Truth is, Scripture never presents a neatly defined list of good reasons for going to war. Eight hundred years ago Thomas Aquinas first spelled out a systematized "just-war" theory. War, he declared, is not the opposite of peace but is sometimes the way to achieve peace. For Thomas Aquinas, war was warranted when it met three standards: 1. Legitimate authority. Does the person or organization ordering troops to war possess the right to do so? 2. Just cause. Is freedom threatened and are people and neighboring countries safe from a tyrant? 3. Righteous intention. Does the nation going to war have any interest or intention in occupying, exploiting, or destroying another nation?

Later theologians added three more criteria to that just-war theory: 1. Last resort. Is fighting a war the only means left to right a wrong? 2. Reasonable hope of success. Are the goals of this war limited and achievable? 3. Proportionality. Is it likely that the human cost of going to war will be less than the human cost of not going to war? Just-war proponents argue that when these six criteria are met, Christians have a duty to fight. On the other hand, if any one of these objectives is not met, or likely to be met, Christians should refuse to fight.

So, who is right? Is it the pacifists or the just-war theorists? In a sense, both may be right! On the other hand, either side may be dead wrong! There is a "time for war" (Ecclesiastes 3:8), but smart people don't get in a rush. Those hauntingly neat rows of white crosses in WWII military cemeteries around the world remind us that war winners still lose. And 30 years after the last plane evacuated American troops from Vietnam, soldiers from that war come weekly, and sometimes weakly, seeking help at our church. Three decades after they came home, that war still rages in their souls. When it comes to war, there are no winners.

Wanted: War Winners

God issues a different war order: "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14). We have a weapon in our Christian arsenal with no equal in all this world's armories. It's called prayer. If enough Christians in enough lands will follow God's war order the whole world can be healed. Let's all become prayer warriors, surrendering all our personal agendas and falling into line behind our true Captain, who once for all time laid down His life that we might know true peace. You can enlist in His army today. It's the only war everybody wins!