"Love your enemy" in the context of warfare

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kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
Treating prisoners with compassion, not attacking civilian residential areas, etc. (unless, of course, the enemy takes the fight to those areas).
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
This is a great question. I'm going to ponder it a while before essaying an answer.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
That's what the whole of Christian Just War Theory is about.

Just like you love your neighbor by executing certain classes of criminals (if they're dead they can't hurt anyone). And just like there are Biblical safeguards against punishing innocent people. It's the same with warfare. Reading up on Christian Just War Theory answers the question definitively.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
Proverbs 25:21-22 (ESV)

"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
for you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the LORD will reward you."

Loving our enemies isn't a New Testament invention. If God commanded this in the Old Testament and also commanded warfare, we must conclude that loving our enemies and engaging in warfare is not inconsistent. Otherwise you accuse God of contradicting Himself.
 

jogri17

Puritan Board Junior
1. Fight with honor. No cheap shots
2. no excessive violence.
3. Take prisoner's when ever possible.
4. Don't kill an unarmed person.
5. Don't cause pain where there is no reason (i.e. humane interrogation)
6. Don't go to war unless it is a last case scenario (''war on terror'' just not meet the qualifications by any historic Christian Standard)
7. Refusing to take up arms and be willing to suffer punishments in cases where the war is not just.
8. Not being swept up in nationalism and keeping your job professional as possible. No, I do not believe you can do both at the same time.
9. You cannot be a ''good''solider and follow every order by those higher up. I know that is prized and expected in the military, but as Christians we have to say no sometimes.
10. You will report abuses you see within your own soldiers to higher up officials and even your superiors to their higher-ups if there is cover up.

Just some thoughts.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
"Cheap shots"? Not sure what you mean by that. Care to elaborate (preferably with Scriptural examples)?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
If your enemy is hungry, you don't drop bread for him to eat, you drop more bombs and even try to destroy their food supply, right?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Some questions about Just War Theory:

-Pre-emptive strikes, how do you defend their morality?

-Destruction of civilian-manned munitions factories (how do you guard civilians in the context of total war)?

-Napalm, fire, poison gas....how do we tell what weapons are permissible? Why refrain from using an effective killing weapon if your goal is the quickest end to the war? After all, in the Midle Ages even the crossbow was seen as evil.

-Assasinations: when are they moral?

-Was the fire bombing of Dresden moral, Hiroshimo?

-What moral guilt do soldiers suffer if they end up on the wrong side of war?
 

Zenas

Snow Miser
I'm reminded of the defeat of the Red Baron. Freiherr von Richthofen or Baron Richthofen was, as you probably know, a German flying ace during the 1st World War. He was credited with 80 Allied kills. He was ultimately killed by a British Air Officer over France in 1918. The British officers organized a full military funeral for him. Six airmen of the Baron's same rank served as pall bearers, an honor guard fired a salute, and Allied soldiers offered memorial wreaths. They didn't hold him in contempt or disgust, but rather as a worthy foe who had been defeated. Whether this stemmed from any sort of Christian conviction, I am not sure, but they seemed to treat him with love and respect, despite him being their enemy, and a fearsome one at that.

I'm also reminded of General Grant and the Union's behavior at General Lee's surrender. Rather than capitalizing on the opportunity to completely crush the means and morale of the Confederate army, Grant took it as an opportunity to show kindness to those who were his enemy. The Confederates were allowed to keep their horses so that they could farm, officers could retain their side arms, and they were immediately afforded food and supplies as they were starving (quite literally). No man would be imprisoned or prosecuted. Moreover, Brig. Gen. Chaimberlain was charged with organizing the formal surrender ceremony. During said ceremony, all Union forces were required to remain silent, and Brig. Gen Chaimberlain ordered his men to salute the passing Confederate forces. Again, rather capitalizing on the situation, as they could have, they afforded their enemy kindness, respect, and the treatment that they themselves would have desired had the tables been turned.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I just saw Alfred Hitchcock's WWII documentary on the death camps (released just now because it was too graphic for past release). The Allies purposely made the SS dig the gaves and bury the dead and forced the townspeople out to witness the mass graves as punishment for their inactivity despite evil all around them.


About the Red Baron: Why didn;t they just return the body to his own side and let the germans bury him?
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
At the risk of saying the whole of Christian thought for 2000 years has gotten it all wrong... about "loving your enemies"...

Note what it calls you to do: If your enemy is hungry give him bread... this implies closeness and cultural and relational proximity. The thrust of this passage is treating your business associate, your neighbor, your extended family member, your fellow church member - anyone with whom you're having a personal feud - with dignity and compassion. It isn't so much about how to fight a war with the armies of a foreign nation. Indeed, as David said: Do I not hate those who hate you?

We keep this passage at arms length - and pastors and theologians allow their hearers to keep it "out there" - when we make it seem like a primary or even main application of this passage is in warfighting. Wrong. The main application of this passage is in demonstrating kindness and compassion to the jerk who lives or works next to you and you really don't like the person and you'd rather see him get fired or fail.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Ben:

So who is our neighbor now?

And who is our enemy?

Do Jesus' words not apply during wartime?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
BEN:

This is a true inquiry.

Sometimes Jesus sounds like a pacifist and I am trying to reconcile that with my own view that war can be just and soldiering can be a good profession and even killing the enemy in wartime can be something that is praiseworthy (if done for the right reason).
 

seajayrice

Puritan Board Sophomore
Uh-oh, is this about the bible as a template for statecraft? That verse in context (as Ben pointed out) may have little application to war fighting. I think it means don’t be a hater. Do good where and when you can, even to those that seek to harm you. Demonizing the opponent to deal with the conscience may be a problem for believers (is it truth) yet war is necessary at times. What makes one man your enemy and another your neighbor; old treaties, political machinations, corrupt government officials (Saudi Arabia/Pakistan)? I think there is a place for those in the military that opt out of direct combat. Its one thing to work in a supporting role, possibly another to carpet bomb a city center. Dropping bread can also be effective in warfare (Ro 12:20).
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
About the Red Baron: Why didn;t they just return the body to his own side and let the germans bury him?

Logistical issues, for one. Fairly interesting story as to the multiple moves of his body over the years.

He was ultimately killed by a British Air Officer over France in 1918.

There is legitimate historical dispute over that point. There is some evidence that he was actually killed by ground fire.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
-Pre-emptive strikes, how do you defend their morality?

You can't.
-Destruction of civilian-manned munitions factories (how do you guard civilians in the context of total war)?

The same as the baggage train in the old days. Fair game.
-Napalm, fire, poison gas....how do we tell what weapons are permissible? Why refrain from using an effective killing weapon if your goal is the quickest end to the war? After all, in the Midle Ages even the crossbow was seen as evil.

Agreements between all participants are binding if they are oaths.
-Assasinations: when are they moral?

Ehud was a Judge, so they're moral.
-Was the fire bombing of Dresden moral, Hiroshimo?

Skip.

-What moral guilt do soldiers suffer if they end up on the wrong side of war?

Even the NT talks about different punishments for people who know they're doing wrong.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
If your enemy is hungry, you don't drop bread for him to eat, you drop more bombs and even try to destroy their food supply, right?

Doubtful, considering that the Israelites were commanded as a general rule not to destroy the food supply of the cities they conquered.

---------- Post added at 07:08 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:54 PM ----------

BEN:

This is a true inquiry.

Sometimes Jesus sounds like a pacifist and I am trying to reconcile that with my own view that war can be just and soldiering can be a good profession and even killing the enemy in wartime can be something that is praiseworthy (if done for the right reason).

This is a perfectly reasonable question, one I've been working on for the past couple years. I think the confusion arises because the Sermon on the Mount isn't placed in its proper context--as a restoration of the Mosaic law, clearing away the Pharisaic additions/modifications to the Law. The Sermon on the Mount isn't changing the Old Testament, as can be seen most clearly when it's compared to the Old Testament.

Take "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". In the Old Testament, of course, this was talking about exactly that--criminal injury. But when Jesus gives his counter-examples, about returning good for evil, he never once alludes to criminal injury. He refers to petty insults--a backhanded slap. From this we can deduce that, since he's not referring to the Old Testament's usage of it, his "you have heard that it was said" refers to the Pharisees' interpretations of the Law.

When you look at it this way, you can see even in the Old Testament the kind of ethic Jesus was describing. As I quoted above, the Proverbs command kindness towards one's enemies. Nowhere is it commanded to "hate your enemies", and nowhere does the Old Testament condone returning insult for insult.

If the Sermon on the Mount isn't changing the equity God prescribed in the Old Testament for warfare, then it rests upon the pacifist to demonstrate another scripture which does so. In lieu of this, we must conclude that the general equity of his laws regarding warfare are still applicable today and are not inconsistent with the ethic of either the Old or New Testaments. It is from those laws that the "just war theory" is derived.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
As far as starvation, one point I'd make is that if it's ever justified (I'll not claim the brains to say one way or the other) it's only temporary. Under God's law you can't cut down the other guy's fruit trees, since the idea of war is peace, and if you do an Agent Orange on the bad guy's orchard, he's still hungry after things are dealt with, and that's bad.
 
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