Just War?

The events that are unfolding in Lebanon and Israel are horrific. They are, of course, the most recent chapter of a bloody conflict and history which must disturb every person with a conscience. I’ve been challenged by the largely pro-Israeli stance of the press and the media here in the UK and and deeply troubled by the lack of a coherent voice from the Christian sector of British and North American life. Why can’t we just say that the killing of innocent men and women in Lebanon and Israel is wrong? But the larger question has to be does violence ever solve anything? I think not, but would value your view.

War is never just. Look at the faces of mourning mothers and angry brothers and you can see that this is not going to solve anything. Coming from Northern Ireland, I’ve had my share of the consequences of violence. From friends to family members, I’ve attended too many funerals to think that the violent taking of another person’s life ever solves anything.

How can we justify the indiscriminate killing of almost 800 Lebanese people? How can Hezbollah justify the deat of over 50 Israelis? And why isn’t there a clear and unambiguos call for a ceasefire and an end to the outrage that is taking place in the Middle East at the moment. If the attacks on Lebanon by Israel were reversed, Tony Blair, George Bush and a myriad of other western leaders would have spoken up.  How can leaders of the Christian church remain silent in the face of this atrocity? The attacks are wrong and they must stop. I’m in contact with Lebanese and Israeli people and over the last few days have been heart broken as I read the emails of terrorised Lebanese civilians. Their children, their brothers and their parents are dying. Their homes are being destroyed and their futures shattered. The same is true of many families in Israel. The YMCA in Lebanon and the Baptist church are creaking under the pressure, yet determined to stay and do something to help those who are suffering.

We should take sides in this conflict. But we should take the side of the attacked, the excluded, the bereaved, the poor and the mourning – whatever their nationality and whatever the shade of their religious or political convictions. God will not take the side of either Lebanon or Israel. He will stand with every one who is being needlessly attacked on both sides. We should too.

I’m reminded of the story of the fall of Jericho recorded in Joshua Chapter 5. Joshua wanted God to takes sides and asked God which side He was on:

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"

14 "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord [d] have for his servant?"

15 The commander of the LORD’s army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.

God patently refused to be nationalistic with Joshua and we should follow his example. I was challenged yesterday by Matthew Choater 15 which tells me simply that after Jesus had spent time in Judea – he departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon – modern day Lebanon.

God is not only in Jersualem, he is in Beirut as well.


  1. it seems to me that Joshua’s question to the man standing before him sword drawn was that of a brave and courageous leader asking if he was there to help the Israelites or to fight against them. Such fearlessness on Joshua’s part in approaching what in effect was Christ standing with drawn sword becomes such a great leader as he was. God himself had bid Joshua to be courageous and so he had no need to ask God to take sides. He was at the walls of Jericho because of God’s leading of the Israelites into the Promised Land. It seems to me that a visitation of Christ with drawn sword declaring Himself as ‘commander of the Lord’s army’, is a pretty good indication that the war in which the Israelites were about to engage was not only just, but it was of God who subsequently directed Joshua in the taking of Jericho and the killing of all its inhabitants.
    This is hard to reconcile with the God who has compassion on all that He has made. The press and media were, in the recent conflict surprisingly pro -Israeli but in my view this is a welcome state of affairs. The media is adept at pulling the heart strings of the viewer without attempting to give a more in depth analysis of what is actually going on in the Middle East.. To reduce the events of the Middle East into a series of news items on the broken and shattered lives of both Lebanese and Israeli leads to the inevitable conclusion that war is never just..
    But sometimes war is just.. Hitler tried to wipe out Jewry and the allies gathered together to defeat Nazism and all its evils. Germany was flattened. The British who turned away Jewish refugees from their shores had their own cities flattened. The same spirit of hatred that motivated Hitler is alive and well in the hearts of Hezbollah and others who would turn their hand against the Jews.
    God will not abandon his people. How do you fight an enemy bent on your destruction who launches attacks from residential areas. Would any soveriegn nation on earth stand by and watch its citizen’s bombarded and do nothing?
    God was patently on the side of the Israelites when they took Jericho and he is still on their side today. I will not side with those who are bent on the destruction of Israel, to do so is against God and his sovereign purpose.
    Finally, which is the more indiscriminate act: to fire inaccurate rockets into Israel with the express purpose of killing, or to warn those people living in the areas from which these rockets are fired to leave so that the Israeli military can target those firing the missiles. Listen to the testimony of young men and women in the Israeli military. They are fighting to hold on to the country they love.


  2. With regard to Joshua and the commander of the army of the Lord. The Lord had made them stay in the wilderness for forty years until all the mighty men who had come from Egypt were dead and Joshua was commissioned by God to circumsise the ones born in the wilderness. this was a second chance to become righteous in Gods sight and only through their obedience to Gods instruction did they then become worthy of Gods promise of victory over Jerico and even then they had to be open to and follow through the exact instructions our Lord had given them. But even after the miricle of Jerico being levelled flat they decided to attack the city of Al without first seeking God’s face and thus were defeated. This pattern of righteousness and unrighteousness of seeking and ignoring is repeated throughout the Old Testiment. So how can we say whether our Lord is fighting for Israel as their actions appeared to be based on earthly reactins rather than being divinely led. I only say this because when God was fighting on the side of the tribes of Israel he delivered total victory in very miraculous ways. The Bible tells us that Israel are God’s chosen people and He would not allow them to be totally delivered into the hands of their enemies, but we read of God’s judgments against episodes of unrighteousness where God fought against them, so to say that God always fights for Israel is to ignore biblical teaching. So there is only one question we need to ask ourselves are the Israeli leaders righteous in Gods eyes?


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