Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Biblical Role of Goverment in Protecting Citizens and Promoting Peace

So, North Korea threatend to fire FOUR Ballistic Nuclear Missiles at Guam, a U.S. territory, and the internet Blew Up in a firestorm of controversy and anger over President Trump's remarks. He said that if they continued making threats They will be met with fire, fury and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before. I will be addressing Biblical principles of just war and the importance of peacemaking, but can we stop and remember for just a moment, that an evil tyrant who is a terror to his own citizens, now has Nuclear weapons and wants to use them against the United States? Yes, Mr. Trump's remarks were Incendiary and Yes, I have concerns about his tendency to exaggerate. But it is not wrong for a President to feel protective of his people. That is a good leadership quality and becoming for a President. Mastering one's tongue and carefully considering one's words are also good qualities.

Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas, a member of the President's evangelical advisory counsel, threw fuel on the fire by exclaiming that God has given the President authority to use whatever force is necessary, including war or assassination to take out Kim Jong Un and protect the American people, citing Romans 13 as proof. Phrases like "Whatever force is necessary" tend to conjure up visions of nuclear attack and I share in the concern and genuine horror that so many others have voiced at such a thought. Both men have expressed their desire for diplomatic solutions. Dr. Jeffress emphasized the importance and value of peace bringing measures. Yet Social Media and the Blogs have Exploded with criticism of the Pastor. But what does the Bible say? What authority has God given to leaders? What is the purpose of that authority? Does the Bible teach us anything about foreign policy? Are there lessons about "just" war found within the pages of God's Word that can be applied today? Let's examine the Scriptures to see if these things are so:

Romans 12 and 13
Romans 12 and 13 compare and contrast the role of the church verses the role of the state. These chapters highlight the difference between the response of an individual to evil verses the response of the government to evil.

The Role of Individuals and the Church:
ROMANS 12 teaches us as individuals and followers of Christ to be patient during affliction, to be persistent in prayer, to live in harmony with one another. We are told not to repay evil for evil. and for our part, to try to live in peace with everyone. We are instructed:

Friends, do not avenge yourselves, instead leave room for God's wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me, I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

This chapter is all about our work as priests in the Kingdom of God. Our work is missionary oriented. The position of the church toward North Korea is that of missionary and evangelist. Christians must not be vigilantes who seek revenge for wrongdoing. Instead, our focus should be on forgiveness and rightdoing. There is a dual meaning in the verses above. Our enemy needs not only food and nourishment for his physical body, but spiritual food and living water. Fiery coals represents purification and testing. Our goal is to defeat our enemy by making him a brother in Christ.

The Responsibility of Individuals and Government
ROMANS 13 teaches us about our responsibilities as citizens and the purpose and God-given mission of government. We are told to pay our taxes, submit or cooperate with authority and show honor and respect. Where we as individuals are told not to avenge wrongdoing, the government is told:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For it is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God's servant, an AVENGER that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.

God has put individuals and the church into a situation to do his work and show grace. He expects the government to provide an umbrella of protection for us while we do His work. It is the government's responsibility to right wrongs, punish wrongdoers and deal with criminals. Jesus is our Redeemer, he is an avenger of wrongdoing, but until He comes back to right every wrong and render ultimate judgement, God has given the government the right to keep the peace and promote domestic tranquility. In its original context, this passage seems to be primarily concerned with domestic policy, but the principle is not limited to wrongdoers within a nation's borders.

When Paul wrote this letter, Christians had not been kicked out of Rome yet and Jerusalem had not yet been destroyed. He wanted to prevent the type of zealotry, uprising and rebellion against authority that had caused Jerusalem to be destroyed once before. He was writing to preserve peace. And we, in the United States of America, would do well to show more respect for authority and to accept the protection it provides.

Verse 1 reads:

Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God and the authorities that exist are instituted by God.

In the beginning, God gave Adam, mashal over the earth. He gave him the right to rule-over the earth. Therefore, all authority that man has comes from God and is to be used according to God's instructions. Kim Jong Un, for example, is not exercising his authority in a godly or appropriate way. No prophet anointed President Trump's head with oil. God did not place him as King over America. We elected him. We chose him as our leader. He has a responsibility to exercise his authority in a way that provides peace and safety for all citizens and to discharge his duties in a godly way. And we have a responsibility to submit to our leaders. Submission, or hupotasso, means that we should partner and work together with government, so it is absolutely appropriate, good and necessary to give wise counsel and advice to our leaders and to exercise our right to vote and to influence decision making with godly guidance.

What About Foreign Policy? Is there "Just" War?

When the people of Israel were travelling to the promised land, their cousins, Lot's descendants, the Moabites and the Ammonites refused to allow them to cross their land and would not even sell food to them for money. As a result, God said: You shall never seek their peace or prosperity as long as you live. (Deut. 23:6) They were not to do any business with them. Sound like trade sanctions to anyone? God was going to bless Israel and these neighboring nations would be punished because of their mistreatment. They were willing to let the Israelites starve to death by forcing them to take a longer journey around their lands and by refusing to even sell them food for the journey. This wanton lack of compassion for their fellow man was a serious offense against their Creator. The New Testament application is that while it might be appropriate to limit business with corrupt and evil governments, and it is definitely advisable to prevent them from prospering financially, it is our responsibility to consider the well-being of its citizens. Food, water, clothing and shelter are never to be withheld or denied and both church and state are responsible for caring about the plight of citizens under an evil regime.

There are some important principles of warfare found in Deuteronomy 20 that are also applicable for today. First of all, we must understand that Israel's campaign to enter the promised land is NEVER to be used as a model of modern warfare. This was God's judgement upon the people of a tremendously sinful nation and a picture of His ultimate judgement on evil. Israel was God's instrument of judgement against sin. While government has a responsibility to protect and defend its citizens, no nation has a similar role to Israel on this side of the Cross. In fact, once Israel was established as a nation, there were different rules for warfare against nations outside of their borders which contain some valuable lessons about what is just and right that we should consider.

1. Offer Terms of Peace
When you go near a city to fight against it, then proclaim an offer of peace to it. And it shall be that if they accept your offer of peace and open to you, then all the people who are found in it shall be placed under tribute to you and serve you.

The ancient world consisted of city-states, which were like individual kingdoms. God's army, Israel, was not allowed to attack without first offering terms of peace. If the city laid down their arms and surrendered, they would become like a territory, paying tribute to Israel, but also receiving the protection and blessings of the Kingdom. There was peace, protection and prosperity in the surrender.

It is appropriate to offer North Korea terms of peace that include surrender, require the immediate end of its nuclear program and surrender of all ballistic missiles, nuclear devices and technology. But it is also important to offer mutually beneficial trade, like the peace and prosperity mentioned above. This includes food, goods and services and most importantly religious freedom and protection for its own citizens and for missionaries and foreigners within their borders.

2. Do Not Harm Innocents
The rules of Holy War were for ancient Israel only, not modern America or any other nation for that matter. We should never even use the term Holy War, because our nation is not Israel and because it incenses radical Islamists, who we do not need to provoke. But there are aspects of God's righteousness displayed through these rules that we can learn from.

If they refused to surrender and war was fought, all the men of the city would have been considered its fighting force--army--not innocents. But the women, children and even livestock were never allowed to be harmed. They would have become part of the nation of Israel and became their responsibility to take care of. Going to war against a nation's leadership means that we become responsible for the citizens of that nation. We do not have the mandate to kill every single member of an enemies army as Israel did. The world lives under a different covenant. But I believe we are justified in going to war against them when necessary. And we DO have a clear Biblical mandate to protect the innocent. This means that dropping a nuclear bomb on a city with innocents present is absolutely wrong, completely out of bounds and never an option. Surgical strikes to take out military targets, weapons and tech are highly advisable and if peaceful options fail, the deaths of North Korean soldiers, while sad and tragic, fall within the boundaries of justifiable warfare. We also have the option of offering terms of peace on multiple occasions, even after hostilities begin and we should pursue these options to the fullest extent possible.

3. Don't Destroy The Land
When you besiege a city(state) for a long time while making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them if you can eat of them. Do not cut them down to use in the siege, for the tree of the field is MAN'S FOOD.

We should avoid warfare that destroys land and food or prevents people from returning to a good and peaceful life when the war is over. We have read about not destroying cattle and not destroying fruit trees. Again, this speaks to caring about the well-being of our fellow man and for those who will live there after war has ended. Nuclear destruction and fall out violates this principle. Again, the New Testament calls on us to feed our enemies. This goes beyond the Old Testament mandate to simply not destroy something and calls on us to do better in our treatment of other human beings. When we go to war with a nation's leadership or army, we become responsible for its innocent citizens.

We must have compassion on the citizens of every nation. War is destructive and all peaceful means of resolution should be pursued first. Just war seeks to preserve peace by putting a stop to evil. The ultimate goal is not to display power, but to protect human life. My sincere hope is that if we show mercy, compassion and genuine human concern for the well-being of the citizens of North Korea who are suffering under the regime of this tyrant, perhaps hardened hearts may be softened and wisdom will prevail. So what should we do? We Pray:

I urge that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people--for kings and ALL those in authority, that we may live peaceful/tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

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