This is an inalienable obligation. It is the
how of defending peace which offers
Fourth, we should recognize the prerogative of the State to use the sword to
suppress evil. Of course, governments do
not always act justly, nor do they use the
sword wisely at times. A State can even
become a Leviathan that devours its citizens. Nevertheless, the abuses and dangers of government do not negate the
God-ordained role of the State.
Certainly Christians have their eyes wide
open and hold realistic expectations, remembering who is Lord. And when loyalties clash, Caesar must give way to Jesus.
Christians also recognize the potential
of governments to propagandize and dis-
tort the truth, to romanticize war or de-
humanize the “enemy.” But in cases of
self-defence against an aggressive nation,
or in response to acts of terrorism, just war
and pacifist Christians might both agree
that the State can respond with a righteous
use of the sword. Just war proponents can
agree to qualified participation in that use
of the sword. Pacifists will not.
Finally, we offer hope, especially for
those who have suffered greatly or continue to face unimaginable horrors.
The return of Jesus and the full establishment of His Kingdom is the great hope
of Christians, wherever they fit on the just
war or pacifist spectrum.
That return guarantees that evil,
suffering and tears will someday be gone
for good. Perfect and lasting peace will be
established. And the original harmony of
creation will be restored. John cries out
for this when he writes in Revelation
22: 20, “Come, Lord Jesus.” For now, we
navigate our way through war, peace and
everything in-between. /FT
swer to any of these intractable and vexing
domestic and international issues.
At times we will surely have to act without knowing exactly the best way forward.
Second, we need to recognize the important contributions of both just war and
pacifist Christians. U.S. bishops in the
1980s were spot on when they declared,
“Both find their roots in the Christian
theological tradition; each contributes to
the full moral vision we need in pursuit of
peace. We believe the two perspectives
support and complement one another,
each preserving the other from distortion.”
Both positions share a great deal in
common, but their points of divergence
provide an important and prophetic dialectic for the Church today.
Third, Christians of both traditions
should vigorously promote peace. The
same U.S. bishops declared, “The Christian has no choice but to defend peace,
properly understood, against aggression.
Gordon L. Heath is associate professor of Christian
history and centenary chair in world Christianity at
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, Ont.
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