Monday, August 02, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: A Nation at War

The Pastor’s Perspective
“A Nation at War”
First Published: March 25, 2003

America is now at war, and as the first shots were being fired, First Presbyterian Church was at prayer. It was one of the best seasons of intercession that I can remember at First Presbyterian, and Ruling Elder Edmund Johnston told me that it was the longest season of prayer he could recall since the Easter Flood of 1979. It was profoundly affecting to hear the earnest prayers of God’s people, young and old, seeking his face.

One young man, a university student who was home with us, wrote meet immediately thereafter and said: “I just wanted to share with you how encouraging tonight’s prayer meeting was. I found myself in what is, unfortunately, too often an unfamiliar state — that of delighting in the prayers of God's people. Although I’m not entirely sure why, I was amazed and deeply moved as person after person stood to pour out their hearts. As a college student, the prayers of our older members seemed especially poignant. It was strangely peaceful to hear a congregation expressing its dependence, not on a mighty military force, but on an Almighty God. With all the talk lately of “our great nation” it was more than refreshing to be reminded of “our Greater God.” I was deeply struck by [one of our missionaries] Howard Shelden’s statement printed in the bulletin: “Wherever God calls us to is the safest place to be at that particular moment, whether it is to die . . . or to live.”

When I got home, it struck me that just over a dozen years ago the first Gulf War had begun on a Wednesday night. I had friends fighting in that conflict, and I have friends in harm’s way this time too. Yesterday afternoon, seeing pictures of young wives and children saying goodbye to their husbands and daddies, not knowing whether they would see them again, brought this thing home to me again, perhaps as powerfully as anything since September 11, 2001.

A few in our nation, and more around the world have questioned the morality of this war. Indeed, the Roman Pontiff has taken it upon himself to advise that no military action is just that is not approved by the U.N. I for one, disagree. The Bible says that God established government and that it “does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:4). This is precisely what our President, Armed Forces and Allies are attempting to do.

I think Derek Thomas’s comments were very helpful on this: “My own personal point of view (as a British citizen living in the United States) is that we are to pray for our enemies, and Saddam Hussein is just that: an enemy and a tyrant of Hitlerian and Stalinesque proportions. He is a threat to every nation on earth, Islamic as well as Christian. Because the use of terrorism is so utterly unpredictable, I personally support the taking of pre-emptive action to try and prevent it when the threat of it appears credible. Having lived in Northern Ireland for twenty years I came to that conclusion a long time ago despite what was often a hostile American reaction to this viewpoint. I therefore support this war. Pacifism at this juncture is muddle-headed and worse: it provokes an enemy to take risks and will in the long run cost us more. But that does not prevent me from praying for this man's salvation, or the salvation of members of his army. In a recent service at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson I did just that. It was instinctive rather than planned. But I felt it was the right thing to do at that time. After all, the work of the Holy Spirit is going to do far more good in the long run than anything a bullet can do. But now that war has begun, the perspective changes a little. Because I believe our cause is just I want righteousness to prevail; and evil to be defeated. That means that when it comes down to it, I want our troops (British and American) to survive rather than Saddam’s. I will pray that the loss of life be minimal, that the execution of the war be honorable, and will thank God for victory–even when that victory is pronounced on the graves of men and women War is horrible. It is the most horrible thing there is. But it is sometimes necessary. And now is such a time.”

Let us pray for a real and lasting peace, which in this case, necessitates war.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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