- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

The following are excerpts from a recent sermon given by the Rev. Gregory D. Seckman at Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church.
War is not only a question of politics and passion. There is an important moral and theological dimension to it. Those who claim the Lordship of Christ must look at this question not only in terms of national interest and security, but also through the theological lens of Scripture.
Our text [2 Chronicles 6:34-42] is the end of a prayer delivered by King Solomon at the dedication of the Temple. Rather than praying for peace and prosperity, or that God make them feel better, Solomon prays for justice. He asked God to help his people live holy and righteous lives. It is important that God's people be honest and fair and compassionate. This integrity should be lived in every area of life even, he says, when they must go to war.
He prayed, "Lord, if thy people go out to battle against their enemies, by whatever way thou shall send them, and they pray to thee toward this Temple, then hear their prayer and maintain their cause."
Note three assumptions in this prayer. First, Solomon assumes there will be battles. He was living in one of the few peaceful periods in the entire history of Israel because his father, David, had already fought most of the battles. Even so, Solomon understood that because hearts are sinful, nations always will, until the fulfillment of God's kingdom, do battle with each other.
Solomon next assumes there will be different reasons for war, "whatever way thou shall lead them." People may want to expand their influence or strike out in vengeance for a perceived injustice in the past.
These different reasons also matter to God, and that is why Solomon finally assumes that people will pray before, during and after the battle. He had heard his father, David, pray, "Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me." In every war, combatants on both sides will pray that God will protect them and help them prevail, that God will "maintain their cause." When the bullets fly, nearly everyone goes to the Lord.
To his credit, Solomon saw the potential for contradiction in this. God can't support both sides. If the Lord answers these prayers at all, he will surely stand on the side of righteousness and justice. God will not assist those who would enslave and oppress. Countless passages of Scripture testify to that.
That's why Solomon recognized, "If thy people sin against thee and there is no one who does not sin then thou will be angry with them and give them up to their enemy." God's people must do battle only for righteousness and justice where peace is the final goal. …
Today, the reason for war is not so clearly understood. I am not sure which one [of the just war or anti-war arguments] to choose. Maybe you feel the same way, so let's go back to our text.
Solomon recognized these gray areas. He knew the temptation to justify any action as good, even when it could be evil. Discerning our own motives can be as difficult as figuring out the motives of others. In times such as these, Solomon said, we need to turn to the Lord in prayer, asking God's guidance in all humility.
The Bible says God heard Solomon's prayer and promised him, "If my people who are called by my name shall 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."
So, if we go to war, I will pray for God's protection for the men and women we send into harm's way. I will pray for the people of Iraq who've had no say in the situation. I will pray that the loss of life be limited as possible. But most of all I will pray that we have correctly discerned that our cause is just because God will surely not maintain it if it is not.
Next week: a sermon at a Virginia congregation.

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