As the political positioning continues to establish support for an attack on Syria, much has surfaced regarding the complicated intertwining of religious and political factions in the area, specifically Syria. While this is essentially a human rights issue for our government, in Syria, it is much, much more.
The Christian Responsibility
As Christians, we need to remember some things as we voice our support either way. After all, our view of everything is seen through the lens of Scripture.
1. In Romans 13, Paul tells us that we are to support of government.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he 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, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Government is instituted by God and exists to, among other things, be a deterrent to evil, whether in our nation or abroad. Since the institution of government and those who are leaders have been put in place by a sovereign God, obedience is necessary, unless a leader is in clear violation of the precepts taught in scripture.
2. Christians are called to be an influence in governmental decisions and policy. We cannot simply back away and take our toys home if someone is elected that we didn’t support, or a policy emerges that stands against Christian principle. Christians must give input and present biblical morality with love and respect.
What is a Just War?
With that being said, Christians know that war is found in Scripture, sometimes ordained by God himself. It follows, then, that there must be times when going to war is just. In the ESV Study Bible, we are given conditions that would allow for war based on biblical teaching.
1. Just Cause. Is the reason for going to war a morally right cause?
2. Competent authority. Is war being declared by a leader within a nation who is competent to make such a decision?
3. Comparative justice. It should be clear that the actions of the enemy are morally wrong, and the motives and actions of those declaring war are, in comparison, morally right.
4. Right intention. The purpose of going to war is to promote justice and righteousness rather than to pillage and plunder.
5. Last resort. Have all other means and methods for resolving conflict been tried?
6. Probability of success. Is there a reasonable expectation that the war will be won?
7. Proportionality of projected results. Will the good gained from the war outweigh the harm and loss that will come with war?
8. Right spirit. Is the spirit of war approached with reluctance and sorrow for the harm that will inevitably come.
Those who propose a Just War theory also have added moral restrictions:
1. Proportionality in the use of force. There should be no greater destruction that what is needed.
2. Discrimination between combatants and noncombatants. Attention and care should be taken to avoid harm to noncombatants.
3. Avoidance of evil means. Captured or defeated opponents will be treated with respect and dignity.
4. Good faith. There is a genuine desire for the restoration of peace and order.
Before you make your decision regarding this potential attack and possible war, read Kathryn Jean Lopez’s interview of Raymond Ibrahim titled, “Has Syria Got a Prayer?”. Lopez asks, ” Are Syrian Christians better off if the U.S. does not strike against Assad?” Ibrahim responds,
Absolutely. That is not because Assad is a great guy, but because the alternatives — the same alternatives we saw in Libya and Egypt, that is, the Islamists and jihadis — are hostile to “infidel” Christians, a fact with ample doctrinal, historical, and current-affair proof.
The action our military takes will have far-reaching effects on more than Syrian nationals and the tactics of its leader. It will affect you, me, and countless others both in this nation and around the world.
The decision made needs to be the right decision.