What makes a war just?

Christians have the Bible to provide guidance. We are exhorted in Matthew 5:29 to turn the other cheek when someone does evil to us. Does this mean that we are to be pacifists? No. This verse is not about nation-to-nation relations, but person-to-person. “Therefore, when they fight, they do it not for themselves or on their own account, but as a service and act of obedience to the rulers under whom they are, as St. Paul writes to Titus, ‘They shall obey the rulers,’” Luther says. When Jesus talked to a soldier, he did not tell him to put down his arms, leave his post, or pick up a different profession. Instead He commended the soldier for his faith.

People of the Christian faith express that through prayer. We are to pray for people in danger as well as for our enemies to be restrained from the evil they are seeking. Is prayer the end as Christians, or part of a greater course of action? We may also need to follow prayer with action if the good of our neighbor requires it.

So where does this leave the Christian in today’s world? Christians are free to serve as soldiers. They are able to participate in a war to defend our nation or others. As conflicts arise and we watch the horror unfold, we want there to be an easy answer. We should not seek out conflict, but instead work for peace and only engage when there is no other option left. The reality of war is always ugly, even a war in the pursuit of peace for ourselves or others. When problems cannot be solved peacefully, war is an option, but it should be one of last resort.

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