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War, Terrorism and Violence

You may think this is a depressing title for a magazine that is promoting the gospel! Surely the gospel (good news) is all about

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests

  • Luke 2.14. Not: All quotes from the NIV

True indeed! Jesus came preaching non-violence and said: Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5.9). His message was one of non-resistance to evil, not retaliating against aggressive behaviour from others; most important, loving your enemies! This teaching that makes up the core of Jesus' message about interpersonal relationships, is totally at odds with the philosophy of mankind in general. They say "you have to be strong; stand up for yourself; give as good as you get; do not show weakness". Governments see the protection of their people as their prime responsibility. They spend vast amounts of money and resources in developing weapons, defensive and offensive, to deter aggression from neighbouring states. In many cases, the possession of weapons and arms leads to aggression and to war. Technological developments in naval and land warfare led to the Great War (1914-1918), and again to the Second World War (1939 – 1945).

What does the Bible say about war?

Surprisingly, the Bible contains much history of war right from the early pages of the book of Genesis. It does not condemn war. It recognises it as a feature of human relations. In some cases, God commanded His people, the Jews, and others (e.g. the Babylonians) to make war where it was God's intention to punish, dispossess or destroy people or nations.

Bible teaching is about the battle between 'good and evil', between those who believe in God and those who ignore God completely. Ironically this is presented as a conflict, called warfare. The Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to ''Fight the good fight of the faith'' (1 Timothy 6.12). The personal striving of the human spirit to overcome evil is described as a conflict, a war!

In the last book of the Bible, the enactment of God's judgements against the ungodly are described as wars, the outcome of which will be a new world order of everlasting peace and harmony; something the world craves but cannot achieve.

War is endemic, and it is institutionalised in our society. It provides employment for many millions of people across the world; not only fighting but making preparation by designing and building the next generation of weapons and equipment. If all the effort and expense that goes into war was diverted to humanitarian causes and to helping the so-called enemy, the world would be a much better place!

Are wars and terrorism signs of the end times?

There are many things we might think of as indicating an inevitable progression to a climax - the end of the world. The Bible student can quote these words of Jesus:

You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth-pains.

  • Matthew 24.5-8

This may lead us to look at the events of our times and to wonder if we are experiencing a significant change in the frequency and effect of warfare. Are our times any different from the rest of history? In an article in "The Guardian" newspaper in 2002 entitled "War and Peace" the historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote:

The 20th Century was the most murderous in recorded history. The total number of deaths caused by or associated with its wars has been estimated at 187 million, the equivalent of more than 10% of the world's population in 1913. Taken as having begun in 1914, it was a century of almost unbroken war, with few and brief periods without organised armed conflict somewhere. It was dominated by world wars: that is to say, by wars between territorial states or alliances of states.

The increase in worldwide terrorist activity over the last 45 years.
Orange areas 1970–1999, red areas 2000–2015.
Based on a total of 157,000 terror incidents.
CC BY-SA 4.0 via wikipedia

How has war changed?

The newspaper article highlights many changes. Firstly, armed operations are often no longer in the hands of governments where the objectives are clear. Today's combatants have many objectives (the main one being a willingness to use violence!) Secondly, the distinction between soldiers and civilians has eroded to a point where increasingly civilians are not only the victims but the focus of military operations. An example quoted is that in the first world war 5% of deaths were civilians, whereas in the second world war civilians made up 66% of the total number of deaths.

The blurring of lines between war and peace have led to the continual state of conflict, terror and civil breakdown, together with a willingness to break the so-called "rules of war" using forbidden (e.g. chemical) weapons and brutal methods. We could summarise the trends as follows: there has been more war, more conflict, more suffering in our times, even as society has benefited from more advanced technology and a higher standard of living. But, as with earthquakes, floods and famines, which have always existed, more people are affected because there are more people and more living in dangerous locations. War now affects civilians not just the armed forces.

Individuals cause war

We might think that national governments cause war. But generally it comes down to individuals: kings, queens, dictators, generals, politicians, usurpers, revolutionaries and oppressed peoples. Think how a few individuals caused the conflict in the so-called Caliphate of ISIL. Having been supplied weapons, they succeeded in terrorising large areas of Iraq and Syria. This caused Russia and the Western powers to be drawn into a conflict that was not in their backyard. Much terrorism is revenge for past acts of war. We can look back now and see that the 9/11 attacks in 2001 followed the shooting down of an innocent Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf by a US warship The Lockerbie airliner bombing has its roots in the reaction of Libya to rocket attacks on their country. This revenge terrorism is at the root of many atrocities in the Middle East among the Iraqis, Syrians, Israelis and the Palestinians. In truth we could say that war always leads to more war. it is a negative spiral of hate and violence. Nobody ever wins a war – the losses are too great.

Brother versus brother

The Bible records the earliest conflict between Cain and his brother Abel:

Cain said to his brother "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him

  • Genesis 4.8

This was a result of uncontrolled jealousy and resentment and Cain wanting something that Abel had – approval and status. The act of murder did not achieve anything positive for Cain; rather it brought banishment and isolation. How much better it would have been to talk to his brother and understand his feelings and resolve differences successfully!

The Apostle James wrote this about conflict:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you. You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

  • James 4.1-4

This establishes the principle that conflict comes from within a person. Desire, greed, lust; all these contribute to a feeling that you are entitled to have something that someone else has. James says this leads to quarrels and fighting. It is unrestrained human greed that leads to war.

The Christian way

The teaching of Jesus is the opposite of this. It tells us to be unselfish, to seek the best for others and suppress our own desires. This is how Jesus lived and he gave his life as a ransom for the world. A true Christian would follow the path of seeking the highest good of others before self. This attitude is incompatible with the human philosophy of strength and power which leads to war. Many Christians have suffered death for refusing to fight against oppression and persecution. The Christian has no answer to the problem of war in the world. He or she has only one battle to fight – against their own sinful human nature. The solution to war is in God's hands. There will be a day of reckoning for the world when

he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead

  • Acts 17.31

That man is Jesus Christ.

A time of trouble

Wherever we are in the world, war and terrorism seem to be the headlines in our world's 24 hour, rolling news. This makes people concerned that they are at greater risk. It certainly makes people worry. Jesus prophesied of a time of confusion and bewilderment at the time of the end, just before his second coming: On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory

  • Luke 21.25

In this figurative language, Jesus refers to the people and rulers on earth being in a state of perplexity; having no solution to the problems besetting them. Now it seems that global warming, however caused, is insoluble. If the nations cannot work together to solve the problem of war and suffering, how can we expect them to solve global warming? A dilemma indeed! but God is in control God says in Isaiah:

... I am the LORD and there is no other ' I bring prosperity and create disaster, I the LORD do all these things''

  • Isaiah 45.6,7

This tells us that God is ultimately in control of the world and He will not let human beings destroy the Earth unless it is in His plan and purpose. If we keep this in mind we should not be afraid of the future but look at it from the viewpoint of God in the Bible:

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers ... He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

  • Isaiah 40.22,24

If we trust in an all-powerful, all wise God then we will not have to fear the consequences of man's violent activities.

Reassurance and future peace

Mankind is totally incapable of preventing war and conflict. Why is this? The Bible tells us it is down to human nature and man's total rejection of God. This is summarised in the prophet Isaiah's words:

"There is no peace," says the LORD, "for the wicked."

  • Isaiah 48.22

Those who trust in God and believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, and follow the path of discipleship that Jesus has shown by his teaching will be saved. He said to his disciples:

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

  • Luke 12.32.

The kingdom that Jesus referred to will replace all human rule and authority as the prophet Daniel foretold. Like Jesus in that passage from Luke 21, he predicted a time of trouble and turmoil in the world, when there would be a mixture of weak and strong nations and then there would be a world-shaking change:

In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed…It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure for ever.

  • Daniel 2.44

The effect of this will be enduring peace. The prophet Isaiah looked forward to the time when the kingdom of God will be a reality:

...The Law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruninghooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more

  • Isaiah 2.3,4

This is no pipe dream it is a divine promise that cannot fail!

Author Rowland Tremaine
Country Suffolk, England
Source Light on a New World reprint from Volume 29.4

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