I have been discussing a lot of different issues related to war and peace with a couple close friends lately, and it’s time I get some things in writing. This is going to take a number of posts, but I want to start by laying out a couple of basic challenges that I will flesh out in more detail later.
To put it simply and directly, when a human life is taken, evil is done. There is no way to sanctify or bless the act of human life without flagrantly violating the very character of Jesus.
This is a strong statement, especially for one who says, as I will in future posts, that I believe there are still limited instances where, in the fallen world in which we live, the taking of life may be the only way to address certain extreme circumstances. While I was once an absolute pacifist, I cannot today state that it is always, absolutely, and indisputably wrong for a follower of Christ to use deadly force (though as you will see, my acceptable limits for doing so are pretty narrow). However, even given that there may be times where deadly force is tragically necessary even for the Christ-follower, it must never be glorified, elevated, seen in any light other than a supreme tragedy for which we weep that it must happen at all.
Secondly, and for a variety of reasons that are not simply pacifist reasons, I shall advocate that it is morally unacceptable for a Christ-follower to assume the career of a soldier.
I make this claim even though I freely admit that I have friends who serve or have served in the military. I do not claim that they are “not saved,” primarily because I repudiate the saved/unsaved dichotomy as a criterion for judging discipleship. Christ-followers are called to emulate our king because of who he is and what he demands, not because we’ll go to hell if we don’t.
Finally, I acknowledge at the outset that my thinking is not finalized on all of these issues, despite years of wrestling with them. I am probably internally inconsistent in some of what I’m going to say, and I definitely have room to further refine the positions I’m going to lay out. However, I hope that these thoughts will challenge the readers to re-consider some of their own closely-held positions on this issue, and that perhaps we can take the discussion beyond the usual pacifist-vs-nationalist rhetoric that has so often characterized the debates I have heard.
More to come. . .