Submission, Collaboration, and the End of War
ERSU Seminary, Kiev, Ukraine
[submitted to ERSU Journal, Ðåôîðìàòñêèé âçãëÿä, for Spring 2016]
In a previous article, we considered “Christian Ministry in Time of War”. Certainly, many questions were left unanswered. For example, What if we lose a war, and there is an ongoing guerilla movement to resist the invaders? Should we participate or submit? Are we truly called to pray for the leaders of such a subjugated country? Is that to be disloyal to our nation? Few of today’s conflicts offer black and white ethical choices for the Christian. How can we find our way?
In a previous article, we considered “Christian Ministry in Time of War”. But certainly it left many questions unanswered. One section dealt with “Ministry in a Defeated Nation”, and one reader raised some important questions in response: What if we lose a war, and there is an ongoing guerilla movement to resist the invaders? Should we participate or submit? Are we truly called to pray for the leaders of such a subjugated country? Is that to be disloyal to our nation? What biblical models do we find? As Christians, are we able both to be loyal to the Kingdom of God and to our fellow man? What does it mean to love our enemy?
Wars don’t last forever. There are ongoing issues, but individual wars eventually end. And, once a war is over, we need to return to peacetime ethics and promote a peaceable existence. After all, we are followers of the Prince of Peace.
Our first article dealt with forgiving and forgetting and reconciliation. The gift of Faith and the miraculous power of Forgiveness can allow us to deal with many ongoing issues and scars. Our identity in Christ enables us to put things in an eternal perspective, maintaining dignity and honor, and overcoming shame and hatred and humiliation.
But, how do we determine when a war is over? Are we traitors if we give up the fight for our country too early? If we’re at war and we submit and assist the enemy, we are collaborators; if we’re not at war and we fight, we are terrorists. What do we do, then, when it is unclear whether we are at war or not? Do we submit or resist?
Contextual Demands of Christian Ethics
Christian ethics addresses both war and peace, but there are complex situations making them hard to distinguish, thus making our duty of collaboration or resistance more difficult to determine. Christian ethics are not “situational ethics” in the sense of there being no permanent ethical standard. Yet, Christian ethics are somewhat situational, making different demands in war than in peace. Let us first consider what is called for in times of war.
Wartime Duties of Christians
When there is war, Christians have certain duties as citizens. They can even be called up for military service. When professional soldiers came to John the Baptist in repentance, he did not tell them their job was immoral. He instructed them to be JUST, not misusing their power, seeking righteousness even in the midst of military service (Lk 3:14).
Paul also wrote that the government authority “does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection” (Ro 13:4–5). There is nothing said negatively in this context about the use of the sword. Jesus did warn, however, that violence leads to violence: “For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Mt 26:52).
War asks other duties of citizens, such as secrecy, sacrifice, and moral support. Since the goal is to end war by discouraging the enemy and convincing him to give up his aggression, psychological warfare must be developed. It is imperative to deceive the enemy by misdirection and misinformation. Spies are necessary to discern proper information from the carefully-crafted lies of the enemy.
Lies are even crafted by Christians in unjust situations to protect the innocent. The family of Corrie ten Boom hid Jews and deceived the Nazis about them. Wartime ethics would indicate that such enemies have no right to the truth, since their intentions are evil.
This is not at all to say that there are no ethics in wartime, for the jus in bello must direct our activities in wartime.
Peacetime Duties of Christians
When there is peace, however, Christians have different duties, including duties to encourage peace and to heal individuals and nations, for we are called to be Peacemakers:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Mt 5:9);
“A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace “ (Jas 3:18);
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Ro 12:18).
We are also called to preserve the peace, to pray for peace, and to encourage peace:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov 15:1).
“When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov 16:7).
Christ is the ultimate peacemaker: “ For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19–20). And he shares this peacemaking task with us: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Co 5:18).
Peacetime ethics, as opposed to jus in bello, include our striving for absolute truthfulness. How will people know truth if they cannot hear a clear call from the lips of the children of the Kingdom? Although jus in bello may demand deception of enemies, our truthfulness of character before God must remain clear. I once knew a Cold War spy who was a committed Christian. He said that Christians made the best spies, because they could not be easily ‘turned’ in their commitments by the other side.
Christians know the truth and declare it to others: Paul calls us “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Co 4:2). Paul urges truthfulness in the church: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Eph 4:25). James urges control of the tongue: “Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” (3:11). Although these may seem to oppose any deception, even in wartime, each verse must be understood in context. War disrupts the peace, disrupting also freedom in relationships and the free flow of information.
We are thus to strive for peace, and we are to pray for peace, that our speech can be simple and forthright, adorning the Gospel. Paul urges prayer “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim 2:2). We seek not only a peaceful life, and not only a cessation of wars between nations and peoples, but especially to bring people to know “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1), that they thereby may live peaceably with others, loving both their neighbors and their enemies. This is truly “peace on earth, goodwill to men” (Luke 2:14, KJV). Living the Gospel and spreading it is our main peacekeeping and peacemaking task – which is a more effective means than force or political wrangling for peace.
One of the problems in modern times is the delineation between wartime and peacetime, and therefore between peacetime and wartime ethics. The recent “hybrid war” of Russia in the east of Ukraine is a good example, mixing covert operations with propaganda, disinformation, and misdirection.
An even clearer example is Russia’s hybrid warfare that took Crimea away from Ukraine in 2014. Unexplained and unidentified “polite young men” or “little green men” appeared in unmarked camouflage uniforms, with sophisticated weapons, hiding under the pretense of being local Russophiles, strategically taking over the Crimean parliament building, the ports, and all military and government institutions in Crimea. These masked men removed Ukrainian flags and hoisted Russian flags. Moscow’s response was denial of any involvement. Yet, once the object was secured and all resistance was squelched, Putin was hailed as the wonderful liberator of Crimea, without ever having declared war, and Moscow insisted that Crimea had always belonged to them. Their official troops and navy then secured the territory, and they filled the media and social media with propaganda to justify their actions.
In such a situation, how is the Crimean citizen to react morally? Is he simply to submit to the new reality? At what point would open warfare have been his option and his moral duty? Is guerilla warfare an option when the sides are unclear and the war is undeclared? Is guerilla warfare justifiable after the de facto subjugation of the region?
These are hard questions, indeed. Warfare is often a combination of the clear and the nebulous -- the “fog of war”, with life and death at stake. How much more is this so under a state of hybrid warfare, where intentions and identities are deliberately hidden and covered with lies. The line between spies and open combatants and non-combatant citizens becomes so blurred as to be non-existent.
Some have noted that this “new reality” of hybrid warfare is actually the death of the modern political system. There is no longer any clear jus in bello, nor jus ad bellum. Geo-political boundaries are no longer respected, and war can arise without reason or expectation, being fought without honor or restriction. Any political state fostering such activity is rightly called a rogue state, and other states must mount pressure to end such activity. Instead of the fog of war, we are left with duplicity and the fog of statesmanship.
In response to aggression, some feel called to a personal response of vigilante justice. This is what happened in Ukraine when individual militias self-organized to fight in Donbas against the “little green men” and Ukrainian rebels. But what good are small bands against the onslaught of an unidentified, well-organized, well-armed militia with its own hidden stratagems and methods of communication? It is like fighting a ghost, and the normal ‘laws’ of war are hard to apply.
Often, the secret aim of such hybrid war is the fomentation of strife – bringing division and confusion to a region for political ends. We must remember that, among the seven things the Lord HATES in Proverbs 6:19 is “one who spreads strife among brothers.” This is certainly an UNJUST type of warfare, which uses UNJUST means, and should be opposed by all means, political and military. As Dabney noted, “Unprovoked war is the most monstrous secular crime that can be committed.”
Christian Duty to Fight
Although Christians pursue peace, they are not merely passive; much less are they required to be pacifists. There are valid ways in which Christians fight. The life of the “Church militant” is compared to a battle: “For the weapons of our warfare …have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Co 10:3–5). The Christian is told to put on armor in Ephesians 6:14 and 1 Thessalonians 5:8. Even though this is spiritual armor, it is still likened to armor, and the Christian’s spiritual struggle is called a battle, including weapons, captives, enemies, and strongholds.
Striving for Justice
God’s people are to strive for justice. Although Absolute Justice belongs to God, who is Just, justice is also to be carried out among his people. The kings and judges and “Princes of Israel” were given responsibility to establish justice in the land: “Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed” (Jer 22:3). The judges, those most tempted to take bribes, were instructed, “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Dt 16:20). All the people were instructed thus: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Is 1:17). Part of this striving involves a hatred of evil: “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil” (Prov 8:13); “Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate” (Amos 5:15).
But the people of Israel strayed and corrupted justice, and the poor were downtrodden. God told his people through the prophet Amos that their sacrifices and solemn worship were an abomination to him, specifically because they allowed injustice: “Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Am 5:23–25).
All this injustice was not only among the heathen, but among the very Chosen People of God. What was the solution? Did political revolution set things straight? Did subversive activities undermine the corrupt governments? No, and, more often than not, one unjust government succeeded another.
God pleaded with his people: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). The people were called to repent, having a heart for justice, and the OT ends with this promise and warning: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6).
John, the Last Old Testament Prophet
Four hundred years later, John the Baptist came, not as a messiah or general, but as a revolutionary prophet – something of a “Fifth Estate.” The problems of Israel and of Mankind are not so much in the governments and political systems, but in the very heart of man. Repentance is key. John brought this message to the people as the forerunner of Jesus: “Repent!”; “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said” (Matthew 3:2; Jn 1:23).
John came so strongly “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17) that people even mistook him for Elijah or for Messiah (John 1:21). Jesus later said, “if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Mt 11:14), for John actually was the great forerunner of Messiah, the preacher of righteousness who had been foretold.
In the spirit of Elijah, John confronted the evils of his day. John made clear that national Israel was no great thing, and that they had no claim to God’s Name and protection if they continued to walk unjustly: “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Lk 3:8–9).
John was even emboldened to accuse Herod, King of Judea, of his unjust marriage and his corruption, which led to John’s imprisonment (Luke 3:18) and death (Matthew 14:1-12), “because John had been saying to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’” (Mt 14:4).
John also made clear that not only national justice, but individual justice was required: “And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none”, etc. (Lk 3:10–11). He even instructed the tax collectors and soldiers in their just duty as individuals (Luke 3: 12-14).
Jesus and Justice
The New Testament does not contain as much as the Old Testament about the struggle for justice. However, it can be argued that the OT teaching was already sufficient. The teaching of John the Baptist was based firmly on that foundation, and what was needed was not further revelation, but repentance. Besides, the NT emphasis was no longer on the nation, nor on its rulers, whose job it was to establish and uphold justice. In any case, justice is not absent in the NT.
Jesus condemned the Pharisees and scribes, those who applied the Law at that time, for neglecting “the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Mt 23:23). In making such a claim, Jesus supports the Old Testament and its constant call for justice.
Jesus also took a whip to the unjust moneychangers, because “zeal for your house has consumed me” (John 2:17, quoting Ps 69:9). Isaiah had spoken of Messiah, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations” ( Is 42:1). This text is specifically applied to Jesus in Matthew 12:16.
Generally, Jesus fought with the sword of his mouth. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34). “Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Re 2:16). This is how Jesus is pictured in John’s vision: “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev 19:15).
This is altogether opposed to the view of Christ and Christians as passive, pathetic individuals. But their zeal is not driven by a concern for their national or personal rights, but a concern for God and his righteousness, and zeal for the protection and care of the poor, widows, orphans, and the helpless.
The Contextual Demand Today
What, then, is our context today? Christians make up neither a political nation nor a distinct people. They are themselves sinners and workers of injustice, needing constant repentance and forgiveness for their own offenses. But the individual Christian also has ethical guides in Scripture regarding justice.
When in power, whether as kings or presidents, judges or pastors, Christians are to use their power for others, and not for their own selves. Those with power are public servants, and they will be held responsible for using their power for justice. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Heb 13:17). “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
If we have political power, rights or privileges, we should use these in the same way. The Apostle Paul used his Roman citizenship only to serve the higher cause of the Gospel. “To whom much is given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).
What about when we see injustice? If we have political power to resist, we are called to use it. If we are powerless, we are called in many circumstances to submit and even “suffer wrong” or allow ourselves to “be defrauded”(1 Corinthians 6:7) rather than do injustice ourselves. “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly” (1 Pe 2:19).
But, are Christians only called as individuals? Christians can certainly band together for common ends, but even there, they are to seek the good of others, and not only themselves.
What, then, of active and violent resistance? Is this permitted? Although permitted in some circumstances, violent resistance is not always the most effective. One path increasingly taken has been that of “passive resistance”, as promoted by Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. But as Francis Schaeffer wrote, “Protest is a form of force. This is very much so with the so-called ‘nonviolent resistance.’ This was, and is, not a negation of force, but a choice of the kind of force to be used.”
Resistance, though, is a dangerous path, for we see imperfectly, and it is impossible to separate our own sense of vigilante justice, personal prejudice, revenge, or favoritism, from an impartial zeal for God’s Glory. All other paths should be sought first.
D. A. Carson writes, “Moral indignation, even moral outrage, may on occasion be proof of love – love for the victim, love for the Church of God, love for the truth, love for God and his glory. Not to be outraged may in such cases be evidence, not of gentleness and love, but of a failure of love.” However, he continues, “The line between moral outrage for the sake of God and his people, and immoral outrage… Is painfully thin.” 
Besides, as even secular nations are aware, “Justice is blind”, and the halls of justice do their best in an imperfect world, judging only on the basis of the best evidence available. Lady Justice is depicted holding a scale in one hand and the law in the other, but she is blindfolded. God, however, sees all, and will someday exact complete and perfect Justice (Romans 2:5-11).
Simon Peter was certainly motivated by zeal for Christ when he cut off Malchus’ ear in Gethsemane (John 18:10). But he misunderstood the situation. These are not decisions to be taken lightly or rashly. And one must be ready not only for the consequence that: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Mt 26:52), but for a strict judgment if we have done violence unjustly.
Carson writes further, “That is the trouble with revenge,: it does not feel like a sin. It feels like justice. Many of us have become inured to the distinction because we watched so many movies or read so many books in which revenge, especially revenge that is adamantly pursued when the proper authorities either cannot or will not pursue justice, is itself just.”
There do come those rare times, however, when evil is so clear and abundant that Christians have felt it their duty to offer active and even violent resistance to injustice. Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave his life for complicity in an attempt on the life of Hitler. Even when unsuccessful, such actions have inspired many to stand for justice, no matter the personal cost.
But we must not idealize civil disobedience or revolution – even the most glorious of revolutions. They must be a last resort for the Christian. Chuck Colson concludes, “As history reveals, revolution most often results, after the bodies are buried, in one form of tyranny replacing another…. So for the Christian, revolution is never to be lightly regarded. It is the most extreme form of disobedience. It could only be contemplated on the same justification as a just war; that is, that there must be a better alternative as a result of the revolution. Its advantages must outweigh the suffering, and the evil employed in the revolution must prevent a far greater evil than the status quo.” 
The Dilemma: When does War End?
Having considered, then, the contexts of war and of peace, we are left with those days of great confusion when it is unclear whether we are at war or not, and therefore whether we operate by wartime Christian ethics or peacetime Christian ethics. Since these differ, it is important to know our context. But there is a question that begs definition: When does a war end?
We say that wars end, but in all too many places in the world, conflicts continue from generation to generation. The issues of previous wars are so numerous and the populations are so mixed that there is a grid of constant conflict and hatred that permeates much of the globe: Arab/Jew, Black/White, colonialist/slave, Protestant/Catholic, Communist/Capitalist, to name a few. Past atrocities, holocausts, massacres, and genocides are not forgotten but commemorated, and the hurt and hatred are perpetuated -- able to rise again in new conflicts.
It is better to say that particular wars come to an end, leaving behind unresolved issues, unrequited losses and injustices. It is foolish to think we can resolve all these issues and right all past wrongs, but they need to be dealt with adequately, allowing peaceful life to continue for a time.
If fighting stops and armies are demobilized and disbanded, then a war has come to an end. It has either resulted in a clear victor, or both sides have decided not to seek resolution through further violence. People grow weary of war, or the resources are exhausted, or the political support from people or nations changes, and wars eventually end. In any case, a new geopolitical reality exists, and life can return to a ‘new normal’. We can return to peacetime ethics, even though many issues remain unresolved.
Although a local war can end, there are situations such as the Nazi invasions of Poland, the Netherlands, or France in WWII, where although an army was defeated and the Nazis established local puppet governments, the conflict was continuing in a larger theatre. Thus, partisans could contemplate subversive activities to support the larger war and to resist the invaders, making the invaders’ presence untenable. Those who collaborated had given up on their country, even before there was a final defeat. It is this which is viewed as treacherous and disloyal.
Subjugation and Guerilla Warfare
Once a war is completely disengaged, to continue indefinitely to seek guerilla warfare can more adequately be defined as terrorism or anarchy, and it is this ongoing conflict that the Apostles Peter and Paul warn against, encouraging submission. There will always be unresolved issues, and there will always be extremists and vigilantes -- those elements in society that seek their own way in disregard of any authority, the good of others, or the will of the majority.
As noted in Erik van Alten’s article in a previous issue of Reformed View (1:1), the historical doctrine of Just War requires a legal authority to declare it: “In answer to the question to whom the authority belongs to wage a just war, Gratian states – thereby following Augustine – that ‘just wars’ may only be waged by the explicit command of God or by God’s delegates, the public authorities..” 
Regarding Augustine’s view, van Alten wrote, “Who has the legitimate authority to take life? …God shares the authority to those in the position of government…. Thus, when one is properly authorized to kill, one is not ‘taking up the sword’, but one is, as it were, given the sword, either by explicit command or by the governing authorities.”
There will always be some whose feet are “quick to run” to violence and evil. Will we align with these? We must remember that God hates such violence (Prov 6:16-19). We must avoid such hotheadedness. Even if we lose a war, there will always be some ongoing guerilla movements to resist the invaders and resist peace.
Should we participate with others in guerilla or partisan activity? There are many factors to consider in this. Any violent action must be weighed just as seriously as outright war. We must weigh the high cost of war against the cost of not going to war. Is this really a serious enough issue? Does it clearly involve Justice, when seen from God’s perspective? Is it really worth the cost of war and destruction? Is the action likely enough to succeed to merit the inevitable damage and loss? Will harm to innocents and noncombatants be avoided? To whom has God given authority to make this decision?
In considering civil disobedience, we must also count the cost, the same as in counting the cost of going to war. Regarding this, Jesus said, “What king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace” (Lk 14:31–32). There comes a time to sue for peace and to put up with an imperfect world. Shall we submit? There does come a time to submit.
There also can come a time to run away in order to fight another day. But, if we aren’t deserting our post or fleeing from duty, that is a tactical question, rather than a moral one.
Room must be left for civil disobedience, however. Chuck Colson encourages proper moral and political resistance by Christians and the church, quoting Francis Schaeffer: “If there is no place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the living God.”
Are we truly called to pray for the leaders of such a subjugated country? I have always appreciated the line in the movie “The Fiddler on the Roof”, where the Jews of the village of Anatevka come to the Rabbi with a question: “Is there a prayer for the Czar?” They are shocked that his answer is Yes! They are then relieved by his answer: “May the Lord bless and keep the Czar… FAR AWAY FROM US!”
Yes, we pray, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree with them. We can pray for their conversion; we can pray for their decisions to bring ultimate good; we can pray for their unjust decisions to be overruled or not implemented. But this is a matter of our own hearts. D A Carson writes, “We find it difficult to hate those for whom we pray; we find it difficult not to pray for those whom we love. [Jesus is the example of this when he prays on the cross for his enemies.] If Jesus is our example as well as our Lord, what arrogance, bitterness, pain, or sloth could ever justify our failure to pray for our enemies?”
Subjection and Disloyalty
Is it disloyalty to our nation for us to submit? Perhaps. But here is a question of our ultimate identity. Are we mere humans, erecting an idol of national identity? Or are we sons of our heavenly Father?
The early apologists of Christianity wrote very specifically to the Roman public that, far from being insurrectionists, Christians made the BEST of citizens! Even in their refusal to honor Caesar as a god, Christians were being loyal to Caesar as king! We must never be disloyal to our Heavenly Citizenship. If called to act against our conscience, however, we can never submit, for men cannot rule over our conscience. “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word” (Westminster Confession of Faith, xx. 2). When men violate our conscience, we are not only allowed to resist, but it is our duty to resist, for “to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also” (Ibid.).
Rebellion in an Imperfect World
Peter said we should seek a peaceable life, and the book of Romans says we’re to live at peace with all men, as much as possible. Yes, once the battle is over, we must seek a peaceful life where we can follow the gospel. But this Present Age is broken and incomplete, and we will never have complete peace or avoid war until Jesus returns. He himself prophesied, “There will be wars and rumors of wars.” (Matt 24:6)
War is thus inevitable, but, as the Southern General Robert E. Lee said at the end of the American Civil War, there comes a time to roll up the flags and to seek peace. He personally became a great example of that, retiring from the military and politics, using his position as an influence for peace.
Jesus said, “Love your enemy.” Yet, what does that mean in its fullest context? Jesus knew about war and invasion. He lived under the heel of Rome, at a time when the Jews were under occupation by Roman armies. Jesus was crucified at the hands of those very Romans. Even among his disciples there was a terrorist, Judas the Zealot.
Yet, Jesus was telling them that although there was a time for swords and battle, the role of the Christian church was not on the same level as human government. Nations can and must at times go to war to protect their citizens. Christians (simultaneously being members of society and members of the church) must balance the teaching of Romans 13 with the teaching that there is also a time to throw off tyrants in order to protect the weak and to establish righteousness in society. Hard questions indeed!
The Presbyterian Rebellion
My own nation, at its founding in 1776, struggled whether such a thing as a “just war” could be waged against the tyranny of the king of England. Even today many have questioned whether that was the right course.
In Calvin in the Public Square, Dr. David Hall sees rebellion as a proper Reformed stance in some circumstances, even though Calvin enjoined that tyranny should only be resisted through the lower magistrates. Dr. Hall writes in another place that Rev. Witherspoon, one of the most famous of the American Founders and the founder of Princeton “believed that resistance was appropriate in some circumstances, particularly when tyranny or corruption was overt. As a member of the Continental Congress from 1776 to 1782, Witherspoon was a proud signatory of the Declaration of Independence.” It was in fact the Presbyterians who felt this conflict most keenly, and preached it so much from the pulpit that the English Parliament called the American Revolution the “Presbyterian Rebellion”.
Francis Schaeffer wrote, “The Declaration of Independence contains many elements of the Reformation thinking of Knox and Rutherford and should be carefully considered when discussing resistance. It speaks directly to the responsibility of citizens concerning oppressive civil government.”
The Declaration of Independence includes a long list of proofs, not only of King George’s tyrannical acts, but of the American colonists’ various attempts to seek redress in a legal and peaceful manner. They defended their rebellion in these terms: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Thus, they felt it was not only their right, but their duty before God to throw off this tyranny, for the sake of justice and for the well-being of their people. Schaeffer continued, “Simply put, the Declaration of Independence states that the people, if they find that their basic rights are being systematically attacked by the state, have a duty to try to change that government, and if they cannot do so, to abolish it”. On this basis, the United States declared their separation, “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.”
Even the most just of rebellions, however, does not establish full justice. As Christians, one of the things that we have in our perspective is that there is no full and complete justice in this world. It is only when Jesus returns that all of the wrongs will be put right. No place on earth has complete justice for any length of time.
Thus, we cannot expect that we will by means of war be able to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Certainly, we strive to establish some semblance of justice. Yet, we are always limited and we are always thwarted in that regard.
Zeal for History
Although not all wrongs can be put aright, we cannot completely ignore the past as long as it influences the present. Yet, MUST it continue to influence the present? Why?
We sometimes perpetuate issues from the past, saying that we have “a zeal for history”, to tell the story from our own side, which we feel is “more fair”. Yet, it is also true that “the victor writes the history books”. At some point, we move on.
Even non-Christians often come to the conclusion that there comes a time to die to the past. Somehow, life has to go on, even with all the injustices and imperfections. The suffering in Cambodia under Pol Pot was so vicious and widespread that Cambodians are now said to have “social amnesia” – realizing that many of their fellow citizens were perpetrators of the genocide, but choosing to ignore it in order to get on with life.
If we say we have “a zeal for history”, we must examine our own motives – is it truly an impartial zeal? Is it motivated by love for others? Is it truly righteous in its indignation? Or is it actually Pride and a continuing demand for our own justification? Are we losing perspective in a battle over the past?
Are we demanding justice now on our own terms, rather than living by faith and hope for the coming day when God will faithfully judge the whole of mankind? As Romans reminds us, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Ro 12:19). We have no right to take vengeance.
I am not saying there is no place for defense or reparations among nations. But we have no right to take our own personal vengeance. And there comes a time to “leave it to the wrath of God.” But what does that mean?
Winning By Dying
As Christians, we must always consider what Jesus taught, that we must die to self! Yes, death is grievous and painful. And it must flow over into our politics – there are times that whatever ‘rights’ we have must be given up – entrusting them into the hands of God. Romans 12:19 assures us that God will indeed deal with it: “Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord.”
Yet, how can we die to self and entrust a large matter unto God? The only way to have the strength to die to self is by faith! It is by faith in a just God who will one day sort it all out, judge every one of us, right every wrong, and bring a true and lasting peace! This sounds like insanity to an unbelieving world, but to us, it is central – we win by dying! We can do this because by faith we are able to see beyond this world to the Judgment Day, and we trust our Loving God and Powerful God and Just God to sort it all out.
In this broken world, we are sometimes called to give in. We are sometimes powerless to bring change or resist, and our situation calls us to submit.
Submission does not mean “giving up”; it is to give in by choice. We choose not to exert our own will, but, out of love and respect to God and by faith in Him, we willingly allow others to take precedence. Thus, when called to do so, we are not submitting to an enemy. We are submitting to the Providence of God that is giving preference to an enemy.
To understand submission, we need to understand the concept biblically. There is a wide range of those to whom we must submit:
- Submission to God (James 4:7)
- Submission to secular authorities (Rom 13)
- Submission to parents and superiors (Exodus 20:12)
- Submission in marriage, between husband and wife (Eph 5:22-24, 1 Peter 3:5f)
- Mutual submission (Eph 5:21)
- Submission to Spiritual Elders and Overseers (Hebrews 13:17)
- Submission to the brethren – to elders in a local church, to presbytery
- Submission to God’s Judgment at the hand of an enemy (Habakkuk 1:12, Jeremiah 29:4–7)
Habakkuk was called to submit, when God raised up the Babylonians, shocking the world (1:5). Habakkuk recognizes the justice of God’s judgment on the Jews: “O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment” (1:12). Yet, Habakkuk cannot fathom how God could allow such an unjust people to serve as his instruments. God’s answer was classic: “The just shall live by faith” (Hab 2:4). Submission, then, is to be an act of faith – a belief that God is still going to do something great, for His own glory, in spite of calamitous circumstances.
But, submission can be seen as traitorous collaboration.
Collaboration with the Enemy
Some have characterized many Crimeans as “collaborators” in the Russian takeover of 2014. There were certainly some who collaborated. Yet, judgment on collaborators must take into consideration a number of factors: What do we consider collaboration? Is it joining the enemy force in armed conflict, or collusion, or friendship, or political activism, intermarriage, etc.? How would we distinguish Ukrainians and Russians in such a context? Only by passport? Is there some racial difference? There has been lengthy confusion in Crimea about national and local identity. In fact, Crimea, while a part of Ukraine, had the status of “Autonomous Region”, but the very meaning of that was somewhat ambiguous.
On the other hand, we must consider their motives. WHY did such people “just submit”? They were certainly outnumbered by a powerful foe, and many of them were raised in the context of the USSR, having the passive mindset that “The tallest blade of grass gets the scythe first!” They were even caught in the middle during the Crimean War, and in the Turkish wars before that. So let us not be too quick to judge!
Yet, a question remains: After the invader declares victory, do we just pretend everything is rosy and completely give up our old identity and values?
Daniel And Collaboration
Daniel and his friends found themselves in the Babylonian Captivity, but did they collaborate? We must understand the special context in which they found themselves. They were instructed by God to fit in, but they were not just to “give in”. In fact, Daniel and his friends resisted peaceably, resisting the non-Kosher food of the King, risking their own lives to do so! Later, they also resisted bowing to the idol, and they were thrown in the furnace! Yet, God delivered them, and they were respected. But still, they did not give in. But theirs was not a battle of HATRED or even of NATIONALISM!
Nonetheless, theirs was a special case, when God promised he would restore national Israel – something very rare indeed among the nation-states of the world! But in this case, it was also connected to the History of Redemption. In fact, if the Jews simply “gave in” and mixed in with the other nations, not only would they have ceased as a nation, but you and I would not be saved! For it was through the Jewish line that the Savior of the World would come, according to God’s promise. Thus, it was indeed a very special case!
The Call to Patience and Submission
God made clear to Daniel and his colleagues their duty in this situation. The time for armed conflict was over, at least during their lifetime. But God had not abandoned them. God sent them a letter by the hand of Jeremiah that they should not only submit to the invading power, but that they should settle in and be productive citizens within the new reality:
Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all the captivity, whom I have caused to be carried away captive from Jerusalem unto Babylon: Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them. Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply ye there, and be not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto Jehovah for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. (Jeremiah 29:4–7).
The time would come for restoration of the nation, but their calling during their lifetime was to seek peace in Babylon. They were not only to seek their own peace, but they were to seek the GOOD (Shalom) of the whole city in which they were forced to dwell. They were not collaborators with the enemy of God, for God’s will was made clear that the time of war was over. God would work His will by other means. As he later told Zerubbabel, God would work “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
What was the result of this period of redemptive history, and what was the result of Daniel’s submission in Babylon? The people recovered from the disastrous destruction of their land and temple and nation, and they were cleansed, once and for all, of their idolatry! In addition, they eventually gained the approval of the pagan kings (especially notable in the cases of Daniel and Esther). Israel was not only eventually freed and enabled to return home to Palestine, but they were given King Cyrus’ own resources with which to rebuild. The Temple was rebuilt, the priesthood and kingship restored, and the Davidic line was continued until the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. In addition, the synagogues that they developed in Babylon were spread throughout the world, preparing a Jewish diaspora for the expansion of the Christian Church.
Even as subjugated captives – people without any land or temple, the people of God were able to glorify God and advance the Kingdom of God.
A Little Girl Shall Lead Them
A situation similar to Daniel’s was that of the Jewish slave girl in General Naaman’s household. We don’t know much about her -- not even her name. She is merely called “the girl from the land of Israel” (2 Ki 5:4). As a small girl, she was captured by a military raid of the Syrians, being carried off to Damascus and made to serve as a slave in the household of the general of this Syrian army. In spite of this, she evidently served well and showed respect and deference to her master, not only calling him “my lord”, but desiring his Shalom, his Peace, his well-being: “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (2 Ki 5:3). It was on her counsel that the general’s wife went to Naaman, who then went to the very King of Syria and received permission to seek healing at Elisha’s hand. The girl is not reprimanded in Scripture for having collaborated, showing such service to these enemies of Israel. She is instead honored by the inclusion of her story in Scripture, showing her knowledge of the true God and true prophet, as well as showing her faith in God’s power to work this healing. Why would this story be told about an enemy of God’s people? Scripture is showing that true faith will win in spite of the oppression of our enemies, and that God’s power is far above all our enemies, and that God shows mercy on all of faith – even the faith of such Gentiles and enemies of God’s people as General Naaman.
Yes, there are many stories that show the destruction of God’s enemies and the rescue of his people. Yet, God was sometimes honored to use her enemies to bring punishment on Israel for her sin. This is just such a case, for the text states that Naaman “was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria” (2 Kings 5:1).
God’s purposes, even in the Old Testament, were much higher than the national welfare (even of Israel). Unto God, all nations are insignificant: “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.” (Isaiah 40:15).
God’s Judgment On Nations
This raises a question – does God care about nations? World events are neither neutral nor random. They are part of the sovereign plan of God. Nations rise and nations fall. God even obliterates some nations from the face of the earth. This could happen to America, Ukraine, or Russia. But God holds ALL nations responsible for their actions, and he judges the nations, as well as judging all individuals.
Around 700 BC, when Sennacherib King of Assyria surrounded Jerusalem and publicly mocked God, Hezekiah prayed thus: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; …the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.” (2 Ki 19:15–19).
God’s answer to Sennacherib’s pride came through the prophet Isaiah, that all Sennacherib’s actions should be no source of pride, for God had prepared them beforehand: “Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass, that you should turn fortified cities into heaps of ruins…. I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will turn you back on the way by which you came.” (2 Ki 19:25,28).
All world affairs are in the hand of God. Yet, this very fact was hard for the Jews to accept, when God revealed his will to give victory to Babylon in 586 BC. When Habakkuk cried to God for deliverance, God’s answer was shocking: “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation” (Hab 1:5–6).
God pronounced his judgment on all the surrounding nations through Isaiah, giving oracles concerning Babylon (Isaiah 13), Moab (ch 15), Damascus (ch 17), Egypt (ch 19), etc. In the minor prophets, God revealed his righteous judgment on Edom (Obadiah), Nineveh (Nahum), etc., thus showing that all nations are accountable before Him.
As Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”
God is not so concerned about your nation or mine. No nation is sacrosanct. Even his chosen people of Israel were held accountable and horribly judged, as foretold by Moses:
All the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them… Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book, and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.’ (Deut 29:24–28).
Yet, God is merciful, holding out this promise: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14).
Such was the mercy shown even unto pagan Nineveh when they repented at the preaching of Jonah: “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10).
There is hope, then, not only for individuals of every nation, but for every nation, if we will but repent and turn from our wicked ways, appealing unto God. Let us do as the Ninevites did: “Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” (Jonah 3:8–9).
Case Studies of Resistance
Let us look for insights in some cases in which believers resisted or war ended and they had to collaborate or deal with the past in order to move forward as a nation.
American Reconstruction after their Civil War
The United States, following their Civil War, is an interesting case of recovery from war and nation-building. It is particularly interesting, since the United States is not made up of a single race or people; the USA is a conglomerate of people who originally believed in some common ideas. We developed our own principles and ways of life. Yes, we had largely a common root in the English culture and empire. Yet, each of the 13 original colonies had its own cultural and political and theological makeup – the Dutch Reformed in New York, the Episcopalians in Virginia, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, the Puritans in Massachusetts, etc. But they all held some common beliefs and ideas, molding them into a nation. There were also many slaves who were eventually emancipated and integrated into the whole.
When the Civil War came, it was not largely divisive along these racial or religious lines, but more along regional and economic lines – of industrialized North vs. agricultural South. The issue was not only slavery, but regionalism, states’ rights, and other threats to their common way of life – many of the very things that held the United States together.
After the War, the South was not only suffering from the wanton destruction of General Sherman’s “March to the Sea”, in which he deliberately burned private homes, destroyed and pillaged whole cities, but the South suffered the ongoing humiliation of the so-called “Reconstruction”, which was much like the USSR’s Perestroika. The Reconstruction period in the South, however, was worse. After the War, Abraham Lincoln’s party imposed harsh and humiliating measures on the South, hindering their recovery.
The major crop and industry in the South had been “King cotton”, depending largely on slave labor for its production. When the work force was taken away, the complete economy of the South collapsed. In the midst of this tragedy, they suffered not only the humiliation of defeat, and the death of the original “American dream” of States’ Rights, but the loss of the rights that had been guaranteed to them in the American constitution.
Anyone who held any pre-war political office, or anyone who had fought in the War, was deemed ineligible to vote or hold office. The Republicans sent “Carpetbaggers” to the South, working with the local “Scallywags” to manipulate the political system and disenfranchise the White Southern voters. The Southerners completely lost sway in their own land.
This helpless feeling of powerlessness, mixed with racism, led some to form the vigilante KKK (Ku Klux Klan) organization which terrorized Blacks and northern sympathizers. In 1870, however, a federal grand jury condemned the Klan and its activities ceased.
This conflict over regionalism was only exacerbated by such actions of both North and South. Yet, did this lead to an irreconcilable feud? Eventually, in general, tempers were calmed. Some vestiges of this regionalism remain, but America again became unified, with other values pulling us back together.
So – what can we learn regarding submission after defeat? A war doesn’t end the struggle for values. A war can decide an argument – although sometimes with no clear ‘victor’ and no end in sight. If not dealt with, issues can either fade into oblivion or continue to fester and rise again later, sparking renewed conflict. Some of these issues are being resurrected today in America, leading to increased disunity, riots, and political division.
If after war the winning side insists on humiliating the losers, a war can repeat itself. Note, for example, what happened to Germany after the First World War! The Germans regrouped, industrialized and claimed Lebensraum, invading neighboring countries and exerting their superiority, leading to WWII.
Why, then, did this process not repeat itself after WWII? In part, because the Americans provided the Marshall Plan, imposing certain limitations on Germany, but also investing in the reconstruction of its economy and infrastructures. They also differentiated between Nazis and Germans – thus clarifying that the war had not been a cultural or racial one, but an ideological one of Democracy vs. Fascism. This allowed for rapid post-war healing and rebuilding.
The French Résistance
The French Résistance were partisans who stayed loyal to Free France when the Germans defeated the French army and occupied the country. For France, the war seemed to be over, and many gave in to the pro-Nazi Vichy France, but the Résistance continued an underground fight, performing espionage and sabotage, helping prisoners escape, etc. Many thousands of them suffered execution and imprisonment, but they kept the dream alive for all Frenchmen.
There was a French purge after the war against the Vichy collaborators. Some 10,000 people were executed, mostly without trial. Around 20,000 women had their heads shaved for having relations with the Germans.
French society continued for decades to be tortured by its past, both denying and glorifying the actions of the various parties in that time of absolute confusion. Some had felt the war was effectively over and had adapted to the Realpolitik of the pro-Nazi government. Others continued the underground war, resisting the newly-established Vichy government. Was the war over? Should they have submitted to the government?
We now have the benefit of hindsight, but when are we called to give up the fight? It is not always clear or easy. Each man must follow his own conscience, and Christians must live Coram Deo, for God sees not only our actions, but our hearts. We must “commit our souls to a faithful creator” (1 Pe 4:19), who can even bring good out of evil circumstances.
Revolts in Israel
Centuries before the NT and the Roman oppression, Palestine suffered oppression by the Persians, the Greeks, and the Ptolemy and Seleucid Empires. Intertestamental Israel thus saw a rising nationalism.
According to the Bible, secular history, and the Apocrypha, the worst of those times was experienced under Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), who greatly humiliated the Jews:
He devastated Jerusalem in 168 BC, defiled the Temple, offered a pig on its altar, erected an altar to Jupiter, prohibited Temple worship, forbade circumcision on pain of death, sold thousands of Jewish families into slavery, destroyed all copies of Scripture that could be found, and slaughtered everyone discovered in possession of such copies, and resorted to every conceivable torture to force Jews to renounce their religion. This led to the Maccabaean revolt.
This revolt – both political and religious – lasted for 3 years, until the Maccabees gained Jewish freedom and rededicated the Temple in 165 BC – instituting a new celebration we call Hanukkah!
This conflict between the Hellenistic (Greek-loving) Jews and the traditional (Hasidic) Jews under the Maccabees continued, however, since it was a cultural conflict. Even two centuries later in the time of the NT we find the Sadducees as the Hellenists and the Pharisees as the traditionalists.
Thus, the Jews had a tradition of suffering persecution through the ages – from Egyptians before Moses, from Philistines and Midianites, in the Babylonian Captivity, from Persians and Greeks, Seleucids and Ptolemies, and finally from the Romans, lasting until the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD – their final stage as a geopolitical nation. Scripture show us different reactions in these various contexts, from Zealots to collaborators to martyrs.
Zeal and Zealots
The Romans sought to humiliate their enemies in many ways -- even forcing them to act as personal slaves, making them beasts of burden at the drop of a hat. They also forced their way politically, appointing their rulers, and taxing them heavily, using the equivalent of Carpetbaggers and Scalawags to levy the taxes (“Tax collectors and sinners”, such as the Apostle Matthew and Zacchaeus).
The Roman soldiers had the right to beat, flog, humiliate, and imprison the Jews – and even in the worst cases to crucify them – a public and cruel execution of naked exposure and excruciating pain.
A right-wing reactionary group arose, taking the name of Zealots. Carson writes, “The mid-40s of the 1st century saw the renewal of militancy among the zealots and other nationalists…. About A.D. 52 the Zealot militancy intensified.” 
One of the 12 Disciples of Jesus was evidently from this group: “Simon the Zealot” (Mark 10:4). One could possibly consider this an epithet to distinguish him from Simon Peter, but it is more likely that he had truly been involved in some form of Jewish insurrection against the Romans.
The two thieves crucified on either side of Jesus were also possibly Zealots, rather than common thieves. Their ‘crimes’ may have been politically motivated insurrection against the Romans.
Although the name comes from “zeal” and from OT references of zeal for the Lord, the term had taken on a more specific meaning by the time of Christ and the writing of the Gospel. Under Roman rule, those with zeal for the Torah had resisted the Romans by various forms of sabotage, guerilla warfare, and partisan activity, much as we find in the books of the Maccabees. The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible says:
The Zealot regarded himself as an agent of divine judgment and redemption, resolutely and fearlessly contending against idolatry, apostasy, and collaboration. ...The religious motivation was channeled by nationalist feeling into a “holy war.” Whereas the Maccabees had been forced to take arms in self-defense, the Zealots became increasingly militaristic. Josephus (Antiq. 18.1.1–6; Wars 4.3.9) with some prejudice calls them brigands and robbers. Their Latin name was sicarii, assassins, but supporters would call them patriotic guerrillas. … Their last refuge and stronghold, at Masada, was overcome in A.D. 73.
It is thus likely that the Gospel writers used the term λῃστής (robber) to mean an insurrectionist or rebel. (See also Louw and Nida, 39.37 on στασιαστής).
The zeal of Jesus Christ, however, was never nationalistic. In fact, his insistence was that “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (Jn 18:36). Jesus even taught the Jews to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mt 22:21).
Nonetheless, his enemies accused Jesus of insurrection, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king” (Lk 23:2), and, “Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” (Jn 19:12). Pilate then handed him over to them, placing a sign above him: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Mt 27:37). It was thus fitting that Jesus be placed “between two thieves”, because the “thieves” were likely rebels and insurrectionists.
It was also fitting that Pilate offer to release Barabbas to the crowd, since Barabbas was a λῃστής (insurrectionist or rebel, John 18:40). It is also recorded that Barabbas was “among the rebels [μετὰ τῶν στασιαστῶν] in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection” (Mk 15:7).
Zealots of a Heavenly Kingdom
What difference do we see between OT heroes, the intertestamental Maccabees, the NT Zealots, and the Jewish Rebels of the “Jewish Revolt” (68-72 AD)?
Even the NT praises the military heroes of the OT. The Faith Chapter praises “Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, …escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Heb 11:32–34).
But, something changed in the NT. The NT puts more focus on the faith of these heroes than on their actual exploits! It even praises the faith of those who “were tortured, refusing to accept release” (Heb 11:35), who “suffered mocking and flogging” (v. 36), and who “were stoned, …were sawn in two, …were killed with the sword” (v. 37). In other words, it praises those who LOST the earthly battle, if they held onto God by faith.
It was not as evident in the OT that God’s goal was a people of faith. God could easily have destroyed their enemies as he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet, he chose to do so by their hand and as they trusted in Yahweh.
Another difference in the NT is that the Kingdom of God HAS COME! The disciples are no longer fighting for a mere earthly kingdom, earthly territory, or an earthly nation. As Jesus said, “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (Jn 18:36).
Jesus’ Kingdom is an eternal and heavenly kingdom from all nations. As the writer of Hebrews wrote, “For you have not come to what may be touched… But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb 12:18,22). So the writer tells the Hebrews not to strive in open war or guerilla warfare, but to “Strive for peace with everyone” (Heb 12:14).
Earthly kingdoms rise and fall, but God’s Kingdom lasts forever. “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Heb 12:28).
As far as regards the Christian Church, then, we are not as a church to take up the sword. We are not to be fighting for an earthly Christian kingdom. Whether we should fight or not, and how we should resist, are matters to be considered on a different plane.
Partisans, Patriots, and Terrorists
It has been said that “One man’s hero is another man’s villain,” and while there is some truth there, it does not make all villains into heroes.
The very terms we use for combatants often reflect not only particular viewpoints but specific historical struggles: Partisans, Patriots, Terrorists, Rebels, Sabotage, and Guerrilla Warfare are terms with historical roots. The origin of the word “Terrorist” can be traced to the French Reign of Terror. “Partisan” can be traced to the French word meaning to take a part, a faction, related to a weapon called a partisan, similar to the halberd. The word “patriot” comes from the Greek patriotes, one who stands unto death for his homeland, his Patria (usually his local city-state). “Guerilla” warfare traces back to the Spanish resistance to Napoleon in 1810, whose Spanish word for war, Guerra, was applied to those who resisted by sabotage and surprise raids. “Sabotage” itself traces to the passive-aggressive French workers who took a similar attitude to the later Soviet workers: “We pretend to work, because the boss pretends to pay.” Their work was as clumsy as the sabot (wooden shoes) they wore.
We need Divine revelation to clarify who is ultimately a hero. Hebrews 11 gives us the Hall of Heroes of the Faith, including OT judges acting as heroes against the ruling Philistines: Deborah and Barak, Gideon, and Samson, as well as many other unnamed heroes. But, apart from their faith, we cannot directly apply these biblical examples to ourselves, since they were at a different point in Redemptive History, struggling ultimately to defend the messianic line that would bring Salvation to the whole of Mankind.
Yet, even for these, we must note that none of them established ultimate justice. Hebrews summarizes the litany of praise to heroes of the faith with this: “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (Heb 11:39). Human warfare does not establish the Kingdom of God: “for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:20).
Peace and Peacemakers
What then does build God’s Kingdom? Peacemakers!
However, although many people claim to want peace, what are they really calling for? Jeremiah condemned those who called out falsely and “superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:11). Peace became the demand and cry of the 1960’s generation, depicted by the ‘Peace Symbol’. Rock songs blared out: “All we are saying is, Give Peace a Chance!” (John Lennon, 1969); or “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” (Edwin Starr, 1970). Many of these were direct protest songs against the Vietnam War.
But, were they peacemakers? Were they addressing the underlying issues? Were they willing to give up something in order for others to know peace? Most were simply denying any responsibility for others, taking no responsibility for their neighbor or for their own country (much less for the needy and oppressed of the world) in an escapism that was characterized by the draft dodgers and the idealistic and irresponsible “free love” of the hippies.
What kind of peace are we seeking?
The Long Peace
Ironically, some recent research purports that since 1945 we have been in what can be called ‘The Long Peace’. According to Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, the years since WWII have been among the most peaceful in history! Others writing in the same vein are Joshua L. Goldstein, Winning the War on War: the Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide (2011), John E. Mueller , Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War (1989), Francis Fukuyama, and Peter Singer, The Most Good You Can Do.
According to John Gray, these writers have established a ‘new orthodoxy’ regarding warfare and the progress of modern man. The Humanistic conclusion Pinker purports to draw from his analysis is that Mankind is becoming more peaceable through cultural advancement and humanistic education.
However, this idealism is not far from the cultural imperialism that sought to civilize Africa in the 19th century, and the notion of the “White Man’s Burden” to do so. As Gray says, “There is something repellently absurd in the notion that war is a vice of ‘backward’ peoples.”
Gray writes, “It is now not uncommon to find it stated, as though it were a matter of fact, that human beings are becoming less violent and more altruistic.” Gray traces these Humanistic concepts back to Auguste Comte, the early-19th-century French Enlightenment thinker, who coined the term “altruism” which these thinkers are using today.
All this flies in the face of the Reformed Christian view of man’s innate sinfulness.
But this “new orthodoxy” and historical reevaluation are being contested. John Gray writes that Steven Pinker has drawn the wrong conclusions about violence and war. The very statistics being used to prove this ‘Long Peace’ are being questioned. Gray gives reference to Nassim Nicholas Taleb who criticizes Pinker’s statistical methods in several technical essays on the Long Peace that are referenced in Gray’s article.
Gray concedes that , in spite of the horrible atrocities in the 20th century, the Cold War actually minimized wider conflicts. However, he notes, the more localized wars are conceivably more destructive, since the parties involved aren’t as clear or as able to sue for peace:
Rather than a contest between well-organised states that can at some point negotiate peace, it is now more often a many-sided conflict in fractured or collapsed states that no one has the power to end. The protagonists are armed irregulars, some of them killing and being killed for the sake of an idea or faith, others from fear or a desire for revenge and yet others from the world’s swelling armies of mercenaries, who fight for profit. For all of them, attacks on civilian populations have become normal.
These complexities of modern warfare, hybrid warfare, and proxy wars are evident in all the conflicts of today’s world: Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria, etc. Not only is making war more complex, but avoiding or ending war is just as complex.
The “Long Peace” is only relative, leaving us with a quite dangerous world. Who is my enemy? Why are we fighting? How can this ever stop?
What is a Peacemaker?
We are in need of a Peacemaker. Some people believe that peacemaking is simply naïve. Others think the only kind of peacemaker that brings peace is a soldier who forces peace on his own terms upon another army. Because of this kind of thinking, some weapons have been given the name “Peacemaker”, such as the Colt .45 revolver, the Convair B-36 bomber aircraft, and the MX Missile.
Although Jesus Christ foretold a continuation of war that lay ahead for the 1st century Jews (Matt 24:6), the Bible tells us Jesus is the Peacemaker, and there will come a time when wars will end (Isaiah 2:4).
Men try on their own resources to establish peace -- “a lasting peace” or “peace in our time”. Some even waged WWI on the pretext that it was “a war to end all wars”.
But the problem is that war is ongoing, perpetual, unending, because the problem is in the corrupt heart of all mankind. As the Apostle James wrote, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:1–3).
Chuck Colson, former aide to President Nixon, wrote of the bleak situation in Ireland, and its hopes for peace: “Widespread peace in Northern Ireland is as remote as ever…. Yet this seemingly endless cycle is weakened a little every time someone seeks peace rather than war, forgiveness rather than retribution, love rather than hate. What is the answer to the troubles of Northern Ireland? Nothing in its chaotic history suggests there are political answers.” After listing half a dozen people there changed by the Gospel, Colson quotes former activist Chips McCurry: “The only thing that will make any lasting peace, the only things that will bridge the gulf between the Catholics and the Protestants here is for people to give up violence and learn forgiveness. The only way that can possibly happen is through Jesus Christ.”
True and lasting peace requires a true Peacemaker. In his last days, Jesus noted that Israel’s rejection of a peacemaker would be their utter destruction: “When he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation”” (Lk 19:41–44).
It is Jesus who is the Peacemaker, the Prince of Peace. But he makes peace in three ways. First, he brings peace with God and shares that with his people (Rom 5:1). Second, he sends the Holy Spirit who makes us, the former enemies of God, into peacemakers (Matt 5:9, James 3:17f). Third, Jesus will make ultimate peace when he comes on the Great Day as judge of the earth, subjugating all his and our enemies, so that there will never again be any war. This is true peace, true shalom.
But what of Justice?
Peacemaking, however, does not mean that there is no justice. But it is not our place to be the Judge and to bring final retribution! God says to leave place for the vengeance of God! God will sort it all out one day, in the great Day of Judgment. We are thus to “commit our souls to a faithful creator” ( 1 Pe 4:19).
But there is a limited place for our seeking justice in this world – using the means given to us in the civil government. We are given courts to use. And nations are called to establish justice for their citizens. But this does not leave room for vigilante justice. Government is a blessing of God. When it is absent, we are left to lawlessness and mob rule. As Carson notes, “Just war theory insists that actions in the cause of justice be taken by the highest governmental levels, not by self-appointed liberators… In other words, most Western uses of “terrorist” and “terrorism” presuppose a certain kind of stealth warrior with either no connection or only loose connection between the alleged terrorists and any government.” 
Another resource is prayer. We are specifically told to beg God for justice. The Psalms are full of such cries, and they are full of assurances that God hears, God sees, and that he is Just. He WILL repay! But as we pray, we realize our own bitterness of soul and we find healing. As we pray, we often realize we have mixed in our own fleshly demands along with our cares for God’s honor and divine justice. As we pray, we become humbled to realize we have ourselves been shown mercy. And our souls are softened by the Presence of the God who shows “love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Ex 20:6).
But, can we expect full justice on the earth?
Let us not confuse earthly justice with ultimate justice, since that is unattainable. In a sinful world, a world full of sinners, where we all sin in thought, word, and deed, it is impossible to attain full justice – personally or corporately. Although some governments are better than others in this, there is no government that can externally establish an ultimately just world. Therefore, conflict is inevitable, and injustices are inevitable. By default, we live in an unjust world. As D. A. Carson writes, “All war, even just war, is never more than rough justice. Even the just war is prosecuted by sinners, and so injustices will occur.”  Therefore, seeking to establish ultimate justice on the earth is a fool’s errand -- tilting at windmills, like Don Quixote.
Sinful humans are incapable of understanding ultimate justice, and tend to define justice on their own terms. Lamech in Genesis 4:23f boasts that he was carrying out justice by harming another man seventy-seven times worse than the harm he had received: “I have slain a man for wounding me, and a young man for bruising me: If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.” As unjust as Lamech’s actions are, it also means that someone actually harmed Lamech first.
It is because of such vengeful tendencies that the Law was given: Eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The lex talionis was not given to demand such equality, but it was to put a limit to retribution. Cities of Refuge were established in ancient Israel (Numbers 35:9ff), providing protection from hot-headed avengers.
Yet, nowhere do we see full and final justice done. It is always pointing beyond our earthly existence to a Day that is to come, when “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15).
Do you want justice? Read Job 38-41. There, we find that humans are incapable of understanding absolute justice. God’s final answer to Job’s railings is basically this: “Who are you to question my justice and hold Me accountable?” Job repented: “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (42:3). Who are we, indeed? We are sinful and unjust, limited and broken in our understanding. In actual fact, the tiniest of our sins merits an Eternity of sufferings in Hell, when measured against the absolute righteousness and purity and holiness of God. Only God sees absolute justice and will establish it in the Day of Judgment.
Striving for Justice
Since there is no full justice on this side of eternity, to strive for justice by means of war can at best only partially right injustice. Besides, wars always produce collateral damage, and they produce widows and orphans.
How then can we strive for justice on the earth? There are a number of ways we are called to do so, but we first must see earthly justice within the broader context of God’s ultimate justice and our ultimate injustice. None of us can take the moral high ground.
First, we strive for justice by Faith; we cannot strive simply by Sight. For it is by God’s design that we cannot see full justice on earth. Augustine wrote, “Were all sin now visited with open punishment, it might be thought that nothing was reserved for the final Judgment; and, on the other hand, were no sin now openly punished, it might be supposed there was no divine providence.”
In other words, it is by design that we do not now experience complete and final Justice on this side of Eternity. As with all else, we are in the phase of “already and not yet”: We already see that justice exists, and that it is needed, and that justice is even partially served sometimes in this world. And yet, we also experience the deep longing for the fullness of justice, and our hearts cry out even as the martyrs do: “How long before you will judge and avenge our blood?” (Rev 6:10).
The human struggle for righteousness and justice is always incomplete, partial. But the Christian’s struggle is for the Glory of God and for the visible manifestation of the invisible Kingdom of God. So it is by Faith that we must endure and hope and wait, knowing that “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
The Heart Cry for Justice
When we consider all this with the Left side of our brains – the more rational side – this can seem all well and good, and we can gradually satisfy ourselves with rational arguments. Yet, the Right side of our brains drives our emotions to react, calling for justice NOW. All too often, this emotional drive overrides our more rational faculties, impelling us to irrational actions.
These emotions are VALID within themselves, and we should not downplay them! We have here two equally valid and directly opposite drives within us! On the one hand, we must think rationally and be willing to wait patiently – as Jonah sitting under his vine, awaiting the destruction of Nineveh. On the other hand, our hearts are crying for justice, urging us to pick up the jawbone of an ass and attack an overwhelming enemy.
Faith by the Waters of Babylon
Since we have no easy answers, and our hearts are thus frequently divided, we can often only sit with Job and weep, lament the situation, and suffer together: “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.” (Ps 137:1). It takes godly wisdom to know what action is called for.
But for the Christian believer, there is MORE! We have FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE! It is faith that convinces our hearts emotionally that God is really there, that God’s plan will somehow turn out not only OK, but turn out the BEST – and not only the best in some abstract sense, but truly the best for US, as well. It will be the Absolute Best, as only a Perfect and Loving and All-knowing Father could know it. We become convinced of that by prayer, which gives us hope. The only thing that makes this both emotionally and logically satisfying is FAITH. It is a faith informed by past experience, and by a daily walk with God, being convinced of His care, love, mercy, goodness, and truth.
Knowing by faith that God is “unchangeable in his being” gives us confidence in the midst of a chaotic world. Knowing that God is “infinite in wisdom” gives us comfort when we completely lack understanding. Knowing that God is “infinite in power” gives confidence and peace when we are helpless before powerful foes. Knowing by faith that God is eternally Just and Good gives us Peace in a world at war.
Colson closes his book Kingdoms in Conflict with this: “Where then is hope? It is in the fact that the Kingdom of God has come to earth…. It is a Kingdom that comes not in a temporary takeover of political structures, but in the lasting takeover of the human heart by the rule of a holy God.” God’s Kingdom rule is partially revealed in political struggles, “whenever the citizens of the Kingdom of God bring His light to bear on the institutions of the kingdoms of man. But his rule is even more powerfully evident in ordinary, individual lives, in the breaking of cycles of violence and evil, in the paradoxical power of forgiveness, in the actions of those little platoons who live by the transcendent values of the Kingdom of God in the midst of the kingdoms of this world, loving their God and loving their neighbor. Thus in the midst of the dark and habitual chaos of earth, a light penetrates the darkness.” 
Augustine of Hippo, “The City of God,” in St. Augustin’s City of God and Christian Doctrine. Ed. Philip Schaff; trans. Marcus Dods; vol. 2; A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887.
Alten, Erik van. “War: an act of justice and a life of discipleship. Exploring the ‘just war’ tradition.” Reformed View 1:1, (2015).
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997).
Carson, D. A. Love in Hard Places (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002).
Colson, Chuck. Kingdoms in Conflict (Zondervan, 1987)
Dabney, Robert L. Systematic Theology (electronic ed. based on the Banner of Truth 1985 ed.; Simpsonville SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1996).
Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988)
Gray, John. “Steven Pinker is wrong about violence and war” The Guardian, 13 March 2015, online: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/13/john-gray-steven-pinker-wrong-violence-war-declining
Hall, David W. Calvin in the Public Square: Liberal Democracies, Rights, and Civil Liberties. Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2009.
________. The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding. Lexington Books, 2003.
Herbst, John E., and Alina Polyakova. “Remembering the Day Russia Invaded Ukraine.” Atlantic Council, Feb 24, 2016.
Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.
Pinker, Steven. The Better Angels of Our Nature: a History of Violence and Humanity (2011)
Quarterman, Clayton E. “Christian Ministry in Time of War.” Reformed View 1:1, (2015).
_____________. “Review of Hall, Calvin in the Public Square.” Reformed View 1:1, (2015).
Schaeffer, Francis A. The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview (vol. 5: A Christian Manifesto, (1981); Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982)
Sowell, Thomas. Conquests and Cultures : An International History. New York: Basic Books, 1998.
___________. Migrations and Cultures: A World View. New York: Basic Books, 1996.
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. “The ‘Long Peace’ is a Statistical Illusion.” Online: http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/pinker.pdf
Triton, A N. Whose World? (Intervarsity Press, 1970)
 See article by Erik van Alten, “War: an act of justice and a life of discipleship. Exploring the ‘just war’ tradition,” Reformed View 1:1, (2015).
 John E. Herbst and Alina Polyakova, “Remembering the Day Russia Invaded Ukraine” (Atlantic Council, Feb 24, 2016).
 Robert L. Dabney, Systematic Theology (electronic ed. based on the Banner of Truth 1985 ed.; Simpsonville SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1996), p. 485.
 Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview (vol. 5: A Christian Manifesto; Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), p. 478.
 D. A. Carson, Love in Hard Places (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002), p. 85.
 D. A. Carson, Love in Hard Places (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002), p. 72f.
 Chuck Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict (Zondervan, 1987), pp. 330f.
 Erik van Alten, op. cit.
 Erik van Alten, op. cit.
 Chuck Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict (Zondervan, 1987), p.332, quoting Schaeffer’s Complete Works, Vol. 5, p.491
 United Artists, 1971.
 D. A. Carson, op. cit., p. 44.
 See author’s review in the journal Ðåôîðìàòñêèé âñãëÿä (1:1).
 David W. Hall. The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding (Lexington Books, 2003),p. 372.
 Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview (vol. 5; Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 489.
 See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Resistance#Legacy.
 http://www.bible-history.com/archaeology/greece/2-antiochus-iv-bust-bb.html Cited: December 17, 2015.
 D. A. Carson, Love in Hard Places (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002), p. 157.
 Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2179.
 Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: a History of Violence and Humanity (2011)
 John Gray, “Steven Pinker is wrong about violence and war” (The Guardian, 13 March 2015, online: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/13/john-gray-steven-pinker-wrong-violence-war-declining)
 John Gray, Ibid.
 E.g. Nassim Nicholas Taleb , “The ‘Long Peace’ is a Statistical Illusion” (online: http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/pinker.pdf
 John Gray, “Steven Pinker is wrong about violence and war” (The Guardian, 13 March 2015, online: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/13/john-gray-steven-pinker-wrong-violence-war-declining)
 Chuck Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict (Zondervan, 1987), 366f.
 D. A. Carson, Love in Hard Places (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002), p. 121.
 D. A. Carson, Love in Hard Places (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002), p. 114.
 Augustine (De Civitat. Dei, lib. 1 c. 8), cited in John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997).
 Westminster Shorter Catechism #4.
 Chuck Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict (Zondervan, 1987), 371.