The gospel and war

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Dear friends,

The subject of war has loomed large in the news this week. Even as we remember the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I (at one time naïvely called by some “The War to End War”), we also hear about seemingly intractable conflicts in Gaza and the Ukraine, massacres and unspeakable violence in Iraq, and other awful conflicts that do not even get a mention on our radars.

What can we say, or think, or do? A starting point is to consider how the gospel of Jesus Christ bears on these issues. I have often found it useful, in thinking about a particular issue, to go through the points of a gospel outline and to seek to apply each of the points to the issue. In fact, this is something you could do yourself. It helps provide structure and clarity for thoughts, prayers and conversations.

Here are some ways in which the gospel might be brought to bear on the issue of war, using the key points from Two Ways to Live (if you don’t know this gospel outline, it’s worth learning!)

God is the loving ruler of the world. He made the world. He made us rulers of the world under him.

That means that God is in charge of all circumstances—even those awful circumstances of war that seem out of control. We can pray to him. It also means that we (and our governments) have a responsibility to “rule” properly by caring for the vulnerable and protecting the innocent—a key factor in decisions about war.

We all reject the ruler—God—by trying to run life our own way without him. But we fail to rule ourselves, or society, or the world.

That means war is one of the obvious and tragic results of human beings trying to run life our own way without God, and failing. We should grieve over this, and realise that without God’s help we will never end all conflicts.

God will not let us rebel forever. God’s punishment for rebellion is death and judgment.

That means there will be justice for perpetrators of particular evil in war (e.g. unjust aggression and war crimes). Even those who die physically and escape human justice will still face God’s justice.

Because of his love, God sent his Son into the world—the man Jesus Christ. Jesus always lived under God’s rule. Yet by dying in our place, he took our punishment and brought forgiveness.

That means true reconciliation and peace between warring parties will only find a true and lasting foundation in Jesus Christ’s ultimate act of reconciliation: his sacrifice which reconciled us to God and God to us, bringing forgiveness for even the worst of sinners who trust in him

God raised Jesus to life again as the ruler of the world. Jesus has conquered death, now brings new life, and will return to judge.

That means death in war is not the end for those who trust in Jesus Christ. This gives Christians in Iraq today courage to stand up and claim the name of Christ even though it means certain death.

That leaves us with two ways to live: A) Reject the ruler—God—and try to run life our own way. Result: condemned by God, and facing death and judgment. B) Submit to Jesus as ruler and rely on him for forgiveness. Result: Forgiven by God, given eternal life.

That means we need to pray for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ amongst all the parties in these conflicts, and to keep speaking this gospel message.

Of course, much more could be said on the issue. But I trust this will give you food for thought, for prayer, for conversation and for further reflection this week.

Your fellow servant in Christ, Lionel Windsor

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