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Steve Mickel: Church + War, Romans 12:14,17-21

February 28, 2022

Audio Recording

Church History
Church History
Steve Mickel: Church + War, Romans 12:14,17-21
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:06 Hey everybody. It's really good to have you here. Those are online as well. It's a little somber today. I feel like in both services. And so I need your help today. So if you there's anything that I say that you like, let me know. Okay. Okay. Like that. Yes. Yes. And if, if there's stuff that you don't like, just be silent. Okay. We are not the British parliament around here. No, sir. Can you imagine that church being like a boom, boom. I say that because there's reasons that you might have today to boom. So let's dive in one theologian said Christian theology faces the present and future by entering into a conversation with its own past. And that's what we've been trying to do over these last few weeks in our church history series, we've been looking at the history of the church, the good, the bad, the ugly, and trying to draw principles for maybe why we are where we are today in the church in America.

01:01 and also to look at how we might become into the future that God has for us. And so here's a basic timeline. I'm going to give you a where it's kind of what we've been looking at as a church. We started with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and we're moving on through history. We looked at ground zero divided kingdom, et cetera. And then today, we are looking at the world at war. Now I planned this message, this, this was the message on our calendar for the last, I want to say three or four months. It's not theirs. And I say that because I don't want you to think that this message is being drawn out of the crisis in Ukraine. obviously I think there's probably going to be application to that, but that is not, that was not part of the preparation for this message.

01:50 and so it will be hard for us not to project, that crisis into this message, but it's, it's two different things. We're looking at the history of the church and its relationship. It's unique and interesting relationship that the church had with war kind of separate from the current situation that we're facing. but before we get too far into the message, I want to give you my synopsis. I want to tell you the end before the beginning, because really I want to put you at ease. I want you to be able to breathe more deeply through the message. I don't want your guard to be up. I want you to be able to hear the holy spirit. And so historically the church has had an interesting relationship with, with an, a posture towards war two primary ways that Christianity has responded to war throughout our history.

02:40 either through pacifism or through what's called just war ideology, which is the idea that sometimes war is necessary. And just, and what I found in my study is that good, good, good Christians land on both sides as you'll see as well, there is scriptural for both responses. So what you won't get today is a statement regarding what's the right way or the wrong way. What you will get. I hope is a respect for both, for those who have served in our military, who are currently serving in our armed forces, who are willing to put themselves in harm's way, those who are willing to do what is asked of them by our country to keep our country safe. You have our respect and our admiration

03:39 And for those of you who choose non-violence as your path to follow Christ, I know that has not been a typical or even a popular approach in American Christianity, but take heart because you're in a company of most, all early Christian Church, fathers and sisters choose, they chose non-violence as the way to follow Jesus, including our Messiah himself. So my hope for today is not to get you to switch sides. If you came in as a pacifist, you'll probably leave as a pacifist. If you came in as a judge, just war ideologists, you will leave as a just war ideologists. I imagine that's not the point of the sermon today because there are good reasons for both. But what I do hope you'll leave with is an appreciation and respect for why your friends who are not like you in this regard, think the way they do.

04:44 All right. I love start. I love clap starters. It's always a brave, it's always brave people. What I will give you in just a moment is, three guardrails, regardless of where you're at, that will help each of us pursue God's will, and purpose for our nation. Especially in times of war. Now, as I studied, history for this message, I found there was a question that popped kept popping up to help you understand why you land as either a pacifist or adjust war ideologists. This and this question is super kind of fundamental to the conversation, whether and how you answer this question. We'll probably put you on one side or the other. Do you believe this is the question? Will God establish his kingdom apart from earthly governments or through earthly governments? Now you're going to find in just a moment there, like I said, there's scriptural support for both, but for those that believe that God will establish his kingdom.

05:46 Apart from earthly governments, you te you believe that God's kingdom is enough. It doesn't need any other government for it to stand on its own. And that its value system is a, is a nonviolence posture towards the world. But for those that believe that God will establish his kingdom through earthly governments. You you're like, okay, maybe, maybe war is not the preferred way, but at times there might be reason for it. And that may be even God uses it. And so this is where this is kind of is this the question that you'll be kind of underlying all of this. It's a bit of an oversimplification. I know that, but typically those who believe that war is sometimes necessary. See that God uses the kingdoms of this world at times in order to establish his kingdom on earth. And throughout the old Testament, you see this, it's the narrative of the old Testament where God used nations in order to accomplish his purpose for the nation of Israel.

06:44 for example, let me just give you one example. There's many, God used a Persian king named Cyrus and Cyrus. He was instrumental in bringing back the Jewish people to the land of Israel, and help them rebuild their walls and their, and their temple. This was a secular Persian king, and God used them. It's very clear in the scripture that that's how, that's, how it was interpreted that God used this king Cyrus. And so, but then not only that, because it was just old Testament, somebody would be like, well, it is the old Testament, but the new Testament also talks about a guy named Paul says for he, and he's talking about worldly rulers. Okay. So this is the overarching idea here is that worldly rulers. They are God's servant for your good, but if you do wrong, be afraid for he, worldly rulers does not bear the sword in vain for, he is the servant of God, an Avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrong doers.

07:49 Paul had a very strong sense of that. There might be times God uses what he calls the God's servants, governments, and then Peter joins in the chorus. And he's talking about human institutions, emperors and governors who are sent by him. God, that's, he's talking about sent by God to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. So Peter is also acknowledging, Hey, God may use the governments of this world for his purposes. Now pacifist generally believe that God's establishing his own kingdom with its own set of values and propositions. As Andy Stanley says, Christianity can stand on its two nail scarred feet. It doesn't need anything else. and one of, one of the values of the kingdom is non-violence. And so, so passivist would say that that is the way. And so they have scriptural support as well. Jesus is often talks about, pacifism.

08:49 One case here is blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers for, they shall called sons of God. He says in John chapter 18, my kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting because that's what the kingdoms of this world do, but that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. So he had been arrested and he's in front of pilot, a non-religious leader and pilot is like, are you the king? And are you, you know, are you, he's trying to like put Jesus in a, in a compartment that fits the worldly kind of system. And Jesus is saying, listen, I'm not, my keynote is not of this world. And so we live by a different ethos. If we were, if it was of this world, my people would fight and Jesus would fight too, but he never did.

09:40 Right. He went to the cross, even though he could have called down angels. And then we see, well, he goes on my keynote and out of this world with my kingdom desire to read this audio, this here's Paul again, Paul Paul's so confusing. So, so he says, it's okay. Sometimes God does it. But prior to that, that was in Romans 13. Now we're in Romans 12. This is what he says. So you can see that you can already, I mean, with Paul, you feel the tension. You feel like, okay, it's not maybe there isn't a right way or a wrong way here. So bless those who persecute, who Paul writes, bless and do not curse them, repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all, if possible. So far as it depends on you live peaceably with all beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God for it is written. Vengeance is mine. I will repay says the Lord to the contrary. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink for by. So doing, you will heap burning coals on his head, do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. So Paul was a pacifist and adjust war ideologists all at the same time, but for centuries, the church has disagreed on this. And so I'm not going to clear the air.

11:11 Let me tell you, okay, I'm going to, I'm going to quote Augustine. I'm going to quote CS Lewis. Both were just war advocates. I'm going to quote Bonhoeffer who was a pacifist. I mean, I've already quoted Jesus. So I mean, you're going to get kind of both ends. And so what really, what it's it's can you see the other side? Can you, can you just put yourself like, okay, I get, I, I can see it, but there are some guardrails that I think apply to all of us, regardless of what side you stand on. And here are the three. I would encourage you to write these down. Cause you're going to want to think about these all week. First guardrail. There is no place for wars of religion or vengeance in God's kingdom.

11:58 An eye for an eye is not in the language of Christ. A war of vengeance of revenge is evil. Repaying evil with evil is not his way, but we sometimes forget about this as Christians. I love the Lord of the rings. You all know that if you've been here for a month and, there's this quote that Aragorn gives in the movie, the two towers, and he's, he's he like hyping up the warriors and this is what he says. Show them no mercy for you shall receive none. And that's the way of the world. That's how the world thinks. Did you know, token never wrote that line. It was added later. Token was a pacifist token encouraged actually in his writings, his protagonist to show mercy, even to the orcs who are the antagonists. If you don't know the show, the movie and failing to do so to show mercy to your enemy was to stoop to the level of the enemy.

13:08 And do you know when token wrote most of his writings, what era he lived in world war II. And this is what he said. This is what he wrote in letters. Number 66 and 1944, an ultimately evil job. He's talking about war that war in particular and ultimately evil job for, we are attempting to conquer SAR on with the rain and we shall, it seems succeed. But the penalty is, as you will know, to breed new SAR ons and slowly turn men and ELLs into orcs, he understood that there is a sacrifice that is often paid as a result of war. And for those that I've talked with, who have been in war, they confirm the sacrifices they made emotionally, physically, mentally. So, and so what this means is is that, however, you look at this, if we use force, when we use force, we must use it for the right reason and then the right ways and your thinking, some of you pacifists are thinking right now, there's never a right reason or a right way.

14:26 I can understand just where ideologists who say there are moments to defend victims against unjust aggression. And sometimes you have to use force, not out of a love of killing or out of revenge. I appreciate what St. Augustine said that the wise man, they say will wage just wars. However, if he remembers that he is a being, he will rather lament the fact that he is faced with the necessity of waging, just wars. Nevertheless, even when greater peace and fellowship really do result from just wars, the price in blood and destruction should appall anyone who still has feeling that person will long for a different world.

15:18 There's never a reason for a war of religion or vengeance in God's kingdom. Here's the second guardrail that will help us as we navigate these days, the church stands separate from the governments of this world. Evan did a great job last week of talking about the importance between, the, the church and the state and how those need to be separate. so I don't really want to add anything to that, except for this, that sometimes the church may be called to stand with American policy or at other times against American policy. At times, Christians may have to stand against their own political party, whichever party you're a part of, don't read into this. I get credit for stuff. I, I don't say all the time. So don't do that.

16:25 Bonhoeffer is a great example for us in this discussion. He was a German theologian during world war II, who was by the way, a pacifist and people don't know that he was, but he contended that at times the church, Christians must question the legitimacy of the state's actions. This is how he said it, that the church had an unconditional obligation to the victims of any societal order and that it might even seize the wheel of a state that failed to perform its God given task. You guys know why Bonhoeffer was executed. He was caught as part of the plan to kill Hitler.

17:20 Fascinating. it was two about two years ago where, we decided as a church to go along with our states, mandates, mass squaring, not gathering, super popular opinion decision who made it through that season. it wasn't, it wasn't popular at all. And I remember, I remember Christians would come up to me really upset and some would use Bonhoeffer. I actually heard it. I actually Bonhoeffer quoted many times to me during the season about sometimes you have to stand up against the state. What was interesting is that I was like, I was listening to that and I was like, wait, you're misusing that you know, who Bonhoeffer actually stood up to was this church, the vast majority of German Protestants supported Hitler.

18:20 Now they went quiet when he started killing Jews. But prior to that, the church legitimized Hitler's regime. So Bonhoeffer, when he talks about the church standing up, he was, he's not just talking about against the state. He, he was. So he was so unpopular with his church because he made a stand and he said, sometimes we have to stand against even ourselves. When we align ourselves too closely to a government party. I just want to get this done. Ben, I just want to get off the stage as fast as I can. CS Lewis, who also lived during the time of world war two wrote this, a man may have to die for our country, but no man must in any exclusive sense live for his country. He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation or a party or a class is rendering to Caesar.

19:31 That, which of all things must emphatically. Most emphatically belongs to God himself. So there's this. We have to, there's no place for wars of religions or vengeance. And the church stands separate from the governments of this world. As one current theologian says the only way for Christian churches to avoid critique and denounce. The intoxicating song of nationalist mythologies is for churches to get their own story straight. And our story and our story is that we are first citizens of the kingdom of heaven and secondarily citizens of this great nation. And those two are not the same. They're not all right, third and final. Let's go. guardrail, neither America nor the church are God's chosen nations save the best for last, retired air force chaplain Colonel Rex Williams wrote an interesting article a few years ago called a great nation, but not God's chosen people.

20:51 And then he writes events such as independence day and other national holiday observances often celebrate some mixture of our Christian faith and our nation's heritage. This mix forms, what might be called a civil religion, such a mixture tends to blur, even confuse the lines between our service to God and our service to country. America is a nation founded on godly principles by God-fearing men. As a nation. We have convinced ourselves of our uniqueness with concepts, such as manifest destiny and American exceptionalism. As a nation, we appear favored and blessed by the Lord with success and prosperity unparalleled in human history. Despite all this evidence, the fact is that America is still just one of many nations, although without a doubt, it has been under the Lord's blessing and protection from its very inception. America is not God's uniquely chosen nation. So, so we as Christians are, God's chosen people. The church is not God's chosen nation. He didn't call the church to be the government.

22:05 You can't find that anywhere in scripture, he doesn't call the church to be the government, but also the, the sense that the church is to represent Christ within governments. But there's this, there's this idea. There's this idea out there that you know that well, maybe, maybe America's supposed to be a Christian nation as if God intended us to be a theocracy. You guys know what a theocracy is. So Israel in the Bible was a theocracy. They, it was a nation that was governed by divine authority. And according to God's laws, the American that the founders of our nation never pretended or desired for America to be a theocracy. What did they want us to be a Republic? And who's in charge in a Republic government for the people by the people, the highest place of authority in a Republic are the people, not God.

23:17 William's. Colonel Williams goes on to write these words. We can, for the most part, be good Christians and good Patriots at the same time. We just need to keep it clear in our minds that they are not always the same thing. We go too far when we place devotion to our nation on a level equal to that of devotion to the Lord, God almighty. And see what happens if we kind of, if we forget, is that we can easily begin to justify every war that America fights as a religious war, as a war of good versus evil. And so it's important for us to realize that the church is not a political organization. It's not even a civic organization. It is a spiritual organization. We are called at times to submit to our government or the laws of the land, as, as long as we're able to keep our conscious clear before the Lord, we are citizens of this great country.

24:16 And so, and so we should involve ourselves in helping establishing godly values and laws and, and listen. And if, and when we are called up, you can have a clear conscience based on some of the stuff we've ever done. And you can have a clear conscience to be a pacifist, to be no violence. You can be a, he ain't gonna have a clear conscience to, to fight for your country that see, listen to this. It's not, the church was never supposed to become the law of the land. We are, we are aliens and foreigners living in this country. So what do we do? Well, a couple of things come to mind. one is realize, I hope you see that there may not be a right or a wrong way between pacifism and just war respect one another, regardless of how you might disagree. And the second thing is to always seek peace with your enemies. I think this truth brings us together. Like Augustine said, we long for a different world.

25:22 We long for a world that is not marred by conflict and wars, murder, and injustice. And I think as Christians with the ethic of Jesus, overshadowing us, we can stand and say in the face of war, regardless of where you stand, that there be peace. One, invite the worship team back up, and we're going to partake in communion together. And so if you didn't get one of these, you can just raise your hand. We have some ushers and people who will grab the things. And just so you can just keep a look out for that. And for those of you that are at home or wherever you're watching, if you've got bread or juice available, go ahead and grab that now. And just in a few minutes, we're going to take this together.

26:10 My wife and I had the privilege of living in Europe for about five years. We lived in Croatia and we were part of this, amazing ministry called U-turn Europe, where, we would gather, young adults from 25 European nations, 20 24, 20 17, all together to disciple them, do ministry with them. And every year we would do a camp together in a different nation. And I remember, I remember this one particular camp specifically as you'll you'll know why in just a moment. it was in Poland, we were in Krakow and I, I remembered walking through just listening to the, to the young adults, talk to each other. And it was fascinating. The Dutch, this, I heard this more than once I heard this several times at this camp, the Dutch young adults would come up to the German young adults and they would say, where's my bike. And then they would giggle. It was a, like, it was like, it was, everybody knew what the joke is about. And so I heard a couple of times, where's my bike as a German, like where's my bike. He was like, what is that about? Well, I come to find out that the Germans stole the Dutch's bikes during world war two. So ever since then, the Dutch had been asking Germans, where's my bike. It's kind of dark humor. There's a lot of that in Europe.

27:33 Anyway, that has nothing to do with this story. I want to tell you that it was at that camp that we decided to take the kids to Auschwitz. So 250 young adults quietly walked through the concentration camp and reflected, and there was no words just quietly walked through that evening. We had a service with communion and, and, the pastor is beginning to kind of talk them through, like I'm doing with you right now. And spontaneously a German young adult gets up, comes up in front of everybody else, falls on his knees and begins to publicly repent of what the Germans did in world war II. All of a sudden, all the German young people flood the front of the room and fall down and begin to repent. And then all the other students, they all, they all began to gather around tears. I mean, they were so far removed from world war II.

28:51 I mean, they have no, obviously they have no memory of it, but there's something about war that just, it just impacts multiple generations. And so there's this all of a sudden, there's this forgiveness, forgiveness, and I reconciliation. And I, and I thought about that story as I was thinking about this moment with communion, that there's no better representation of the work of God to reconcile us to himself and to one another, then his sacrifice on the cross, it yells loud and clear that there's only really one way to, there's only one way to have right relationship with God and with each other. And it goes right through the cross of Christ. There's no getting around it. It's only going through it. And so would you open up, the bread and Kind of hold that in your hand for a moment, Jesus, we recognize that this represents your body broken for us so that we might be reconciled to you and to one another. We thank you Jesus, for your sacrifice, that paved the way for true and deep lasting reconciliation Jesus name, go ahead and take the bread.

31:04 I was just thinking, as I, as, as I opened this, I was

31:15 I was just thinking about all the blood that's been spilled Over the generations because of more

31:36 And I, and I've no desire to diminish the sacrifice of that blood that was spilled by saying that it pales in comparison to the blood that was spilled by Christ for the forgiveness of all sin. It did, it did that blood that was spilled accomplish some things we don't need to talk about that, but this blood only his blood spilled for us can accomplish the forgiveness of sins. Only his blood spilled for us can accomplish reconciliation only is so Jesus, we thank you. Thank you that you were willing to pour yourself out for us willingly, gave yourself up for us So that we might then be reconciled for others. As we digest this juice. Jesus, may you embody your ethic, your ethos be embodied in our lives in a new way towards reconciliation of all things in Jesus name. Amen.