“If an individual is willing to die, there was nothing that could be done to stop him,” said Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, one of Osama Bin Laden’s closest lieutenants, about terrorist attacks and encouraging them to take place again here in the United States (as quoted in TIME Magazine in March 2005). These are pointed and almost rhetorical words from a madman committed to hate and destruction. Hold onto his words for we’ll return to them at the end.
Where does one even begin to extrapolate on such subjects as war and peace? (They really are two subjects, not one.) A book of the same title was written that I will never complete in a thousand lifetimes. Today, media bloggers and political patriots battle constantly over the legitimacy of killing for the greater good of peace. Did not Jesus Himself say in Matthew 5:9 (TNIV), “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God"? Where does this extremely relevant discourse take us? In studying anthropology and the ebb and flow of history, we must tackle the root of the problem of our human condition. For those of us of the faith, our journey takes us to the beginning.
The Fall, i.e. the expulsion from Eden, was the ultimate fall from grace. While we do not know how long Adam and Eve were living in the garden before eating of the forbidden fruit, we know it happened and God was not happy. That moment set in perpetual motion the ultimate rescue plan of mankind: salvation for all. However, at what cost? Jehovah has been warring and strategizing against Satan, his minions and our very own humanity for what? Our love. Now, you may wonder, “What does this possibly have to do with war and peace? Why aren’t we talking about the war in Iraq?” Because that is not the point. It is not the main problem.
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5, TNIV). Though the distractions of the world are many, we as Christians must be fully and wholeheartedly devoted to the Spirit of the Lord. It is in the supernatural that the real battles are going on, being won or lost. That is where war started, and that is where it will end.
Consider the terror of Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq, the obliteration of Jews under Hitler, even the inhumane treatment of slaves in this country. Is this evil "just the way it is" or symptomatic of a greater problem? Is its root something that Christ’s Body, the Church, for the most part, has ignored for the sake of curing visible symptoms?
We, as people of the faith, are on mission at all times. If we war, then glory be to God. If we wager peace, then glory be to God. We have never been given the option from the Lord to table or shirk our duties; we as Christ’s followers are called to love others as He has loved us. With this magnificent charge, through mindsets and trends in our culture, we have put a human love on that which is God’s inherently spiritual love. If we are of the Spirit, and the Lord calls us to make peace with certain enemies, then praise Him! What if He commissions destruction for our enemies? Then praise even more for the larger amount of faith that it will require to follow such a culturally opposing view. God’s love and definition are His, not ours. We must not forget that in His love, mercy is as present as justice. Deny your social desire for cultural acceptance and pursue the true peace of following the will of God, no matter where it takes you.
As you certainly have surmised by now, this thesis is not a rant and rave about the rights and wrongs of war, because we’ve never seen war. We only see the byproduct of a fallen world stuck in a real spiritual war, a war that can only be fought with genuine, heartfelt prayers. Christians, this is how you should be living: pray in such a way that no amount of spiritual warfare will prevail against you. Jesus will eventually break hearts and redeem us from our fallen nature. It is His purpose. Remember, He will always care about the world more than we will.
Christians must not forget that we are living a life that is entirely mortal and temporary. Sooner or later we will fall away from this world, and what will be left? That which is beyond the veil, the spiritual, our true existence. Why did the apostle Paul so often charge his readers to remember their true identity in Christ by reminding them of their life—the spirit, not death—the flesh. Too often we get caught up in the things of this world (i.e. war, treatment of war criminals and the politics of such), thinking that they trump that which is of the Spirit.
War exists, and it is a painful state of affairs. It will be with us to the end. But use your spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12) to touch the heart of God, praying for His intercession of healing, reconciliation, peace and restoration in our broken world. We are His ambassadors, and the purest form of our diplomacy takes place in the unseen, where angels fear to tread. Thanks be to God that victory is His in Christ Jesus and our faith in Him changes this world. We must look for that, expect it and petition it, understanding that He may call us to something socially unacceptable. Always keep in mind, though, that God’s ways are not our ways. His is a true war for peace. We must trust Him.
“If an individual is willing to die, there was nothing that could be done to stop him.” Such an act Jesus did for all.[I send my prayers and condolences to those fighting for true freedom around the world, which includes every member of the U.S. Armed Forces. Never forget that freedom is always worth fighting for. Come home soon.]