In order to avoid as much misunderstanding as I can, let me clarify what I just said. Firstly, citizens of the United States have a moral duty to bring peace to the Middle East. This does not, by necessity, mean the government (by use of military power) has a moral duty (or even a right) to bring peace to the Middle East (though it could be the case in certain circumstances). Secondly, we have a duty to bring peace to the Middle East. This does not, by necessity, mean our goal is to bring democracy.
So how do citizens of the U.S. bring peace to the Middle East?
I would suggest that after understanding a brief history of the current events and the role the U.S. has already played up to this point, we should then look at how we can bring peace to the Middle East and why it’s a necessity we do so. I will say right now, that at this point, we do have a right for military power in certain aspects to this (I’ll explain this below).
But for now, I think we at least ought to take a moment to reflect on our past actions (as a nation), and repent from what we’ve done.
This will be as brief as I can make it. There's just not enough time in one blog post to go into any real detail regarding the history of the Middle East and American's involvement in it. But "America's involvement" is the key phrase with which I'm concerned. Our most noticeable involvement has unfortunately not been our missionary work, but our military presence and weapons dealing. While I certainly can't agree or endorse much of what Jon Stewart says or does, the video just below is a great example of how wrong our government has gotten it in terms of our involvement in the Middle East.
If you don't have the eight minutes to watch it, it's basically this: we've militarily "spread democracy" over there (as if that's a legitimate way to spread democracy), as well as armed every country in the region. Consequently, very terrible and evil people have now taken hold of those weapons we’ve given other countries and are massacring thousands of innocent victims.
Again, there's a lot more detail to that history there. But no matter how you delve down into the details, except at the point where the U.S. was actively engaged in a self-defense war (self-defense, not other-country-defense - I'll explain that below) it is never going to come out to the place where America had the right to intervene in the military affairs of other nations.
We ought to applaud with as much zeal as we can muster our Christian missionaries for the work they have done in that region of the world (as well as all other regions of the world). But it is a very sad thing indeed, that the hallmark understanding of what America has done for the Middle East has not been Christian missionary disciple making but rather military intervention and occupation. With the few great and brave exceptions of our missionaries over there and the churches that support them, by and large America’s understanding of how to spread peace has been turned upside down with regard to church and state roles.
It is the State’s job (read – civil government of the United States) to protect its citizens in self-defense wars. It is the church’s job to spread out into the world and proclaim the gospel of peace.
But for far too long, our roles have been reversed (again, there are exceptions, but I’m speaking by and large). For while the church (by and large) stays home to protect its own (which I admit is in part a necessity, but it’s not their only role in the great commission), the government is the one sending “missionaries” over – not with a gospel of peace – but with weapons, military might and occupation, for the purpose of militarily – not missionaly - spreading, not peace, but democracy.
This is a far cry from the great commission, and a far cry from what the Bible explains as the ethics of war and foreign policy. And it is from these things that we must absolutely repent!
So what now?
How do we now fulfill our duty to bring peace to the Middle East, and by what means shall we accomplish it?
Well to give you a short answer, I believe a role reversal would sum it up quite nicely. Let the State (read – civil government of the United States) protect us in self-defense wars. And let the Christian church send willing and called missionaries to bring the good news of Jesus Christ – and the peace that only He can provide – to the foreign lands.
Now I ask you to hear me out and bear with me just a little longer.
This is what I mean….
Military Might - Protecting U.S. Citizens
First, a word needs to be said up front about genocide.
That the charter of Hamas calls for the complete destruction of the occupants of a certain land territory or religious group (obviously I’m meaning Jewish Israel) is not what makes it wrong. (Yikes! – Yes I did say that, but please keep reading.) Also, that the charter of ISIS calls for the complete destruction of pretty much anyone who does not convert to their specific understanding of Islam is not what makes it wrong.
Given how Israel itself first occupied the land (Josh. 11:18-20), I would hope we can understand that.
What is wrong about the charters of Hamas and ISIS, is that they are not from the Lord - as Israel's initial charter was (Deut. 7:1-2, 20:16-18).(1) But that’s the thing. This was Israel’s initial charter and was only a one-time direct revelation from God concerning His own divine judgment against the then current occupants of the land.
As we see elsewhere in the Law, He has given specific standing orders concerning all other warfare, those not in conjunction with Israel’s initial military campaigns in the Promised Land - namely that:
We can see these restrictions in the following passage (with my corresponding point numbers after each relevant text):
“When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. (2) And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. (2) But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. (1) And when the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword, (3) but the women and the little ones, the livestock, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourselves. And you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the LORD your God has given you. Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here. (3, 4)
For an extended commentary on the above points of just warfare and the basis in Deuteronomy, I recommend Greg Bahnen’s lectures available at Covenant Media Foundation.(2) Also see the following footnote for some brief commentary.(3)
But taking that for granted, we have at least two crises we need to think about: the crisis with Hamas and Israel, and the crisis with ISIS and Iraq.
REGARDING HAMAS and ISRAEL
Given the above rules for engaging in warfare, I think it is important that the American military stays out of this conflict (Prv. 26:17). Hamas, at this point, is not targeting America but Israel (and Israel is perfectly capable of defending itself). On the other hand, America truly needs to stay out of it; and we have absolutely no right at all to tell Israel what they can and can’t do and when they can and can’t do it.(4)
Of course, if Hamas is targeting America, that’s another story, which brings us to the other conflict…
REGARDING ISIS and IRAQ
On the Iraq front and in regard to ISIS, as a military force, America still does not have the right to intervene just because of the horrors ISIS is performing. I know that’ll sound cold, callous, and downright bad and even “un-Christian” to many, so please read the footnote if you want further explanation as to why I think it is the Christian thing to say.(5)
However, because ISIS has made it very clear, in no uncertain terms, that they are targeting the United States and will not rest until they see their own flag raised above the White House, obviously they are threatening us and the welfare of our citizens. It is at this point that our government has the right (and duty) to intervene militarily. And we ought to do so.(6)
Now of course there are other considerations here too. We ought to get the permission from the legitimate government of Iraq in order to use their land (Num. 20:17) as we conduct our warfare, which I’m sure they’ll be happy to give us.
However, after we have won our battle and neutralized the threat ISIS so horrendously put upon us, we have no right to stay in Iraq. We need to bring our troops home and not permanently settle in a nation not our own. (Why in the world we still have military installations in Korea, Japan, Germany, etc. is beyond me).
Necessary though it may be regarding our military campaigns against ISIS, there is a much more powerful way to bring much more lasting peace to the Middle East…
Spiritual Might - Spreading the Gospel of Peace
When the dust settles, it is absolutely imperative that we start (or rather continue) our missionary work in the Middle East.
HEAR ME ON THIS! I am by no means saying everyone ought to go over as missionaries to this part of the world. This certainly calls for wisdom. For one thing, God calls missionaries (Acts 13:1-3); they don’t call themselves. Just as He designs the hands to be hands and the eyes to be eyes, He arranges his own parts of the Body of Christ to work in the nature of how they are gifted (1 Cor. 12:18-21, 26-27; Eph. 4:15-16).
Secondly, general wisdom calls for waiting for the dust to settle: "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it." (Prv. 27:12). Now is not the time to go over as a missionary. You’re not being prudent if you do; you’re being like a fool who will suffer for it.
Thirdly, when the time is right – when the warring has for the time ceased, those who are called ought to (they must!) go (1 Cor. 9:16)! And their churches very well ought to (they must!) support them (3 Jn. 1:5-8)!
But let me make clear that I’m not so naïve as to think that if America does protect its citizens by taking the threat of ISIS into consideration and sending our military over there to neutralize the threat (and, in case I haven’t been clear – "neutralizing the threat" means completely wiping out all the combatants – Deut. 20:13), that it’s all of a sudden a “safe” place to be a missionary.
On the contrary, I very much believe it will still be very, very unsafe. But sometimes God calls our missionaries into very unsafe territory (2 Cor. 11:24-27). And so you better make sure – I would say through fasting and prayer (Acts 13:1-3) – that you’re called.
And if you are, I think you would be seeing this rightly if you see it as a suicide mission.
That's a sobering thought.
But one only God can provide and carry out. And it's truly He who is glorified in all of this.
So great a difference though, than the "glory" (so called) of other suicide missionaries from what are referred to as the “Muslim extremists.” For while they embark on their suicide missions, they do so in order to kill their enemies (the perceived enemies of God). Yet while you take up your own suicide mission, you do so in order to die for your enemies (even the enemies of God) that they might know by your witness that there is One who did in fact also die, in order to pay for the sins of all those who trust in Him, to redeem for Himself people from every tribe, language, people, and nation (Rev. 5:9) - including even their own.
The Bible does have the answer to the atrocities occurring in the Middle East. Just, self-defense warfare, and missionary work spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We have much from which to repent.
For all the "boasting" (ignorant boasting I would say) we do in America regarding separation of church and state, we've somehow entangled ourselves where in many important points the roles have been reversed. We need to repent of this.
And we have much to do. We need to leave other nations alone where we don't belong. We need to stop bullying other nations into democracy. We need to protect our own citizens. We need to continue (and perhaps increase?) our missionaries into foreign lands that do not know the gospel. We need to pray that God will send His called laborers into the harvest (Lk. 10:2).
It is not too late to reverse the terrible role switch the U.S. government has done with the U.S. church. We can repent and ensure our nation is not spreading democracy through the sword but rather protecting its citizens. And we can repent and ensure our churches are not just protecting their own but are spreading (not democracy, but) the gospel of peace.
In short, we do have a very important and great role to play in bringing peace to the Middle East: conducting a self-defense war against the enemies of our country (and then leaving that country as soon as the war is won), and sending missionaries to the Middle East with the only thing that can bring peace - the gospel of Jesus Christ!
May He grant us the repentance and wisdom necessary to do just that.
To the Lamb of God our Savior, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords - to Him alone be the glory! Amen.
(1) Obviously if you think Israel was wrong to commit the genocide it did in first conquering the Promised Land, then your argument is not with me, but with God. I’m going to assume the Bible is the very Word of God; so even if you disagree with me you’ve got to realize that the truth and divinely given inerrant words of the Christian Bible is and always will be my operating, foundational premise.
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(3) I don’t have time to do the full commentary justice. But it’s clear from the context of this passage that the wars were in self-defense (“against the city that makes war with you” (20:20), and that the preservation of fruit bearing trees (20:19-20) is a clear standard to use only force that is necessary to neutralize the threat. The purpose of self-defense war is not to completely destroy all of life, but only to destroy the combatants. Leave the women and children (and other non-combatants – it is assumed in the context that the males destroyed are combatant males), and leave even the fruit trees so that life can remain after the military conflict is over.
(4) Now as I’ve said in a similar post, if you believe Israel is in the right and you want to help, no one should stop you in volunteering yourself (as a private citizen) to go over to Israel and volunteer yourself in the IDF. But the U.S. as a nation does not have the right to send its troops over to protect Israel from Hamas, since it is not a self-defense war at this point.
Of course, if Israel wanted to become the 51st state of the U.S.A. and fall under our constitution, and pay our taxes, and benefit from our military, etc., then at that point, we would have every legitimate reason to fight Hamas. Because at that point, it would be a war of self-defense.
(5) War is a brutal, bloody, terrible thing in which to be involved. And it ought to be avoided at all costs. As above, it should always be the last resort. But in that same turn, it should always be in self-defense. Not the defense of another nation.
Of course there are various ways to look at this. See the above note for one way (the other nation becoming another state of the U.S.A. for instance).
For another way, consider that Iraq (even without ISIS brutality) is not a God-honoring nation. So firstly, why should Americans risk their lives, freedom, and blood only to keep a country afloat that does not honor God and does not promote the gospel (or even an atmosphere in which the gospel can be promoted without persecution)?
Some will say, but what about the Good Samaritan? Shouldn’t we help our neighbor in need?
Absolutely, yes we should! (Of course, it might do you well to consider too that in the parable of the Good Samaritan, he himself did not intervene during the robbery and mugging but only after that fact). However, the parable ends with “go do likewise.” So if you’re convinced you ought to help those in need – then, YOU, go and do likewise.
But by sending (or authorizing our government to send) troops over there, you’re not going and doing likewise. You’re telling someone else that they need to go and do likewise while you stay put and observe on TV. Are you really being a Good Samaritan at that point? – Reflect on that.
(6) Of course even here there are things to take into consideration. Is the threat valid? Is it real?
Consider a scenario: let’s say an undisciplined, un-athletic 14 year old boy threatens to kill a 26 year old martial arts black belt. Would it be morally right for the black belt to do any type of physical harm to the boy or to take his threat seriously?
Now let’s say this boy has a gun (let’s never mind the fact that it was the father of the black belt that stupidly gave it to him). Now is it morally right for the black belt to do any type of physical harm to the boy or to take his threat seriously? I would argue yes. But again, with only such as force that is necessary to neutralize the threat (which depending on the boy’s tenacity and stupidity very may well be death).
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