French President, Francois Hollande, promised, “We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless.”
This was his response to the brutal acts of terror that left hundreds of people dead and badly injured.
President Hollander said that the atrocities committed against France were “an act of war by the Islamic State (IS) militant group.”
As we pray for the people and leaders in France, let’s take a few moments to reinforce some important standards for retaliation and war against such violent acts of terrorism.
When retaliation is necessary
I regret living in a world where we must execute murderers to punish and restrain evil. Yet this is the reality of the world we live in and God gave humans this exact responsibility long ago.
“Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind “(Genesis 9:6).
Those who deliberately and unjustly take the lives of others must receive the just punishment of death. Such execution of murderers is not an act of barbarism equal to murder but the necessary responsibility of human government.
It is because we are beings of dignity made in the image of our Creator that the death penalty was instituted. It was also intended as a restraint against the spread of violence.
When war becomes necessary
Sometimes punishments must come in the form of wars against violent aggressors. But decisions to engage in warfare are more complicated and demand careful consideration and adherence to strict guidelines.
We are wise to reject wars that lack sufficient moral justification. Yet we must ask how could it be honorable and loving to remain passive while people are being terrorized and killed unjustly.
How can we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to threats of terror against our fellow humans?
Can war be a form of love?
“Where an enemy is perpetuating its horrible holocaust, is it not an act of love that intervenes, even militarily, to prevent that holocaust if a nation has the power to do so? And is not restraint in such cases a display, not of loving pacifism, but of lack of love — of the unwillingness to sacrifice anything for the sake of others?”
“Indeed, such a war may be, a Godlike act, since God himself restrains evil out of love for his creatures. This is not to say that we fallen human beings can manage to conduct just war perfectly, the way God conducts himself; it is to say that failure to do the good that is in our power to do may reflect not only a want of courage, but a lack of love” (adapted from, Love in Hard Places, D. A. Carson).
Love your neighbor as yourself
Engaging in a Just War must be controlled by the command to love your neighbor as yourself. But answering the question of who should be considered our neighbor has become far more complicated.
We live in a global community. Advanced capabilities in warfare like long range missiles and nuclear power require global concerns for our global neighbors.
Do powerful nations bear a kind of neighbor responsibility toward weaker more vulnerable countries?
This is not a question that is answered easily, but, when engaging in war becomes necessary, it should be controlled by clear principles like the ones below.
7 principles to govern Just War
- The only just cause for going to war is defense against violent aggression.
- The only just intention is to restore a just peace—just, that is, to friend and foe alike.
- Military force must be the last resort after negotiations and other efforts (e.g. mediation) have been tried and have failed.
- The decision to engage in such a just war must be made by the highest governmental authority.
- The war must be for limited ends (i.e. to repel aggression and redress injustice).
- The means of a just war must be limited by proportionality to the offense. There must be no intentional and direct attack on noncombatants.
- War should not be prolonged where there is no reasonable hope of success within these limits (D. A. Carson, Love in Hard Places)