'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.'

By Angela Wittman

Dear Friends,

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="148"]English: Saddam Hussein statue falling Svenska... Saddam Hussein statue falling  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)[/caption]

There has been much local and national debate about the war in Iraq. It seems we have seen and heard almost every opinion imaginable expressed. We have been bombarded with horrific scenes of bombing, shooting and burning while staying tuned to our television sets. Who can forget the scenes of a blinding sandstorm and the brave men in uniform? I even received a beautiful photo via e-mail of soldiers who had dug a shallow pool in the sand, lined with canvas and filled with water for the sacrament of baptism. May God bless our troops!

I have chosen two explicitly Christian responses to the war in Iraq to share with you and, which I pray will give you another view point from which to look at the War. The first is written by Pastor Doug Holmes of Sovereign Grace Church in Coulter, Iowa, who is also an ex-marine.

His commentary is titled This Present Disturbance:
As our nation goes to war against Iraq I find myself in an apparently isolated & difficult position. I am a former Marine who served in a heavy mortar battery in the Vietnam "conflict" in the late 60's. I am also a Christian pastor of a conservative reformed church, though I don't necessarily speak in their behalf. I am not a pacifist and believe that to defend your home and country against physical attack is just, and at times, necessary. I am not a socialist, Communist, fascist, leftist, Greenist, or any other expression of a centrist society. I think Saddam Hussein is a crass, cruel and self-serving dictator who is deserving of whatever metallic fragment of exploding incendiary device that finds its providential way into his aging and dilapidated body. I love my country, hate the cowardly acts of terrorism and desire to support our troops who have been ordered into harm's way. I am also against this war and believe that it is my patriotic duty to express my concern.

I am against this war for a number of reasons but among them three stand out. I believe first that the Bush administration has presented a very contrived, contradictory and at times deceitful rationale for going to war against Iraq. They have gone from claiming to be interested solely in disarming Iraq to an insistence on a complete regime change to a full blown agenda to remake the entire Middle East into a Americanized democratic region. Much of the evidence presented by the administration to argue their case gives every indication of including forgeries and deceptions. For example, we just learned that US Senator Jay Rockefeller has recently requested that the FBI investigate how the document that President Bush cited in "proving" Hussein had nuclear weapons turned out to be a forgery. The rest of the evidence has not been persuasive. I am convinced that this war has very little to do with freeing the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein. There are too many other cases of two bit dictators interested in acquiring weapons of mass destruction to make this even plausible. I am also quite convinced that this war has little to nothing to do with protecting America from terrorism. At a minimum, if the Bush administration had wanted to do that they would have sealed the borders and ceased their ongoing efforts to deny American commercial pilots the right to carry a handgun to defend their passengers. Shooting a commercial plane filled with men, women and children out of the sky is not my idea of a satisfactory alternative.

Secondly, I believe there are a number of bad precedents being set that will bode ill for the US in time to come. One concern is that Bush's new "preemptive attack" policy has not been convincingly defended according to just war criteria and because of that will issue in a dangerous and immoral precedent for the use of power wherever the powers that be find a substantially lesser power in contempt of their authority. It would not be hard to imagine what an economically energized and fully technically developed Communist China could do with such a doctrine against Taiwan, Japan and indeed the United States itself. Indeed such a doctrine could be used against American citizens themselves if their government had suspicion that such citizens were prone to officially defined "Terrorism." The argument that a preemptive strike is necessary to prevent further terrorism does not understand the motive for terrorism. If we want to be rid of terrorism we have only to rid ourselves of involvement in Muslim countries which do not want our presence. The present war is more likely to issue in more terrorism in America, not less.

Finally, I believe that the call for God's blessing upon the American enterprise and nation is done without due regard to the consequences of manipulating the name of God for the sake of self-serving ends. Since our president does not hesitate to invoke the blessing of God upon his foreign policy efforts, perhaps a word from the God whose blessing he invokes is in order. Isaiah 1: 15 says, "When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood." America asks for God's blessings but refuses to submit to His commands. We allow the federal government to entertain jurisdictions which neither the Bible nor the Constitution allow; we base an entire economy on debt and false weights & measures and encourage the rest of the world to follow suit; we allow government to usurp the property rights of families who have taken responsibility and worked their land for generations in the name of eminent domain; we steal from one, the product of his labor and give it to another in the name of a forced compassion. Most of all we have had the nerve to seek God's blessing and at the same time have allowed and even encouraged the murder of 30 million + unborn infants. To ask God's blessing while countermanding His commandments is to seek His wrath. And wrath we shall receive if we do not humble ourselves before Him and turn from our own wickedness. God judges nations as well as individuals and the church might note that His judgments always begin with His own covenant breaking people.

The above may not win me any popularity contests in this present hour of strife but then truth has never been a property of majority opinion. If I am wrong then I will stand by the correction that is my due. However, if I am right and I have the opportunity and ability to speak, and yet remain silent, I am not only culpable in these matters but not deserving to be identified as a resident of what historically has been known as "the land of the free and the home of the brave.

My next selection is taken from an article my Pastor recommended we read. It is called "War and Peace" and is written by Ken Sande, President of Peacemaker Ministries. You may read it in it's entirety at: http://www.hispeace.org/. I pray you will be as greatly blessed by this excerpt as I was.
Even when civil leaders decide to wage war, there is still much that individual Christians can do on a personal basis. We should seek accurate information, listen carefully to opposing views, and strive to influence national policy through prayer, respectful debate, and our right to vote. We can also act individually to heal relationships and promote personal reconciliation. In Romans 13, just a few verses before Paul describes the government's right to wield the sword, he describes the individual Christian's responsibility to be a peacemaker:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.... Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:14-15, 17-21).

This passage echoes Jesus' teaching that we should love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27-28, 35-36). Here are some practical ways that you can put these commands into practice in this time of conflict, regardless of where you live or what you think of the war in Iraq.

Mourn with those who mourn. All of us should grieve deeply with those who lose loved ones due to war or other forms of violence, whether in Iraq or other countries that struggle with deadly strife. We Christians should share not only our tears and words of comfort, but also our time, energy, and material resources to minister to them and help rebuild their lives. We should also pray that these events would make us more compassionate toward people outside our country who suffer oppression, persecution, and violence.

Remember God's mercy to you. All true peacemaking springs from what Jesus Christ did on the cross to reconcile a fallen world to a holy God (Rom. 5:1-8). We cannot truly love our enemy or do good to those who hate us until we see that God has done exactly that with us. When we recognize our own sin, acknowledge the eternal judgment we deserve, and stand amazed at his offer of mercy and forgiveness, then and only then can individuals respond lovingly to acts of violence and do the hard, unnatural work of peacemaking.

Pray for those who have done wrong. Praying for an enemy is not easy. Even when we get past our feelings of hatred and our desire for revenge, we struggle to know what to pray. Should we follow David's example and pray for justice to come upon them (Ps. 28:4), or should we follow Jesus' example and ask God to forgive them (Luke 23:34)? As we remember our own need for God's mercy, I believe we must do both. We can pray, "Lord, display your love for justice and prevent further evil by bringing guilty people to account in this life for what they have done. At the same time, Father, display your love for mercy and magnify the glory of the gospel by bringing these people to repentance and faith in Christ, so that whatever temporal judgment they face at the hands of men, they might experience the eternal forgiveness that you purchased for us by the infinitely precious blood of Christ."

Stand up for the persecuted. Pent-up fear and anger in many countries is being sinfully vented towards innocent people of certain ethnic descent or religious beliefs. Christians should be the first ones to stand up for the oppressed (Ex. 22:21; Isa. 1:17). In addition to preventing individual acts of hatred that would propagate further violence, your loving intervention could open the door to share the gospel with people whose religious belief has been shaken and whose hearts have been opened.

Make peace with those around you. Although most of us are not engaged in war and would not kill someone with our hands, all too often we kill others in our hearts. As 1 John 3:15 warns, "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer." The tumultuous events of our day could produce a harvest of peace and reconciliation if each of us were now inspired to fight the cancer of sin and estrangement on a personal level, seeking genuine reconciliation with a spouse, child, parent, friend, co-worker, or anyone else we may have offended.....

Study and teach peacemaking. In times of war many people are searching for better ways to deal with conflict. The time is ripe to wrestle with practical issues of confession, confrontation, justice, forgiveness, restitution, and reconciliation. Please do not let this incredible "teachable moment" pass you by. Dig into God's Word and see what he has to say about these life-changing matters, and then teach others what you are learning about peacemaking (1 Pet. 3:15-16).....

Pray for peacemaking around the world. Even if war ended today in Iraq, it is ready to erupt tomorrow in a dozen other countries.....

Share the gospel of peace. Above all else, seize every opportunity to be an ambassador of reconciliation by pointing people to the Prince of Peace (2 Cor. 5:16-21). War and death are suddenly very real to everyone in the world, and questions about evil and judgment abound. People who would have brushed the gospel aside not long ago are suddenly open and marvelously interested in talking about eternal matters. The fields are truly "white unto harvest," and there can be no greater peacemaking than to help others to be reconciled to their God.

War has come upon us but it need not overcome us. Now is the time to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ as we never have before. Even as national leaders carry out their legitimate yet heavy responsibilities of doing what they think must be done to protect innocent people from harm, let's seize every opportunity to share the love of Christ and promote personal peace and reconciliation. In doing so, we can redeem these dreadful times and fulfill one of the most wonderful promises ever given, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God."

(Copyright 2003 Peacemaker® Ministries. www.HisPeace.org . Reprinted with permission.)

During this troubling and turbulent time in history I pray we will sincerely seek the LORD while He may be found. While it is true that our nation has sinned greatly as Pastor Holmes has written in his commentary, may we collectively and individually support our troops by bowing humbly before the LORD and asking His forgiveness. Then we will find true peace -- reconciliation with our God.

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Originally published in 2003. Updated 10.18.2013

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