Wars and Rumors of Wars
Man likes to forget how evil he is. War is a grim reminder. “Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known” (Romans 3:15-17).
In Paul’s time the swiftest means of bloodshed was a horse-drawn war chariot or a Roman galley, rowed by slaves. Man has come far since then.
Now he sits in his comfortable control room and directs a rocket to the far side of the earth. From a plane he drops bombs and watches the smoke of destruction billowing toward the sky. He only hears the whine of the engines. He’s too far away to hear the moaning and the weeping of those left alive in the rubble. From a hovering helicopter he rains deadly bullets on his fellow man. A pilot in Vietnam had painted on his helicopter: “Killing is our business. Business is fine.”
Yes, man has come far since Paul’s day. “Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known.”
In Old Testament times even God’s people were involved in war. They longed for peace, just as we do. Through Isaiah, God made a promise. He spoke of a time when the word of the Lord would go forth from Jerusalem and God’s people would learn war no more (Isaiah 2:3, 4).
God sent His Son to teach us the ways of peace. Two thousand years have passed. Millions give lip service to His words but few really do what He says.
What does Jesus say about war? “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:6, 7).
“Wars and rumors of wars,” that’s human history in a nutshell. When men are not fighting a war, they are preparing for one.
And being troubled is the natural reaction to war. When we recall the destruction of recent wars, when we consider the possibility - if not the probability - that nuclear weapons will be used again, our hearts skip a beat and our blood runs cold.
Yet Jesus says: “See that you are not troubled,” “Do not be afraid.” How is this possible? How can we remain calm?
The answer is found in the basic attitudes Jesus taught us to have toward God, toward this world, and toward our fellow man.
War does not alarm a Christian because he trusts in the providence of God.
With the Psalmist we can say: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:1, 2).
“Do not be afraid.” These words appear more than 25 times in the New Testament.
Even in difficult days the Christian knows, “that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). “So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).
The words of Jesus are written on our hearts: “Do not be afraid; only believe” (Luke 8:50).
Our Lord is Ruler of the kings of the earth. What does the King of kings and Lord of lords tell us? “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled” (Mark 13:7).
War does not alarm a Christian because his mind is not set on earthly things.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).
A Christian is not devoted to possessions. Many people loose their lives in times of war because they try to save their goods.
In connection with the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus told His disciples to leave their possessions behind: “Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes” (Matthew 24:16-18).
Christians are not to be alarmed by war, but they are instructed to flee the dangers of war, without regard for their goods.
When a Christian’s property is destroyed or confiscated, he does not react as worldly people do. We read in Hebrews 10:34, “You had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.”
A Christian is not alarmed at the loss of his property because his true wealth cannot be taken away. His treasures are in heaven.
Because a Christian sets his mind on things above, he is not even devoted to his physical life.
Jesus says in Luke 12:4, 5: “My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”
A Christian has already died to this world in Christ. He has eternal life. He is not dismayed at the thought of being killed, because his life is hid with Christ in God.
War is a carnival of Satan. But Satan has no power over a Christian. “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death’” (Revelation 12:10, 11).
With Paul, a Christian can say: “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself” (Acts 20:24). “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
A Christian does not war against his fellowman, even for spiritual values, much less for physical life or worldly goods, because his citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Jesus told Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).
A Christian does not war against his fellowman because he is engaged in a nobler battle, a battle, not against nations or men, but against evil. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3, 4).
Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
The armor of God protects us against the evils of war:
The Christian is not deceived by the false propaganda of war, because his waist is girded with truth.
He is not carried along with the unrighteousness of war, because he wears the breastplate of righteousness.
He has peace in the midst of war, because his feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
He is not overcome by doubt, because he holds the shield of faith.
He does not fear destruction, because he wears the helmet of salvation.
He does not dread the sword of man, because he wields the sword of the Spirit.
War is an attempt to overcome evil with evil, at best; or at worst, an attempt to overcome good with evil. A Christian can overcome evil with good because he sets his mind on things above. “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).
War does not alarm a Christian because he trusts in the providence of God. His mind is not set on things of this world. He is not enslaved to possessions or even to physical life. His citizenship is in heaven. He overcomes evil with good. With this mentality, he is able to obey the command of Christ: “When you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified” (Luke 21:9).
A Christian is not alarmed by war because he loves his fellowman.
Motivated by this love, he is a peacemaker, not a warmonger. And when does the world need peacemakers more than in times of war. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
In 1 John 4:18 we read: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” Hate for our enemies makes us afraid. When we love our enemies and do good to them, we foil Satan and overcome fear.
How should we treat our enemies? Are we to shoot them? Drop bombs on their cities? Destroy or pollute their water supply? What does Jesus tell us? “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48). With this attitude toward our enemies, war becomes a special opportunity to do good and to demonstrate to the world that we are truly followers of Christ.
Peter had trouble learning this lesson.
He was ready to fight and die for Jesus. He drew his sword to defend Christ, and he cut off a man’s ear.
Jesus reprimanded Peter and healed the man - someone who came out to arrest Him so He could be crucified.
Peter had learned to love his Lord. But he had not yet learned to love his enemy. And because of that weak love, he was afraid - so afraid that he denied Christ three times to avoid admitting that he had been in the garden.
Like Peter, many Christians have learned to love the Lord but they have not yet learned to love their enemies. They place more trust in worldly force than in the providence of God. And they are afraid of war.
Christians who wage war have reason to be afraid. The warning Jesus gave to Peter also applies to them: “Put your sword in its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). This principle is repeated in Revelation 13:10: “He who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword.”
Under the New Covenant, God still uses the sword of governments as an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil (Romans 13:4), but He no longer instructs His people to do so. They must overcome evil with good and leave vengeance to God (Romans 12:17-21).
Christians are God's ministers not of wrath but of reconciliation: Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19).
Peter learned his lesson. After learning to trust in God and love his enemies, he fought by wielding the sword of the Spirit. And many years later he penned these words: “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer for it, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin nor was guile found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:19-23).
“And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled” (1 Peter 3:13,14).
What is the Christian attitude to war?
Wars and rumors of wars: automatic rifles, tanks, helicopters, planes, missiles, land mines and bombs. War will be with us until that Day when the Father says, “Enough!” and a new age begins.
Meanwhile Christians are not troubled. We trust in the providence of God. Our treasures are in heaven. Our physical life is not precious to us if only we may serve the Lord during the time He gives us. For us, to live is Christ and to die is gain. We fight the good fight of faith. With our whole heart we fight against evil by doing good. We love our enemies, and follow Christ to the cross, and beyond the cross to the eternal city where rumors of wars shall be heard no more.
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:6-13).
The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise. Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive