WHENCE COME WARS
War (as someone has said) is now "the use of wholesale, indiscriminate wounding and slaughter by organized lethal machinery, in order to force the enemy to do what, it is assumed, he would not otherwise do."
Never before, therefore, was the Apostle’s question more the point."Whence come wars?" - -a word always used the New Testament for international struggles - "and whence come fightings among you?" - religious wars, among the most bitter the world has known. One whole volume of the Cambridge Modern History is devoted to the Wars of religion. Bloodshed and slaughter, what is their hidden seed and root? The modern world is full of answers. From a healthy ambition purging nations, says the Fascist; from undisturbed wealth and capitalism, says the Communist; from an uneducated democracy ignorant of war’s evils, says the reformer ; from an insufficiently federated world for collective security, says the advocate of the League of Nations : that is, all give causes that lie outside man, and which can be removed by political, economic, or social readjustments.
Now before we deal with the Apostle’s countering challenge, one fact is like a sudden lightning. Of the world-epoch that rapidly approaches we read:-"They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks : nation not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2: 4). In the age to come, it is not only that war ceases because of general amity, but it completely disappears as a science : world peace will be so secure through a changed humanity that the studied strategy of armies, the manufacture of tanks, the perfecting of bombing - all will have fallen into oblivion, and have become a lost art. And the reason is given :- "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain :for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11: 9). War in a divinely governed world is as inconceivable as it will be non-existent.
So now we are prepared for the Apostle’s counter-challenge.
"Come they not hence"- is not this their root-cause - "even of your lusts that war in your members?" lusts that are already at war in you. Powder that is explosive and powder that explodes is exactly the same powder : war and war-lust are the same thing. "Doth the Spirit which he made to dwell in us" - the Holy Spirit - "long unto envying?" (ver. 5). If war is not from the Spirit, it must be from the flesh. It is extraordinary that a man of the world can see this truth. Plato says:- "Wars, and factions, and fightings have no other source than the body and its lusts." Until the human spirit possesses the Divine Spirit, it is controlled by the lusts of the flesh ; and every man of the world walks with all international wars in his breast. Dr. Jowett's word is for ever true :- "There will have to be a terrific conversion if war is to cease ; for you still have the human heart to deal with - that awful cauldron in which all man’s evil passions are heated. Disarmament can bury a lot of Dreadnoughts, but not the old Adam."
So the Apostle carefully compares the two diplomacies which control international politics ; and he handles first what passes for‘wisdom’ among the governments of the world. He says:- "If ye have bitter jealousy and faction, this wisdom" - the wisdom of the world’s diplomacy which produces fierce international conflict - "is not a wisdom that cometh down from above" - it is not God-imparted wisdom "but is earthly, sensual, devilish" (Jas. 3: 15). It is ‘earthly’, that is, absorbed with the ambitions of this world; it is ‘sensual’, that is, animal, under the sway of passions, exactly like the wolf or the tiger ; and it is ‘devilish’, that is, demonic, prompted and stirred by evil spirits : so (to sum it up) the man, or government, devoted solely to worldly ends, becomes half-beast, half-devil. * And the consequence is exactly what we are watching. "For where jealousy" - literally, zeal, the fanaticism of nation or race creed - "and faction are, there is confusion" - the Greek word means not only disorder but the dissolution of order (Lange) ** - "and every vile deed."
[* The very language of the Apostle is being used. Dr. A. E. Garvic says : "Men are being poisoned by false ideas and wrong ideals, as well as nourished and refreshed by the truth and grace of Christ. But the term which is current in Continental writings, and is being adopted by some writers in this country is ‘demonic’. The injustice, cruelty and violence, which are spreading like a pestilence over the world, seem inexplicable by human nature, character and conduct, and appear to disclose some powers of evil that have gained control of men, and are inciting them to this extraordinary wickedness."]
[** Fascism chooses the very word. The Critica Fascista says : "We Fascists and we alone are the disorder, the creative disorder." The Totalitarian State is lawlessness made iron law.]
The Apostle now contrasts the diplomacy and international action which would characterize converted nations, and which is even now to be the conduct of private Christians."But the wisdom that is from above" - from above: it is no fruit of the university or of culture, but imparted by God in regeneration - "is first pure" - springing out of the fountain of the new birth ; "then peaceable", the fruit of the God of peace, wishing peace ; "gentle", tactful * ; "easy to be entreated", readily persuaded, gladly yielding ; "full of mercy and good fruits", compassionate, with the fruits of compassion ; "without variance", consistent, reliable ; "without hypocrisy", it lives its principles, and is as good as its word. Diplomacy thus conducted, and thus conducted by all would make wars for ever impossible.
[* "A beautiful word which would perhaps be best paraphrased in our language by ‘though having right, not insisting on that right.’ " (F. T. Bassett, M.A.)]
The Apostle finally uncloaks the fundamental error."Ye and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain ; ye fight and war: ye have not because ye ask not." A nation, like an individual, can seek from God legitimate desires - righteous frontiers, colonies for food production, raw materials for industry ; for the nation is simply the individual indefinitely multiplied, and so equally a petitioner at a Throne of boundless wealth. And when, and if, the sword has to be used - that is, by the State (Rom. 13: 4) - true national wisdom invokes God : unrighteous causes carefully avoid God. "I came, I saw, I conquered", said Julius Caesar after his victory over the king of Bosporus in 47 B.C. : "I came, I saw, God conquered", said John III Sobieski, King of Poland, after he had defeated the Turks. So when the American Constitutional Convention was in session, and a sceptical tendency appeared, Benjamin Franklin, then in his eighty-third year, rose and said:- "When we were in great peril we had daily prayers in this room for the protection and guidance of almighty God. I have lived a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proof I have that God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the earth without his knowledge, is it possible for a nation to rise without his aid? To that kind Providence we owe this happy privilege of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. Have we now forgotten that powerful Friend; or have we no longer need of his assistance ?"
It is this omission of God which is all but universal to-day."YE HAVE NOT BECAUSE YE ASK NOT." The Wars of Israel are one prolonged lesson which the nations of the world have never learned; and to-day England has forgotten the hurricane which wrecked the Armada. Her playing for safety is replacing her honour and her God. The Most High can give victory through the merest trifle. When the armies of Napoleon swept over Europe, one of his generals made a surprise attack on the little town of Feldkirch, on the Austrian border. It was Easter, and as Napoleon’s formidable army manoeuvred on the heights above Feldkirch, a council of its citizens was hastily summoned to decide whether to surrender or attempt a defence. In this assembly the venerable dean of the church arose to declare : "This is Easter day. We have been counting on our own strength, and that will fail. This is the day of our Lord’s resurrection. Let us ring the bells and have services as usual and leave the matter in God's hands. We know only our weakness and not the power of God." The council accepted his plan, and in a few minutes the church belfry chimed the joyous bells announcing the Saviour’s resurrection. The enemy, hearing the sudden peal, concluding that the Austrian army had arrived during the night, broke up camp, and before the Easter bells had ceased, the danger had been lifted.
Very beautiful is an army tribute to the Army of Christ. A local group of the Veterans of the Foreign Wars of the United States sent this letter to a missionary leaving for Persia. "The sooner the whole world embraces, truly, the vital principles and intents of the doctrines of Christ, the sooner will peace come. No one yearns for peace more than the Veteran who has been through the heat of modern battle. And it is our genuine belief that peace treaties, conferences, and diplomatic delegates thereto, are not the answer or the media to realize it - but rather by the every-day living of the teachings of Christ. It is claimed that, irregardless of races, the blood of all is inherently the same, but there is some virus in the blood stream which causes hatreds and strife ; this can only be eliminated by the renovation of the individual. When man treats man like his own brother and follows the Golden Rule of Christ and adopts the attitude of the Maker, in the parable of the Vineyard, respecting the labour of man’s hands, will a better understanding come in the world. It is needed sorely in every nation, and the good old U.S.A. is not excluded. So you see we place more importance in your mission than we do in some Peace Conference delegates and hence speak for you health, power and fruitful effort in the service of Christ."
THE EARLY CHURCH AND THE SWORD
The Church Fathers are almost a unit in condemning war for the Christian. Clement of Alexandria in the second century spoke out against it. Tertullian, one of the Church Fathers of the same period, declared that when Peter cut off Malchus’ ear, Jesus rebuked him, and in rebuking him He forbade the works of the sword for the disciple. In that same century we have Ignatius and Polycarp and Justin and many others of the great Christian leaders bearing testimony to the same effect. In the third centuryit is the same : Hippolytus, Cyprian, Commodus, Gregory Thaumaturgus spoke out vehemently in their condemnation of war. Indeed Origen, one of the best known of the Christian Fathers of that century, in making his famous reply to Celsus, the arch foe of Christianity, denied one by one the counts in the indictment of Celsus. However, when Origen came to the charge of Celsus, that Christians were disloyal to the State in that they would not serve in the army or take part in war, Origen admitted the charge because he said all war was wrong for the Christian.
Historically this is the situation. The early Christians the days of the first disciples up until the time of Constantine in A.D. 325 condemned war. It was not until the Roman Empire took over Christianity and made it a part of the State that Christians ceased to bear constant testimony against war. The great German historian Harnack declares that no Christian became a soldier of his own will before the time of Marcus Aurelius, that is until the latter part of the second century.
Let us look at some of these early Christian pacifists. There was the first century Numidian Christian named Maximillian who was martyred for refusing to be enrolled as a soldier. Aged twenty-one, he told the Roman Governor, "I cannot serve as a soldier, I cannot do evil: I am a Christian." Then there was Marcellus, the centurion. His last words to the judge were, "I threw down my arms; for it was not seemly that a Christian man, who renders service to the Lord Jesus Christ, should render it also by inflicting earthly injuries." Later there was Martin who was bred to the profession of arms, but which he abandoned on becoming a Christian. To the Emperor he gave the reason for his conduct: "I am a Christian and therefore I cannot fight."
EDMUND B. CHAFFEE -The Religious Digest.
FOR HIS SAKE
An old, blind Hopi Indian, when he was visiting the Southwest Bible and Missionary Conference at Camp Eldon, Arizona, said :- " I used to walk the old way, the same as the other Hopis do, leading right to hell, and I did not know it. I was not happy, not satisfied, always unsettled and disturbed. Now I am happy, satisfied and settled, because I know I am on my way to Heaven. I heard the story of how God loves the world and gave His Son for a Saviour for sinners, which includes me. I believed that, and took that Jesus for my Saviour. I used to have all kinds of trouble and thought that
when I became a Christian all these troubles would be over with, but now I find that I am the centre of a great deal of trouble. My people ridicule and scorn me, they hate me and do all manner of things to make life unpleasant for me. Although it makes me feel badly for my people, I gladly bear all this. Jesus’ life on earth was full of trouble and full of suffering, and He bore it patiently. I want to be like Him, therefore I go my way rejoicing, knowing that He wants me to bear this for His sake.
A LAWLESS WORLD
A civilization which can give birth to the shameful persecution of its people, the spraying of gas upon villages, the lying and dishonesty which make a mock of treaties and agreements, is a civilization not worth preserving. A panic closely resembling insanity is running like an epidemic over the whole world, crushing all its chivalry, decency and humanity in human nature. An unbiased judge would be driven to the conclusion that the world is a much more savage place than it has been for perhaps a thousand years. Massacres, like those we have seen in recent years, have no parallels in past history. Probably even the blood-curdling records of the doings of the Tartars and Huns had some redeeming spark of courage and pity for the defenceless. It cannot continue to exist. Evil to-day is extraordinarily unblushing. "No man in these days can afford an hour’s spiritual sloth, for the pace of events is at lightening speed : a decade of years sees changes that a century did not witness in the time of Alfred the Great, or a thousand years in the days of Abraham" (A. T. PIERSON, D.D.). Never did the Christian more need to realize that his wisdom lies in complete separation from the politics of this world."Our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil. 3: 20). So an embargo of any one political party is the height of unwisdom. The Christian ideal is a life as much above politics (of any shade) as above nationalism or racialism.