The ‘Just War’
Early in the fifth century, St. Augustine reduced the problem to its essence. Augustine related a parable of a Christian man, his sister, and his mother walking down a remote path through a wilderness area. They are confronted by a band of outlaws, who surround the little threesome and move in for the assault. The man knows that the outlaws will rob and kill him, kill his mother, and rape his sister unless he fights and kills the aggressors first. But is it “Christian” to fight and kill? If he were alone, he reasons, he would not resist. He would turn the other cheek. But he is not alone. His sister and mother are with him. They are weak. They are innocent. They are defenseless. He is strong, and he is responsible for them.
Yes, he reasons, he must defend his sister and his mother. To fail to protect them would be a far greater evil than to fight and kill the aggressors. Thus was born the theory of the “Just War,” which justifies the use of military force by the strong to protect and defend the innocent and the defenseless.
My conclusion was that, as a Christian, and without apology to anyone, I could be a soldier, a participant in the military profession, and that my duties as a soldier, even if they required me to kill in carrying out the purpose of my profession, were consistent with the highest Christian values.
But can the purpose of military force be prostituted? Can military force be used for evil? Of course it can. Military force in itself is neither good nor bad, moral nor immoral. It is how it is used which gives it moral content. Military force used to defend our nation, our people, and our way of life—is good. Military force used to attack other nations or people for selfish purposes—is evil.
It also follows that military leaders, at all levels, have a responsibility to insure that military force is used for good and not for evil. Throughout its history, with only one exception, the military forces of our nation have been employed in support of the highest value of the Christian faith—to protect and enhance life.
Now what does this all mean? First, it means that as a Christian, you can and should integrate your faith with your profession. You must allow your relationship with Jesus Christ to influence every facet of your life, to include the daily duties of your military profession. To do otherwise is to deny your faith. And, second, it means that you can throw yourself into your military profession with the full confidence that you are involved in an endeavor which is entirely consistent with your Christian faith. In fact, to fail to perform your military duties to the very best of your capabilities is, again, a denial of your faith.
At West Point that I became a believer, a follower of Jesus Christ. What, truly, does that mean? When a person becomes a Christian—that is, when he is converted, saved, regenerated, born again—he pledges his total allegiance to Jesus Christ. He vows—promises—to follow Him, to believe Him, to obey Him. The new Christian adopts the values of Jesus Christ as his own.
Whatever Jesus says is true, the Christian accepts as true. Whatever Jesus states is right or wrong, the Christian accepts as right or wrong. Whatever Jesus says is important, the Christian accepts as important.
Becoming a Christian is not joining a church, although all Christians should join together with other Christians in worship, fellowship and service.
Becoming a Christian is establishing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is like getting married. In the marriage vows, we promise to forsake all others, and cleave only unto our spouse. Becoming a Christian is making a vow to forsake every other way of life, every other philosophy, every other set of values, and to cleave only to Jesus Christ.
Our ultimate purpose is to be like Him, to be conformed to His image, to think like He thought, to respond like He responded, to reflect His character before the world.
We are to emulate His attitude of humility, selfless service, and willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others. We are to become like He was: a giving person, and not a getting person; a person who seeks to contribute to society, and not suck the sweet juices out of society for selfish pleasure. We are to look at every situation, every assignment, and every personal relationship, with an attitude which says, “What can I give, not what can I get; how can I contribute, not what’s in it for me.”
What was Jesus really like? Jesus was the very epitome of integrity. Unlike the hypocritical Pharisees, Jesus lived what He taught. He taught what He lived. His teachings reflected His own character.
He was a doer of the word, and not just a hearer of the word. His life and teachings were the same. Jesus lived the words of Micah 6:8, in which the prophet states, “He hath shown you, O Man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly, [faithfully,] with thy God.” In Matthew 23, Jesus admonished the Pharisees because they had neglected the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Jesus was a man of justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Jesus “did justly.”
There was no corruption in His life or on His lips. He approached every situation seeking to do what was right, just, fair, and honest. Jesus “loved mercy,” His mercy extended to all people, rich and poor, young and old, powerful and weak. He loved people. He had compassion on people. He loved helping people, healing people, giving to people. He sought the very best for everyone. He was not a getting person. He was a giving person—giving life, hope, and encouragement.
And Jesus “walked humbly and faithfully” with God. He loved prayer. He loved to be alone with God. He carried out His mission in life faithfully. He never wavered or questioned. He walked humbly with God, and he was faithful to others also, including His family, the disciples and the multitudes. He kept His promises, and could be relied on. If He told you something, you could believe it.
And so, as Christians, in every facet of our lives, we should reflect the character of Jesus Christ. We should do justly, we should love mercy, and we should walk humbly and faithfully with God. As we serve in the military forces of our nation, we should do what is fair and just and right. We should do what is merciful and compassionate. We should do what is faithful and humble before God. There is no other way.
As Christians, as followers of Jesus Christ, as believers, we must live our lives on a higher plane. We must always take the higher road and do the harder right rather than the easier wrong. And we must lead. We must lead our soldiers, our peers, and, by example, our superiors, to higher ground, leading them to faith, hope, purpose, and commitment. By faith we lead them to do justly, to love mercy, to walk faithfully and humbly with God.
This is your path. Walk ye in it.