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Femi Aribisala: Should Christians Fight Wars?

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by Femi Aribisala

Modern Christianity has given us a Messiah without a cause.

Christians claim to be followers of Jesus, but deny him at every turn. We don’t do what he asks us to do; but we do what he tells us not to do. We talk Jesus but contradict him at every turn. We call Jesus our Good Shepherd, but refuse to follow him. Jesus says: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

Very early in the apostolic age, a quiet decision must have been made by the so-called Christian Church to ignore the doctrine of Jesus on the grounds of its impracticability. Jesus’ precepts are deemed to be unrealistic. However, what is “realistic” is often ungodly.

Jesus or Moses

One major area where Jesus’ commandment is honoured more in the breach than in the observance is on the question of fighting and going to war. Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:38-39).

The person who prescribes an eye for an eye is Moses. (Exodus 21:23-25). Which one then is the word of God? Is it Moses’ “an eye for an eye”; or Jesus’ “turn the other cheek?” Obviously, the one contradicts the other. Since it cannot be both, then not everything in the bible is the word of God; and not every biblical injunction is of God.

God himself prescribes the simple resolution of such contradictions in the bible. Differentiating at the Mount of Transfiguration between Jesus on the one hand, and Moses and Elijah on the other, God affirmed the supremacy of Jesus, saying: “This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased- listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). This means in any discrepancies in scripture, we are to listen only to Jesus; his word is absolute.
Jesus differentiates between his word and that of Moses. He says the word of Moses will pass away when heaven and earth passes away.(Matthew 5:18). However, he maintains his own word will never pass away. (Matthew 24:35). According to Jesus, the word of Moses is not from the beginning: “from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:8). Therefore, the word of Moses cannot be the word of God. The word of God is not only from the beginning; it is eternal. (Psalm 119:89).

Love for enemies

Should the disciples of Jesus join armies and fight wars? Jesus’ position is unambiguous: those who belong to the kingdom of God do not fight over the things of this world. Jesus says to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, my kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36).

Jesus is against self-defense in preference for God-defense. He says: “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24). When they came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew a sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus healed the man and admonished Peter. He said to him: “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52).

The word of Jesus can hardly be used to justify warfare. Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Only the blind will continue to insist that there are no contradictions in the bible after reading this. Jesus’ insistence that we love our enemies contradicts a significant part of the Old Testament where the Israelites not only hated their enemies, but sought to annihilate them and inherit their land. David, the champion of the Old Testament, boasts of hating the Lord’s adversaries with “perfect hatred.” (Psalm 139:22).
Christian war-mongers

The truth of the matter is that the Christians of today prefer the old wine of the Old Testament to Jesus’ new wine. Jesus’ precepts are deemed to be unrealistic while Moses is believed to have dealt with the real world. Therefore, if the Israel of old fought wars on the way to the Promised Land, then wars become validated, no matter what Jesus says. Indeed, Moses declares categorically that: “The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name.” (Exodus 15:3). If so, then wars are justifiable.

Solomon is also brought into the equation. He says: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1/3/8). This is understood to mean there comes a time when men have to go to war in the name of peace. Some also insist that sometimes peace has to be enforced.

Paul, of course, also provides a position that goes against the grain of Jesus’ commandment, even if in a more subtle manner. He says: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18). This means we should only live peaceably with men if it is possible. Otherwise we should go to war. However, Jesus permits no such loopholes.

What we find now, therefore, is that men and women call themselves Christians in name only. However, in their words and actions they contradict and disobey Jesus with impunity. Neglecting Jesus, Christians rationalise war. They claim to be followers of the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6); but come up with “doctrines of just wars.”

Some argue that righteous men must take up arms in defense of their fatherland. Others insist war is permissible if its object is the protection of innocent lives. Indeed, the view of many so-called Christians is that Jesus’ pacifism becomes immoral if interpreted to mean unconditional surrender to evil. Augustine even says a Christian can love an enemy in his heart, but kill him justifiably for religious or national purposes.
Non-violent Jesus

In effect, modern Christianity has given us a Messiah without a cause. It asks us merely to profess certain beliefs instead of having us adopt Jesus’ ethical lifestyle. It refuses to acknowledge Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6).

Is warfare permissible if it seeks to protect and defend human lives? No it is not, according to Jesus. The Christian life is not the temporal life. The Christian life is eternal. Eternal life does not need protection for it cannot be lost by physical death. The death that is of concern to many is a lie. Bullets don’t kill. Bombs don’t kill. The only thing that kills is sin.

In the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, God validated Jesus’ way of non-violence.

Femi Aribisala is a pastor and popular social commentator. He wrote this piece for Vanguard Newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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