Remembrance Sunday and the Christian View of War

Every November, you can find those who claim Christians shouldn’t observe Remembrance Sunday.  They claim it glorifies war, and that Christians should always oppose war, and anything to do with war.  The Scriptures, though, teach a different perspective.

I covered some of these verses on Sunday in my sermon, but not all of them.  I won’t write in great detail about any of them, but rather mostly just provide many Scriptures that relate to war.


Ecclesiastes 3:8

A time of war, and a time of peace.

 1. It is inevitable that wars will come

Matthew 24:6

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

2. Our trust is in the Lord when war comes

Psalms 27:1-3

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.”

3. Peace is a gift of the Lord

Joshua 11:23

So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.”

II Chronicles 14:6

And he built fenced cities in Judah: for the land had rest, and he had no war in those years; because the LORD had given him rest.”

II Chronicles 17:10

And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat.

Isaiah 40:2

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.

A nation has no particular right to peace and freedom from wars.  It is a gift that is in the hands of the Almighty.  There is no particular reason for nations that reject Him to expect to receive this gift from Him.

4. War is not always wrong

God describes Himself as “a man of war”

Exodus 15:3

The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.

Isaiah 42:13

The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies.

If war were always wrong, God would not use this terminology to describe Himself.

The dignity of man requires the death of those who will kill others

Genesis 9:5-6

5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.
6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Note:  those who oppose this principle denigrate man.  God has given mankind His image, and thus murder is a horrendous crime.  And because God has given mankind His image, He has also given mankind the moral and intellectual capability to judge guilt and innocence, and the ability to deal justly with this horrendous crime.  To deny this is to deny the dignity of humanity made in God’s image.

If this is true on the level of an individual murderer, how much more is it true when a nation seeks to murder those of another nation?

Governments are to punish evildoers, even with death

Romans 13:3-4

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.  Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?  Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good.  But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain:  for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

God expected Israel to go to war at times

Numbers 31:3-4

3 And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian.
4 Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war.”

Judges 3:10

And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim.

God gave (and commended) skill in war

II Samuel 22:35

He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.

Psalm 144:1

Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:

I Chronicles 12:38

All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king.

God commended wisdom in making war

Proverbs 20:18

Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.

Proverbs 24:6

For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.

God gave commandments concerning war

(See Deuteronomy 20 for a series of instructions having to do with the way Israel should prepare for war and conduct themselves in war.)

God uses war to judge evildoers

II Chronicles 16:9

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.”

Joel 3:9

Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up:  Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears:  let the weak say, I am strong.

Deuteronomy 2:30

But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day.

War is used to illustrate our spiritual struggle

II Corinthians 10:3-4

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)”

I Timothy 1:18

This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;

These Scriptural principles all demonstrate that war can be the good and right response to evildoers.  Those in a position of authority are responsible to use the moral and intellectual capabilities God has given them to assess whether war is necessary to protect the innocent and punish the evil.  They will be held responsible for their decision and the reasons for which they made it.  It is not acceptable to go to war for immoral reasons, but it is also not acceptable to refuse to go to war when necessary.

5. Sometimes Peace is Simply Impossible

There are those who will war against you even if you want peace

Psalm 55:21

The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.

Psalm 120:6-7

6 My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.
Psa 120:7 I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.

Psalm 140:1-2

1 Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man;
2 Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war.

Many times, the world has seen those who will be satisfied with nothing short of war.  They simply hate and want to kill.

6. Sometimes delay can be costly

Ecclesiastes 8:11

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

If war must be fought, delay (even in the hopes of averting the war) can make it worse.  But also:

7. War is not to be entered lightly

Rushing into war is costly

In Judges 20, three times the children of Israel went to war against the tribe of Benjamin.  The first two times, it appears they entered the war lightly, even though the cause was just, and suffered grave defeats.  The third time, when they truly sought the Lord as to whether they should go to war, He went with them.

It is a most serious thing to kill, even if rightly

Numbers 35 tells us that under God’s law in the Old Testament, even an accidental killing had serious consequences — much more an intentional act of war.  And David was limited in what he could do for the Lord because he had killed many in the wars, even though God had sent him to war on many occasions:

I Chronicles 22:8

But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.

Shedding the blood of war in peace is evil

I Kings 2:5 

Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet.

If this was evil for one man to do, how much more those who put an army into action to shed the blood of war in peace?

8. Not everyone who talks about peace is honest

Some talk about peace intending war

Psalm 55:21

The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.

Some talk about peace in resistance to God

Micah 3:5

Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.

There will always be those who will use the good and right desire for peace as a means to gain influence for their own ends.  They will talk about “peace” without regard to any sound moral basis as to whether war is necessary — but that can simply have the result of bringing war, for those who hate and want to kill, steal, and subjugate others will not be influenced by these false and manipulative calls for peace.

9. God will end war

Psalm 46:9

He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.

Isaiah 2:4

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Micah 4:3

And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Closing thought:

In war, we see the worst of man, in the hatred and rage of battle, the desire to kill, the lust to destroy and to conquer and control, in the atrocities which often come after the battle.  But in war we also see the best of man, for in war we see countless pictures in action of the great love of our Saviour:  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

It is that love, more than anything else, that we remember this week, on Remembrance Sunday, and tomorrow, on the eleventh day of November.  We do not glorify war, but we accept it as part of the human condition, as something that will be necessary until our Lord brings in peace and rules in righteousness and justice.  And accepting it, we are thankful for those who laid down their lives for their friends, and in so doing provided an illustration, imperfect but real, of our Saviour’s love in laying down His life for those who had rebelled against Him.

Other Remembrance Day posts:

It is the Soldier

The Last March of the Ents / For Remembrance Sunday

11/11/11 “Would You Like to Buy a Poppy?”

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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2 Responses to Remembrance Sunday and the Christian View of War

  1. Thank you for this Pastor Gleason. It is very helpful. I always think that 1940 in Britain provides a fine illustration of how war in God’s providence humbles a people before the Lord and shows them their dependence on Him.

    In 1940 this nation had a God-fearing King and two national days of prayer were called at the time of Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain, which were widely supported up and down the land. This prayer and national humbling before God led to many lives being saved from the beaches of Dunkirk and to a remarkable deliverance from the invader in the Battle of Britain.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Thank you, Pastor Simpson.

      Britain in 1940 had drifted from God in many ways, and it is not surprising the nation suffered wars, but there was still an awareness of God and a reverence for Him, and He blessed as a result. Now, the nation is trying to suppress any reverence, or even acknowledgment, of God, and that won’t end well.

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