THE CHURCH AND WAR
We are living in one of the great crises of human history, a time that is trying men’s souls, and nothing is more important than that the Church should be thoroughly awake to the opportunities and the responsibilities that face it today. In the words of Mordecai to Esther: “Who knoweth whether thou art not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
What must be the task of the Church today?
It must, first of all, seek to interpret the true meaning of the awful calamity which has come upon the people of the world. It must make it clear that God is visiting judgment upon the nations. War information bureaux and propaganda agencies in all of the warring countries, as might be expected, are working overtime to justify their own course of action and to lay the entire blame for the present tragedy at the door of their enemies. And it is usually quite easy for all of us to use darker colours in painting the picture of our neighbour’s sins and iniquities while we lightly gloss over our own.
However, could we detach ourselves from our own environment and look down on this warring world with the eyes of God, what a mournful sight would greet our eyes! A world steeped in sin is being destroyed by the very evils it has created. Human greed, human lust, human selfishness and human hate have had free course, and now their fruits have begun to appear. Nothing is more clear in the teaching of Scriptures than this, that sin brings its own judgment, whether it be individual sin or national sin. “The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psa. 9: 16, 17).
Therefore, like God's prophets of old, the servants of the Church must make it clear to men that war is a judgment of God because of sin. They must proclaim the eternal truth that “God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” And with that proclamation there must also be sounded God’s solemn call to repentance. It is God who is speaking to mankind today through the woes that have come upon us; but thus far we have not seen many evidences that men are much concerned about what He has to say to them. Must the sorrows of mankind be multiplied before men will turn to Him, or will they begin to cry out to Him for mercy that the days of tribulation may be shortened? God alone knows the answer.
Here also we are constrained to mention how the spirit of war almost unconsciously sears men’s souls, blunting the finer human sensibilities, silencing the conscience, and causing even Christians to lose sight of their higher ideals. Instead of those nobler Christian virtues which are the fruit of the Spirit, we find the baser instincts of cruelty, hatred, revenge, and fear taking possession of men’s souls. We are no longer shocked by the bombing of great cities and the killing of thousands of innocent women and children - not as long as it happens to be an enemy city. And we find a peculiar joy in news that tell how tens of thousands of men have been killed and wounded in a single battle - that is, when those who were slain and maimed are the enemy. Even little children are not immune to this devastating war psychology, and it is most depressing to the thoughtful Christian to behold how tender minds, whose thoughts should be of the good, the pure, the kind, and the beautiful, become saturated with tales of cruelty, carnage, death, and destruction. Thus we perpetuate from generation to generation the falsehood that there is a peculiar glory and glamour about war instead of teaching our children to know and to understand its true hideousness and how inimical it is to the spirit of true Christianity, with its teachings of love and compassion and brotherhood.
Nor may the Church shut its eyes to all the other enumerated moral evils which are some of the distressing by-products of war. Sin must be exposed and condemned wherever and whenever it appears, in time of war as well as in time of peace. Christian ideals and virtues are constant, and the Church may never stoop to opportunism in relaxing its standards. Even the State, when it violates the eternal laws of God, or when it condones or winks at evil, or seeks to justify it because of the exigencies of war, must not be spared; for the Church may not violate its own conscience. “We must obey God rather than men.”