Late last night, we received word that the United States had begun to bomb ISIL targets within Syria. We are reminded too that there is an ongoing civil war within that country and its neighbor Iraq. Likewise, these events resurrect memories of the last decade of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Taken together, these experiences cause some of us in the United States to ponder God's role in these events. Do these U.S. actions enjoy Divine approval? Is God on the side of the U.S. in these conflicts? Is God against the Muslim extremists and terrorists? There is also the larger question to consider: Does God regard war as a necessary or acceptable tool to achieve peace and security?
I think that we can all agree that these are important questions, and I'm also sure that the readers of this blog could supply many different answers to them. For Christians, Jews and Muslims, one could certainly point to instances within their scriptures that would seem to indicate that God does regard war as an acceptable means to an end. As we have pointed out here before, there are numerous instances within the Judeo-Christian scriptures where God is given the credit for wars (some of them little more than massacres or genocidal campaigns). There are, however, other reasons within those same scriptures to support a view of God that rejects warfare, and I believe that these are more compelling.
To begin, the commandments against killing/murdering and stealing (Exodus 20:13, 15) support this view. Clearly, both of these commandments suggest that God places a premium on human life. Jesus Christ also magnified the application of the commandment against murder by stating that anyone who was even angry with their brother without cause was guilty of the spirit of murder. (Matthew 5:21-22) These same scriptures also make God the source, sustainer and ultimate owner of all life. Hence, one could reasonably conclude that anyone who takes a life without Divine approval is guilty of stealing. Furthermore, we have pointed out in previous posts here that there are many scriptures that underscore God's love, compassion, kindness and mercy. In fact, John said that God is love. (I John 4:8, 16)
The Mosaic Law also makes clear that vengeance was one of the Lord's prerogatives. (Deuteronomy 32:35) It also explicitly forbids anyone from taking vengeance into their own hands. (Leviticus 19:18) Jesus Christ reaffirmed this principle when he instructed his followers to turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39) In similar fashion, Paul underscored the importance of this principle by quoting the verses dealing with it in the Old Testament. (Romans 12:19)
We also have the testimony of two prophets about how God will regard war when "He" establishes his kingdom on this earth. Isaiah and Micah both indicate that God will mediate disputes between nations, beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Indeed, they both indicate that warfare will become obsolete; and that people will no longer receive any training in that regard. (Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3)
While this blogger agrees that these views are more consistent with the overall picture of God's character as outlined in those scriptures, I think that the most compelling statement of God's views on human warfare are encapsulated in some principles laid down in the book of Genesis. In short, I subscribe to the view that the story of Adam and Eve is symbolic of human rejection of Divine guidance and revelation. Likewise, their ejection from the Garden of Eden is symbolic of God's response to mankind's rejection of "His" guidance. In other words, God removed mankind from having immediate and direct access to the Divine. Humans wanted to make their own decisions and determinations about what did or did not constitute moral behavior, so God allowed them to do just that. In effect, God wanted mankind to learn the lesson that leaning on his own understanding was a terrible mistake that would lead to much grief and sorrow. Nevertheless, God reserved the right to someday intervene in the affairs of mankind and reconcile them to himself.
If you think about it, this is mankind's world - influenced and misled by Satan the Devil. In order for "turn the other cheek" to really work, everyone would have to be on the same sheet of music - on God's sheet of music. Hence, for a government to turn the other cheek in this world would be tantamount to national suicide. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in this world who believe that might makes right. If someone turned the other cheek in this world, their adversary/antagonist would be quick to smack that one too (and probably try to cut their throat while they had their head turned)! As a general rule (with the above noted exception), God is not going to intervene in our disputes - we are on our own right now. That's not to say that God is indifferent or doesn't recognize that one party is an aggressor in some conflict (or is guilty of some evil). In those instances, I believe that God can intervene (usually in a small or very limited fashion) when asked to do so by those who are desirous of living within "His" will. Still, in most instances, the fight is ours. What do you think?