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When is it Right to Fight, Part Two

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When is it Right To Fight? Part One

By Pastor Rick Warren
Saddleback Church - I want to look at what the Bible says about some of the questions about war. Most of us have been glued to the tv or radio this last week as the war broke out in the Gulf. We've been warned that it may be a long war. I'm sure it's raised many questions in your mind as it has in mine to go back and say, "What does the Bible say about war?" I thought the perfect thing to do today would be to spend some time praying for the people in the Gulf. So we want to do that at the end of this service. I want us to look at a few verses and then we'll pray together. We're going to look a; What is the real cause of war? Is it ever right to fight? Will the world ever have permanent peace? Is this the final war? How should we respond during war?


1. We need to pray. So we're going to do that this morning.

2. We need to trust God. When things are out of our control, we need to trust God.

3. We need to seek peace. The Bible says seek peace.

4. We need to support each other.

Looking at the very first verse on your outline, Romans 12:18 "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Circle "if it is possible". I think the Bible is very practical here. It says "as much as it depends on you... as far as it's possible on your behalf, live at peace with everybody." However, I think this is also implying that sometimes it is impossible to live at peace with someone. Have you ever met somebody that, no matter what you did, you just couldn't get along with them? No matter what you did, they could not be appeased. The Bible says, "If it is possible." If somebody abused my children and abused my wife, I wouldn't have peace with them at all. I don't think God would expect me to have peace with them.

We're going to look today at these questions about war.


The Bible says that most wars are caused by two things: selfishness and pride. Selfishness and pride are at the root of most wars. James 4:1-2 (Jerusalem Bible) "Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn't it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven't got it; so you're prepared to kill. You have an ambition you can't satisfy, so you fight to get your way by force."

It's selfishness. I think we've got a clear example here in the Gulf. Saddam wanted something that wasn't his. He wanted oil fields in Kuwait so he just took them. They weren't his but he took them anyway.

Whenever there is a battle between two nations, a battle between two businesses, a battle between an employer and employee, labor and management, husband and wife, parent and child, whenever there's conflict, somebody (maybe both) is exhibiting selfishness or pride. I want my way. You want your way. We're going to have conflict.

I remember reading a story about President Lincoln. He was walking down the street one day with his two boys and they were both crying and frustrated. One man said, "What's wrong with your little boys?" He said, "Nothing, just what's wrong with the world. I have three walnuts and each wants two."

I read once where two cities in Italy fought 22 years over an unreturned bucket. It was a 22 year war over an unreturned bucket!

The Bible says in Proverbs 13:10 "The effect of pride is fighting." This was the very first verse my wife and I memorized when we got married. "Only by pride comes contention." Pride only causes fighting. When you think of sin, what's the middle letter of "sin"? -- "I". When I'm in charge, when I want my way, when I demand that I be the center of the universe, when I get my way, sin's going to happen. And pride causes a lot of problems.

How many times in the last five months had delegations gone to Iraq to say, "Why don't you back down? Why don't you back out?" Sadam has basically said in pride, "I'd rather fight than switch! I'd rather go to war than back down and admit that I was wrong in taking this land."

Proverbs 13:10 (New English Bible) "A brainless fool causes strife by his presumption."


Yes. There are times when it is the lesser of two evils. There are times when it is appropriate and there are times when it is inappropriate. Ecclesiastes 3:8 "There is a time for war and a time for peace."

The Bible is very realistic. Sometimes war is the right thing. Sometimes war is the wrong thing. "There is a time for war and there is a time for peace." The Bible is very realistic about this. There are many, many examples in the Bible where God commanded a war, where God said, "Go to war!" When you look at the great heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 -- Joshua, David, Gideon, Samson -- these guys were all warriors. When you look at the Bible you find that sometimes war was the right thing to do.

When you study the ministry of Jesus you see a number of things. In the first place, He never told a Roman soldier to leave the army. If Jesus had been a total pacifist, He would have said every time He saw a soldier, "Leave your army! Come follow Me." But not once did He ever say it was morally wrong for them to be in the service. In fact, in Matthew 24:6, He said there will always be wars in the world until the Prince of Peace comes back. There will always be wars.

Wasn't Jesus a pacifist? I don't think He was. Twice in the New Testament, He cleansed the temple by force. It says He made a whip and He went in and He cleansed the temple. He didn't politely ask them, "Would you guys, pretty please get out of here?" He forced them out. They were in the wrong place. So He forced them out.

One time Jesus told His disciples to sell their coats and buy a sword. Luke 22:36.

I want to challenge you to do a study in the Bible of the word "resist". Make a study of all the things that we are to resist in the New Testament, that we're not to simply passively accept evil, but that we are to resist it. And how are we to do that?

The Bible says there is a time for war and a time for peace. Then the question becomes, "When's the right time?" How do you know a good war from a bad war? Two or three times the Bible says we ought to fight:

1. In order to preserve freedom. There are many examples in the Bible of this. Once God told Joshua to wipe out the Midianites, they were very oppressive. They were very evil. He was afraid that they would be oppressed by them. They had all kinds of evil practices like throwing babies into the fire. It was a terrible, atrocious culture. In Numbers 32, God gets very upset, in fact He expresses anger, at two tribes in Israel, because they wouldn't go to war. Moses says to these two tribes, "What are you going to do? Just sit here while the rest of your brothers go to war? Aren't you going to participate?" That's different than a lot of people here.

You have to decide what's worth dying for. If you don't know what's worth dying for, you don't know what's worth living for. There are some things that are worse than war.

Many times in the Old Testament, God told the Israelites to go liberate a certain group of people.

2. In order to defend innocent people. Proverbs 21:15 "When justice is done it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers." Circle "justice". Christians are not just interested in peace. We want peace, but we want peace with justice. Peace at any price is not peace. Peace at any price is appeasement. God says that God is not only a God of peace but He is a God of justice. Things should be done right. That's why the Civil War was fought. Blacks were being treated unjustly. So there had to come force, to force people to treat them justly. Somebody said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. We must do justice.

John Stewart Mills said, "A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares about more than his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free."

3. In order to stop the spread of evil. The Bible makes very clear that God has authorized the government to enforce the law and punish offenders. Romans 13:4 (Jerusalem Bible and New International Version) "Government is there to serve God for your benefit. If you break the law however, you may well have fear. He does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of justice to bring punishment on the wrongdoers."

Three facts of life: We live in a fallen world. Every person has sinned. And wherever there is sin, people hurt each other. So there must be laws enacted to prevent people from hurting each other. God has authorized law and government as part of life. He started by giving us the Ten Commandments. "You shall do this and you shall not do this..." God has established in a fallen world where people are not perfect that there has to be laws. God has authorized government to enforce those laws, because if there's no enforcement, the laws are worthless.

It says if you're doing good you don't have to fear the law, you don't have to fear government. "If you break the law however you may well have fear." Have you ever been driving down the freeway and saw a red light in back of you and all of a sudden you were overcome with fear? Then it went on past you! Why did you get uptight? Because you know you have a guilty conscience. If you never broke the law, you'd never be afraid of law enforcement. The Bible says that God has established government to be the agent of enforcement to maintain the peace, because we live in a world where people will hurt each other. So God says there are laws.

For instance, the eighth commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." That means you have a right to private property. So do other people. Most of the world would agree that Saddam decided, "I want that down there in Kuwait so I'm just going to steal it. I'll just take it by force because I want it." So he's broken some international laws. One law that says you don't steal somebody else's country. Good law! The whole world agrees with this except Saddam and a couple of kooks! You don't go in and take over somebody's country by force. We shouldn't do it. They shouldn't do it. So the Bible says there are agents to bring about punishments for wrongdoers.

"Doesn't the sixth commandment say, `Thou shalt not kill.'" No it doesn't. It says "Thou shalt not murder." The word is used 47 times in the Bible and it always means murder. Is there a difference between killing and murder? Absolutely. C.S. Lewis said, "All killing is no more murder than all sexual intercourse is adultery." There is a difference. Many times in the Old Testament, God commanded capital punishment for certain kinds of crimes.

When is it right? To bring about justice. To preserve freedom. To reduce evil in the world.

When is it Right to Fight, Part Two

Rick WarrenArticle by Rick Warren, Saddleback Church. Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA., a congregation that now averages 16,000 in attendance each weekend. Rick is also author of The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church, and founder of, a global Internet community for those in ministry. From Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox, a free weekly e-newsletter for those in ministry. Copyright (c) 2003, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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