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Having thoughtful Discussions with older Children About War

With ISIS in the headlines and reports of thousands of Iraqis fleeing for their lives, it’s an appropriate time to have a conversation with your older children about how Christians should think about war. St. Augustine and later Thomas Aquainis formulated what has been called, the Just War Theory, arguing that some wars are morally justified. In doing so they laid down the principles that ought to guide Christians before going to war.

Their task was a challenge. Critics seem to have on their side the very teachings of Jesus himself, “Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek,” and “thou shall not kill,” teachings that seem incompatible with any form of defiance or violence.

But Augustine argued that God judges the heart. The highest motivation for every act or thought must be love. Therefore, what is done from love, to bring about justice, must be good. That opened the door for Christians to perform outward acts that might appear to be forbidden by scripture.

So, what follows is a brief summary of this Just War Theory. 1. Wars must only be fought by a legitimate authority Individuals or groups of individuals may not declare war. Only governments, which are ordained by God, may do so (Romans 13). There is no private right to kill, except in self-defense.

2. The cause must be just Wars must be fought to protect the innocent, resist aggression or to support the rights of some oppressed group, never to claim more territory or power. War must advance the good, avoid evil, have clear aims and with the ultimate goal peace and well being for the citizens.

3. War must be used only as a last resort “Blessed are the peace makers” must be our highest aim.

4. There must be a reasonable chance for success Going to war and killing of others when the likelihood for success is small, is immoral. Essentially it’s the murder of soldiers for some immoral patriotic or religious ideal.

5. War must be proportional There must be a balance between the good that war may achieve, versus the harm done. Therefore, one wouldn’t “nuke” a city of a million, because the army of that nation had killed a thousand citizens of another country. That’s “over punishing” your enemy.

6. Every effort must be made to protect innocent citizens Warring armies must make every reasonable precaution to not injure innocent civilians, or their property.

Justifying war Killing is a prima fucie wrong and always stands in need of a justification. Without justification on moral grounds, it is a sin. Therefore, the burden of proof falls on the nation who intends to go to war.

Do you agree with these criteria? Before you discuss those ideas with your children, apply them to World War II, the first Gulf War and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Did the U.S. go into these wars justly? Does the current “war” on ISIS meet most of these tests?

Go before the Lord for wisdom. Discuss your thoughts with spiritually mature Christians. This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue, what is the Christian position? Then gather your older children together and discuss war from God’s perspective.

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