Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 8b — “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… A time for war, and a time for peace.”
The ugly reality is that war has always been a fact of life on our planet. Clans, tribes and nations have risen up in an aggressive manner against others. In response, groups have organized to defend themselves against such hostile acts.
War can teach us much about ourselves. Like everything else, opinions may divide us; hawks may be eager for battle, doves urge peaceful resolution between powers. The Bible can be used by each side to rationalize positions.
Isaiah 2:4 — “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
Joel 3:10 — “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.”
I was too young for Vietnam and too old for recent conflicts in the Middle East, so I never experienced the battlefield. I can only imagine what that might have been like and how it could have affected me.
I feel that I am patriotic, yet God is first on my list, the nation follows. If I had ever been called upon to defend my country in this manner, I would have done so. Yet, if I lived to tell the tale, and return home safely, what would happen then?
One of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not kill.” For me, this commandment does not change because of war. It remains constant. To take the life of another person breaks the commandment, period, even in war.
So, I would return with thankfulness and celebration. However, for me, this would not come first. Instead, I would allow time for reflection, contrition, confession and repentance; there would be a period of “sackcloth and ashes” before any waving of our flag.
I would do so because I try my best to see everything through the lens of faith, having it set as a priority, treating it seriously, and not as an afterthought.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.