We are made to love the Lord God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbors as our own selves. That means all of our neighbors – all fellow human beings are our neighbors, the children of Adam and Eve and our brothers and sisters, created in the image and likeness of God Himself, each one’s name known specially to God before the creation of the world.
Indeed, we are to love our neighbors as Jesus Christ Himself has loved us. He laid down His life for us.
We do not get to pick and choose who is our neighbor, whom we must love as we love ourselves, love as Jesus loved us. The fact that someone is different from us does not make that person the less our neighbor, whom we are to love. The fact that someone has done evil – even if it is to us – does not make that person the less our neighbor, whom we are to love. Remember how Jesus has loved us. While we were sinners, estranged from God, alien to Heaven and to goodness, trapped in slavery to evil, guilty of iniquities, He came to us and laid down His life for us, holding none of our trespasses against us, and rising from the dead to open the gates of Heaven to us.
This is why Christians, we who follow this same Lord Jesus, cannot participate in the wars of men. How shall we, who imitate Him who laid down His life for His enemies, partake in the slaughter of enemies? How shall we, who belong to the Creator who made all men of one race, the Father of all, the Son who shed His blood to make all men into one holy Kingdom, choose one nation or another to fight for or against, or kill men because they happen to belong to a different country than ourselves? No! We are called to love all men. Our enemies are not flesh and blood and national differences, but the dark powers that would keep all men in captivity away from the light in the face of Christ.
As for laying down our lives for one another – it is only foolishness that could suggest that means risking one’s life in war! By all means, lay down your life for your fellow. Interpose your body between him – even if he is your enemy – and the oncoming sword or arrow! Die by torture before you betray him into the hands of his enemy! Give him the food for his life which would have sustained yours but without which you will starve! Doubtless, many more examples may be found. But go to war and kill other men? By no means! How did anyone come up with the idea that was what was meant?
Honor veterans of war for risking their lives that you may be free? I think this is a common idea in the United States of America. It’s absurd, though. I am not saying to despise any man, but to love him and desire his good. To honor him for doing something wrong and destructive to his own self is not to love him or desire his good. It may be hardly his fault; it may be the fault of those who indoctrinated him into thinking that his nation was specially chosen by God, or that he should go to war and war is honorable; but it is no good to honor him for the wrong he did even if he is scarcely responsible. Nor will it help him. Instead, help him to recognize that what he did was wrong and to repent and to find freedom from the blood he shed in the soul-changing forgiveness of the blood of Christ which breaks down the dividing wall and makes us all into one body with one Head. Christ is and shall be all in all, and in Him all shall be made new and all wrongs shall be righted. Nor will it do good to other boys and young men to honor veterans of war; it will only encourage them to make the same mistake, to do the same wrong. Let us love them all; let us not honor their sin. To do so is to side with the sin against their own souls. It is, in very deed, to hate them.
Then, some say, but aren’t we indebted to them to honor them because their risk and loss has enabled us to be free (whether or not it has enabled some sort of “freedom” for some people without further loss to others is another question altogether)? To which I ask, is it ever right to honor a wrong because you think you have benefited by it? Even if it is clear that in some sense you have benefited by it, should you honor it? No! Sin does not become honorable because it has some nice effects for someone. It is better to die than to sin, and better to die than to take part in sin by honoring it. And, it is better to be shamed among men than to sin or to honor sin.
Besides, what of the people on the other side of the war? What of the mothers who lost sons? Or the sisters who lost brothers? Or the wives who lost husbands? Or the children who lost fathers? What of the men themselves? What are their lives worth?
Someone will say, but we cannot love all men equally. Are we not to love those close to us as we cannot love others? Yes. You’re right. You cannot love all equally for not all are equally present to you and you are limited. Therefore, love those whom you can love. Do not cut people out of your love because they have a different nation or ancestry or whatever it is. Go ahead, love those who are with you because there is a certain sense in which you only can love those near you: it is only those near you for whom you can do something and whom you can know in certain ways. Take care of your family, yes. But that does not mean harm other people’s families! And, even so, there is no comparison between a nation or country and a family, or very, very little. Never mind you know your family as you do not know your nation or other nations! Someone better suited than I to the task should treat of love of culture and nation, what of it is good and should be cherished, but I am certain that whatever true and good love of one’s culture and nation might be, it is not going out to war against other nations! And even a defensive war, fought against an immediate threat and an enemy invading on one’s door-step is not to be compared to an offensive war, in which one’s soldiers invade another’s home, however fear and consequential morality might cause people to think the war necessary for their later protection and well-being. Let us do what is right and loving in the Name of Christ, knowing that God will take care of us no matter what happens, and not do one evil because we imagine that it will avert another!
Copyright 2019 Raina Nightingale