War (Part 4)

So, we’re jumping forward to the time of Jesus, and I know I’m skipping over a lot of history here, but I want to finish one whole series on the blog! and I want to look at what Jesus lays down for us as Christians, those who would follow after him. Jesus first addresses the issue in the beatitudes, at the start of the sermon on the mount, and I’d encourage you to read the following verses slowly, and to consider what they’re saying:
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9
 
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Matthew 5:38-42
 
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.
Luke 6:29-30
 
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Matthew 5:43-47

These are hard verses to read. They are challenging and confronting, especially in light of the way that we in the West view justice and use the language of war. Let me leave you, for this time, with another challenging quote, to get you thinking:

States, particularly liberal democracies, are heavily dependent on wars for moral coherence. All societies may go to war, but war for us liberal democracies is special because it gives us a sense of worth necessary to sustain our state. (For a substantiation of this unique role of war and armies for the development of the modern nation state, see Anthony Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985].) We are quite literally a people that morally live off our wars because they give us the necessary basis for self-sacrifice so that a people who have been taught to pursue only their own interest can at times be mobilized to die for one another. For example, Jean Bethke Elshtain, in her wonderful book Women and War (New York: Basic Books, 1987), quotes Randolf Bourne speaking in 1918:
War—or at least modern war waged by a democratic republic against a powerful enemy—seems to achieve for a nation almost all that the most inflamed political idealist could desire. Citizens are no longer indifferent to their Government, but each cell of the body politic is brimming with life and activity—on a nation at war, every citizen identifies himself with the whole, and feels immensely strengthened in that identification. (p. 119)
In short, there is nothing wrong with America that a good war cannot cure.
Stanley Hauerwas & William H. Willimon
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