Peace, War, and Christians

English Service on August 16, 2015   Messenger: Pastor Jim Allison

Title:“Peace, War, and Christians  Scripture: Romans 12:14-21

As we move once again through August, especially in this 70-year anniversary of the end of World War II, the thoughts of many people turn to peace and how we can have it.  You may have noticed that at Open Door we have very few messages focused on particular moral or political issues.  I do not think of myself as a very political person.  I did not come to Japan for political reasons.  As a pastor, I believe it is part of my job to understand and support a wide variety of people with many different understandings and opinions.  It is important to me that Open Door be a place where people with many differing views on moral or political matters can come together and learn about God in an atmosphere of openness and acceptance, with no one feeling threatened or unwelcome.

Also, Open Door has never been the kind of church where the pastor tells the members what to think and they all say, “OK.  You are God’s spokesperson, so we believe everything you say.”  That’s not what I want.  Especially as a pastor of a Protestant church, I want you to learn to listen to God and hear His voice speaking to you.  I want you to learn to sense His hand guiding you and obey as He leads you.  Of course, you need a community to do that best.  We need to learn from each other and together from God.  But if in that process, you don’t agree with me or someone else here, it doesn’t mean anything bad.  It is just a sign that at least one of us doesn’t have all the answers yet.  That’s not news, is it.  We all need to keep humbly learning.

With that in mind, today I am going to take on the difficult topic of war and peace.  (Don’t worry, this talk is not going to be as long as the book, War and Peace.)  It is one of those things about which many people feel very strongly.  Especially living in the only nation which has experienced an atomic bomb attack, with fears of what could happen in the future to lead us again into war, we face the question of how to understand war and peace.  

I want to approach that with you today by asking three questions and finding what God says in the Bible related to them.  First, how does God feel about war and peace?  Second, is war ever necessary?  Third, how can we find the path to peace?  

Before we start, though, I have to warn you.  These are difficult questions, partly because God’s word does not spell out the answers to them very clearly.  It never says, for example, “You must never go to war” or “War is OK as a way to solve problems.”  So even after we hear God’s teachings, we are likely to understand and receive them differently, then come out with different answers about what is good and bad.  But that does not mean God’s teachings do not have great value.  They may not be completely clear to us, but in His wisdom, He chooses to give just this much to us, then lead us to deeper understanding as we follow Him, trusting Him to guide us into deeper knowledge as we go.  

First, how does God feel about war and peace?  This much is clear.  Because we are all created in God's image, each human life is of great, great value.  So Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are those who make peace.  They will be called sons of God.”  Then in vv. 38-39 of the same chapter, He says, 

You have heard that is was said, “An eye must be put out for an eye.  A tooth must be knocked out for a tooth.”  But here is what I tell you.  Do not fight against an evil person.  Suppose someone hits you on your right cheek. Turn your other cheek to him also.   

Today’s Bible reading has a kind of summary of the way God wants us to act toward other people.  Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  This is God’s desire.  

One day He approached Jerusalem (Luke 19:41b-42).  “When he saw the city, he began to sob.  He said, ‘I wish you had known today what would bring you peace!  But now it is hidden from your eyes.’”  In other words, when we humans do not live in peace, it breaks God’s heart.  He would rather die than see us at war with Him and each other.  

So if God feels this deeply about peace, as His people, we must never take part in war, right?  That may seem like the only possible answer.  Christian pacifists around the world have believed this for centuries.  Yet as other Christians have looked at the Bible and at the hard realities of life in this world, they have come out with different answers.  Many separate between offensive and defensive wars, for example.  Today, more Christians believe that wars are necessary in certain cases than those who say it is always better to avoid war.  Augustine of Hippo, the philosopher of the fourth and fifth centuries, wrote about “just war.”  In the years since then, many others have built on his ideas.  Here is an overview of these ideas.

1. The cause of initiating war must be just. That is, it cannot be for aggressive purposes but rather for the defense and protection of the innocent.

2. War cannot be initiated justly except by those who hold the proper authority and responsibility. While turning the other cheek in Matthew 5 speaks to specifically to interpersonal relationships, Romans 13 tells us that God has ordained governments and her agents as His ministers to bring wrath on those who practice evil. For war to be just it can only be declared by a competent authority.

3. The moral merit on our side must clearly outweigh the moral merit on the other side. While both sides may claim that God is on their side, for war to be just, we must clearly be able to demonstrate that ours is a more just cause.

4. War can only be declared with the right intention, which is to obtain or restore a just peace. The desires to punish or humiliate are not justifiable intentions.

5. War must be the last resort. All non-violent alternatives for peace must be exhausted before resorting to war.

6. War cannot be justified if the prospect of success is hopeless, regardless of how just the cause may be. If it cannot be won, to fight it would be an unnecessary expenditure of life.

7. War should be seen as a tragic necessity, not an opportunity for aggression. Driven by the principle of love, we should never enter war eagerly but reluctantly and only out of necessity.


As an example of the ideas of “just war,” the Oxford and Cambridge academic and Christian writer C. S. Lewis asked readers to think of this situation.  A crazed man comes by and knocks him down on his way to finding another person he wants to kill.  Seeing this, does our Lord really want Lewis to stand by and let this man kill his victim?  Lewis’ clear answer is “No.”

Christians who see war as sometimes necessary look, for another example, back to the last century and Adolf Hitler.  Would peace with Nazi Germany have been possible?  Hitler pretended to want peace but then invaded Poland and other countries.  And today how realistic is it to face the problem of ISIS and similar groups with the promise that we will never use physical force?  For people who see “just war” as sometimes required, this is what the Bible means when it says in Ecclesiastes 3, “There is a time for war.  And there’s a time for peace.”

But just as many see problems with pacifism, others have disagreed with “just war” principles.  For one thing, about points one and three, who gets to decide if the cause for going to war is a just cause or not?  Many, if not most or all people who go to war think they are right.  From Christians who fought in the Crusades to radical Muslim jihadists to many others, people who start wars very often think they are doing a good or necessary thing when there is no basis for it in the teachings or leading of God.  It is very easy to deceive others, or even ourselves, into thinking we are in the right when we are not.

As I may have told you before, I have some personal feelings about this point.  I grew up thinking that my country would very possibly send me to fight in the Vietnam War, as many other young men were being sent.  Some were refusing to go, but others were going.  I thought differently then, and I probably would have gone.  I might have killed people or been killed.  Gladly, the war ended when I was 15.  So it was shocking to me to read 20 years later that the U.S. Secretary of Defense during the war, Robert McNamara, had written in a book, “We were wrong, terribly wrong” (p. 1) to have stayed in Vietnam as long as we did.  The war that seemed so just and so necessary to so many people in the beginning did not look that way later.  There are other similar examples.  

And point four says that the motivation for war must be “to obtain or restore a just peace.”  But many of the most horrible things done in wars are done “to hasten the end of the war.”  The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were meant especially to speed the end of the war by being so shocking and terrible that the will of the Japanese people to fight would be gone.  But looking at what happened, many of us find it extremely difficult to call the motive for these acts “just” or “peace-seeking.”

Few if any Christians see war as a good thing, but many see pacifism as so naïve that it is a deadly belief system which will lead to more and not less war.  In the real world, where there are people who will kill others whenever the opportunity is there, respect for human life requires the willingness to use violence to protect it.  In the view of many Christians, pacifism fails to keep the peace that it seeks.  It does too little to resist evil, and innocent people often end up suffering the consequences.     

So where is the path of peace?  If on one hand God hates war and killing people is evil, but on the other hand pacifism to many seems so naïve, how can we find a more Christian response to the question of war and peace?  How can we go about accomplishing our mission of never desiring war but always seeking peace, so far as it depends upon us?

Some people point out that the ideas of “just war” have led not to more war but steps toward more peace.  For example, many people in Europe and other places believed for many years that only nations’ leaders were responsible for decisions of going to war.  Leaders were responsible to God, but ordinary people were only responsible to obey the leaders.  But the demand of “just war” theory for a clear explanation of why war is necessary has led more ordinary people to question the need for war and work against beginning wars.  The Nuremburg Trials of German leaders after World War II were an important step toward shifting responsibility to ordinary soldiers, not only leaders, and “just war” principles were a great part of this process.  

In various other real-life cases, the ideas behind “just war” teachings have made it easier for people to oppose war.  Saying that (1) the threat to innocent people is not great enough or (2) or all the other options have not been tried yet or (3) the chance for winning is not great enough has made possible stronger arguments through the “just war” theory.  

But after all is said, the path to peace according to Christian faith lies in the gospel.  And I am not talking only about the forgiveness of our sin.  The whole gospel changes all parts of our lives.  It is a lifestyle and an attitude and a spirit, not only some teaching points.  So let’s look at the gospel of peace once more.  

From the very beginning of the world, God has wanted peace, first and most between people and Himself.  When human sin came, it broke that peace, and it brought broken human relationships that soon were leading to murder and then war.  Yet God did not give up on people.  Because of His deep love for us, time and again He sent leaders who loved peace, teachings that commanded peace, and actions that showed His peace.  

When we humans refused to let even those gifts be enough to lead us to peace, He sent His own Son to our world.  He came to show us what living in peace looks like.  He did not take up a sword and act like the other leaders, showing greatness through military or political or economic power.  Neither was He weak.  He showed an entirely different type of power.  He presented Himself as the king of a whole different type of kingdom.  The kingdom of God was and is spiritual in nature, far more than anything else.  

The Bible presents Jesus telling people words designed to turn them away from world of war where might makes right and everything is about winning or losing.  He worked instead to build a community of peace-loving people (Matthew 5:44-45).   

I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven: for he makes his son rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 

I said earlier that God would rather die than live in broken relationship to us.  In fact, that’s just what Jesus did.  He died on the cross to pay the price of our sin and make a way for us to enter into peace again with God and with each other.  Throughout the whole Bible story, even at the end of time, God’s deep concern is peace.  In the great vision of the Revelation of John, at the end of this world, God brings together His people from every nation, tribe, and tongue to live forever with Him in His home in peace.   


So there it is.  That is not a magic answer with all the pieces of the peace and war puzzle fitting nicely together.  But it is a pattern for living that Christ calls you and me to follow.  He asks us to imitate Him in finding ways to be bridge-builders and not wall-builders.  He expects His people to find unique ways in our world today to “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14, NIV).  He wants us to learn to show the spirit He did on the cross, in standing against the forces that lead people to war today and giving ourselves so that His vision of a world at peace can become a reality. 

We praise God for His promise that one day Christ will return to restore the world to the order and peace it had in the beginning, when God created it.  At that time people will finally be at peace with Him and as a result with each other.  Yet we are called not only to look forward to that day but also to work for peace here and now in this world.  So until the Christ of peace returns, let us pray, let us work, and let us be strong in Him, so that all people, everywhere, will have the opportunity to know the Christ of peace and thus the peace of Christ.

Let’s pray.  

God, you teach your people everywhere that we are accountable to you first, most, and last—far more than to any human or government or culture.  So help us to not to give in to the pressures from forces in this world that push us away from peace and toward living in division, conflict, and even war.  You sent your Son to reign as the Prince of Peace.  Let Him reign in our hearts and minds and all of your world.  We pray it in His name, amen. 



Grimsrud, T. (n.d.) “Peace Theology: A Christian Pacifist Perspective on War and Peace.” Retrieved August 11, 2015 from


Lewis, C. S. (1941). “Why I’m Not a Pacifist.” The Weight of Glory. San Francisco: HarperOne.

McNamara, R. (1996). In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. 1st Edition. New York: Vintage Books.

Moore, T. C. (n.d.) “Why C. S. Lewis Was Wrong About Pacifism.” Retrieved August 11, 2015 from _About_Pacifism

Southern Baptist Convention, The. (2000). The Baptist Faith and Message. Retrieved August 11, 2015 from bfm2000.asp

Wittman, C. (May 09, 2009). “Peace and War.” Baptist Faith and Message Sermon 18. Retrieved August 10, 2015 from http://www.lifeway. com/Article/Foundations-faith-peace-and-war










 あなたがたも聞いているとおり、『目には目を、歯には歯を』と命 じられている。しかし、わたしは言っておく。悪人に手向かっては ならない。だれかがあなたの右の頬を打つなら、左の頬をも向けな さい。




1. 戦争原因は正当であること。それゆえに攻撃目的ではなく、罪なき人々を守り、防御すること。

2. 適切な権限と責任を持つ者でなければ、戦争を正当に開始することはできない。もう一方の頬も向けなさいと、マタイ書の5章が対人関係について特に述べている。ローマの信徒への手紙13章によると、神様は上に立つ権威を定め、権威者が悪を行う者に怒りを持って報う。管轄下において宣言された時だけに戦争が正当化される。

3. 戦争を始める側の道徳的理念は相手側の道徳的理念を明らかに上回るべきである。両者共に神様は味方だと主張する上で、戦争を正当化するのならば戦争を始めた側はより正当な理由を明らかに証明するべきである。

4. 戦争は正しい意図によってのみ宣言される。その意図はジャストピース(公正に基づいた平和)を得る、もしくは回復のためである。罰することや恥をかかせるという欲求は正当化できる意図ではない。

5. 戦争は最終手段であること。平和のためにも、戦争を行う前に暴力に問わない全ての手段の執行に尽くすこと。

6. 戦争原因がどんなに正当であっても、戦争による成功の見込みがなければ戦争は正当化されない。勝つことができないのならば、戦うことは人生において不必要な消費となる。

7. 戦争は悲劇的に必然なものであり、攻撃の機会を狙うものではない。愛の原理によって動かされるものであり、熱心に戦争をするのではなく、必要に迫られ不本意ながら受け入れること。









 その他の実際の事例においても、「正戦論」から成る考えにより人々が戦争を反対することを容易にしました。これにより以下の事柄は「正戦論」の 説得力のある強い主張を可能にしました。(1)罪のない人々への危険が大きくない。(2)その他の方法を試していない。(3)勝算の可能性が大きくない。

 結局はキリスト教信仰に従う平和への道は福音にあります。私は罪の赦しのみを言っているのではありません。福音全てが私たちの生活の全部分を変えるのです。福音は教えだけではなく、私たちの 生き方であり、態度であり、精神なのです。もう一度、平和の福音について考えてみましょう。





 しかし、わたしは言っておく。敵を愛し、自分を迫害する者のため に祈りなさい。あなたがたの天の父の子となるためである。父は悪 人にも善人にも太陽を昇らせ、正しい者にも正しくない者にも雨を 降らせてくださるからである。







Grimsrud, T. (n.d.) “Peace Theology: A Christian Pacifist Perspective on War and Peace.” Retrieved August 11, 2015 from pacifism/2-a-christian-pacifist-perspective-on-war-and-peace/

Lewis, C. S. (1941). “Why I’m Not a Pacifist.” The Weight of Glory. San Francisco: HarperOne.

McNamara, R. (1996). In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. 1st Edition. New York: Vintage Books.

Moore, T. C. (n.d.) “Why C. S. Lewis Was Wrong About Pacifism.” Retrieved August 11, 2015 from http://www.

Southern Baptist Convention, The. (2000). The Baptist Faith and Message. Retrieved August 11, 2015 from asp

Wittman, C. (May 09, 2009). “Peace and War.” Baptist Faith and Message Sermon 18. Retrieved August 10, 2015 from Article/Foundations-faith-peace-and-war