In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus states that loving God with all of one’s heart and loving our neighbor as ourselves are the most important commandments. Paul then states in Galatians 5:14 that the whole law is summarized in the phrase “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What, if any, implications do these words have for determining if war is ever justified or not?
There are biblical passages that seem to indicate that Christians should never go to war:
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:27-31, ESV)
However, some have argued that the biblical command to love our neighbor requires that we go to war. It is argued that going to the defense of our neighbor who is under attack is an act of love. If we fail to go to our neighbor’s defense, we fail to obey God’s command. John Calvin stated that a soldier is “an agent of God’s love.” He said that soldiering in a just manner is a “God-like act” because “restraining evil out of love for our neighbor” is an imitation of God’s restraining of evil. As we seek to restrain evil, we imitate God who restrains evil out of love for His creation.
Charles Colson wrote, “A world where Christians refuse to fight just wars wouldn’t be peaceful, and it certainly wouldn’t be a more just world. It would be a world where evil would be unchecked by justice and where the strong would be free to prey on the weak.” (Tough Questions About God, Faith, and Life – p. 196).
So what do you think? Is just war an act of love for our neighbor as Calvin and Colson argue?
Note: John Calvin quotations taken from Tough Questions About God, Faith, and Life by Charles Colson, p. 196.