to jump on the so-called pacifist bandwagon and hypocritically condemn leaders of a war effort is just as bad.

It is our responsibility to get our lives right, not be distracted, spread the gospel, seek out and relieve needs and oppression where they arise, resist evil, stand for right even though it may mean standing alone, and to remain vigilant as we see the events unfolding.

War will continue to play a major role in world politics and in some cases it might be wholly justified and right. Nevertheless, let us be wary and wise to the methods used to gain our support for or against a matter, lest we be deceived.

But most of all, let us pray for the people who are the victims of war. The value of a single human life should never be lost on us.