THE BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE, Article Nineteen
This is Part 19 of a continuing series of articles examining the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This statement of faith was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting on June 14, 2000 “to set forth certain teachings which we believe.”
Peace and War
It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.
The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace.*
I can think of no more timely topic than this one. As I write, it is the day following Veteran’s Day. As I started this article, the television was blaring the news in the background of more bloodshed in the Middle East. This is the December edition of the newsletter, and at the end of the month we will celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace to the angelic proclamation of, “Peace on earth, good will to men.” Yet, my gut reaction is to echo the disheartening lament of Longfellow in, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Written during the dark days of our Civil War he mourned,
And in despair, I bow'd my head: "There is no peace on earth," I said,"For hate is strong and mocks the song,Of Peace on earth, good will to men."
So, what are we to think? Jesus has called us to be peacemakers—does that mean we are to become pacifists? Had the government during Longfellow’s day taken such a position then another abomination would have endured for who knows how long—slavery! How much more blood would have been shed and suffering endured due to that evil institution prolonged presence because someone concluded that, “War is not the answer.”
Though the pacifist may be sincere, he is not Scriptural, in that he or she fails to recognize that the Bible teaches the concept of a “just war.” War fought by a government protect the citizens, to end tyranny and defeat a worse evil can be grounds for a country going to battle.
But, war is always to be the last resort, and never the first response. Indeed, God calls us to wage peace, and not war. If posters, slogans, and protest marches would bring peace, then we should all take to the streets. Sadly, there can be at times no alternative to combat, if it means that we allow the wicked to have their way. Yet, there is no glory, no revelry to be found in a declaration of war—only sorrow.
We should demand our government seek every viable option to bloodshed by diplomacy. Peace treaties, though often as flimsy as the paper they are written on, cannot be dismissed as always worthless. A strong military and firm defense is actually a deterrent to the aggression of despotic regimes, functioning as peace keepers and not war mongers.
Understand that we live in a fallen world. The roots of war are grounded in the self-centered heart of sinful humanity. Listen to what James says, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war.” (4:1-2a) The Gospel of Christ alone has the power to change the heart and bring peace—peace with God and peace with those created in His image. The best way to change a nation’s imperialism is to change its citizens—one heart at a time. The Muslim, bent on my destruction, becomes my brother when he comes to Christ—no longer an enemy, but family.
Yet, we know that despite all our efforts to propagate the Gospel, there will never be a time in this dispensation when there is universal peace on earth. Jesus said that to the very end there would be wars and rumors of wars. But in that seemingly dark warning is found the ray of hope! The end will come—Christ will return and then nations will not learn war any more. The machinery of the military will be utilized in manufacturing farm implements to feed the masses of humanity rather than brutalize them (Isaiah 2:4)!
In this month, when we celebrate the first advent of the Lord Jesus, may we earnestly pray for the second advent! Come, Lord Jesus—come quickly! Then will the longing of Longfellow’s last lyrics be fulfilled,
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,With Peace on earth, good will to men."
* Isaiah 2:4; Matthew 5:9,38-48; 6:33; 26:52; Luke 22:36,38; Romans 12:18-19; 13:1-7;14:19; Hebrews 12:14; James 4:1-2. (Baptist Faith and Message, 2000)