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Edward F. Markquart

Series A
WAR AND PEACE; Iraq, A Just War?

March 30, 2003     Isaiah 2:4-5; 9:6-7; Matthew 5:9, 38-46
Also Baptism of Jesus, Justice theme, Isaiah 42:1-9

(This sermon was not given on Baptism Sunday, but on March 30, 2003, as the nation was getting ready to declare war on Iraq.)

(Here at Grace Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Washington, a dialogue sermon is when Pastors Ed Markquart and John O’Neal dialogue about the text(s) in a pastoral office and then bring the best parts of their conversation into the pulpit the following Sunday.)


Grace to you and peace from God our Father,


And from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.



For children in grades five through today who are taking notes on the sermon, the title of this sermon is “War and Peace.”  The texts are from Isaiah 2, 9 and Matthew 5. You students do not need to take notes on the sermon except for the outline which will appear on the screen.


In 1930 a movie was made about World War I called "All Quiet on the Western Front." In one scene some American "doughboys" were talking. A comic character asked, "Where do wars come from anyway?" Another replied, "Well, one country gets mad at another country, and they start fighting." The first soldier asked, "Do you mean that one piece of land gets mad at another piece of land?" "No," the other replied. "The people of one country get mad at the people of the other." The first soldier picked up his rifle and started walking away. When asked where he was going, he said, "I'm going home. I'm not mad at anybody." Wouldn’t it be nice if were that simple?  But wars and their causes are always complex and seldom have simple answers or universal agreement.

I am thinking of the name of James Stewart during World War II. This was not the Jimmy Stewart from the movies, but the James Stewart who was a famous theologian during World War II. James Stewart was famous for his sermons. He is remembered in church history as that theologian who wrote voluminously during World War II but did not mention World War II. His sermons were clever and erudite, but there were no references to the real world of war which was part of his history. Here at Grace Lutheran, we have tried to preach in such a way that we address the current, gripping situations of everyday life such as the murder of a local policeman, the Columbine murders and or the military intervention in Kuwait ten years ago. Also, some time past, I attended a pastor’s group and I learned from that pastor’s group that a pastor could never criticize a government official from the pulpit, that there was safety in silence, that we pastors should keep our mouth shut, and we would then avoid trouble. Today, we pastors have agreed to not be safely silent and keep our mouths shut.

As we approach the sermon today on such a controversial and emotional topic, I feel that it is important for us to be more pastoral than prophetic in our delivery this morning.  That is to say, we, as shepherds, need to enter into conversation with you, the flock, and try to bring some peace and comfort as we are all on edge during this difficult time in our country’s history.  We need to help you experience some that peace that passes all understanding.

In our conversation with each other in the office, John brought up the concept of prophetic and pastor and the need for this sermon to be given in the spirit of pastoral compassion. I responded that we pastors also need to be teachers. That is, we are not experts in foreign policy, politics, or war making but we are experts (so to speak) in our study and knowledge of the Bible and church history. We need to have a teaching sermon about war and peace as found in the Scriptures and in church history. So as Biblical teachers, we would like to share four themes about war and peace that are found in the Bible.


Since neither Pastor Markquart nor I are experts in the field of world politics, foreign policy, or military strategy, we feel it is important to stick with topics we are knowledgeable about such as the Bible, church history, and spirituality.  So we begin with the Bible looking at the person of Jesus of Nazareth and what the Bible taught about Him as our model of the Godly life.

Even in the Old Testament, which is filled with stories of war and fierce battles, we find the prophet Isaiah with visions of a better time.  In chapter 2, Isaiah writes about a wonderful vision of peace when people walk in the light of the Lord, he writes: 

He will judge between the nations
And will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
Nor will they train for war anymore.
Then when the Messiah comes Isaiah describes what that will be like.  In Chapter 9, Isaiah writes:
For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given,
And the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
There will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
And over his kingdom,
Establishing and upholding it
With justice and righteousness
From that time on and forever.

At several places in the New Testament, we are called to be peace makers.  We are called to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  If someone steals our coat, we are to give him our shirt as well.  Jesus tells his disciples when He was arrested, that “he who lives by the sword will die by the sword.” We cannot simply ignore these teachings but must wrestle with them and try to understand what they mean for us today as our country engages in war.

The first theme: Jesus was the Prince of Peace and we Christians are to be called peace makers.

The Bible and New Testament primarily emphasize that Jesus was the Prince of Peace and we Christians are called to be peace makers. Now a second theme but a lesser theme in the New Testament is that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, highly praised the great faith of Roman centurions who were Roman soldiers and commanders. Roman centurions commanded a hundred men and hence we get the name centurion.  Jesus, the Prince of Peace, commended these soldiers for their deep faith and not once did the Prince of Peace suggest that these military commanders stop being military commanders. There are four stories in the New Testament about centurions.  Not once is the centurion criticized for soldiering and not once does Jesus ask these military commanders to stop being military commanders. In other words, there is a paradox here. The book of Isaiah and the New Testament emphasize that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the most peaceful person who ever lived, who taught people to walk in the paths of peace…but the Prince of Peace did not ask the Roman soldiers to stop being soldiers.

Last Sunday, I preached on the story of Jesus cleansing the temple where He used a weapon made of cords to drive the money changers out of the temple.  It is obvious that even Jesus resorted to some violent behavior where He felt it was necessary to accomplish his objective, which was the cleansing of the temple.

As teachers of the Word of God, we hear a third theme about war and peace in the Bible. That is, all people are created in the image of God. All people of every race, of every color, of every religion, of every language, of every century: all people everywhere are created in the image of God. All people throughout the earth are God’s children. All people throughout the earth are loved by God. As the New Testament says in the Book of Acts, God shows no partiality. God shows no favoritism to one race of people over another, to one group of people over another. All human beings are children of God and therefore all people on earth are part of our family, including the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people are our brothers and sisters.

You’ve heard me speak recently about the Great Commandment and the Great Commission and that all we do should be grounded in these two mandates from the Bible.  The great Commandment says we are to love God and we are to love our neighbor as our selves. In the Gospel of Luke there was a teacher of the law who asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  To which Jesus responded by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. The question is the same for us today.  “Who is our neighbor?”  Is it Iraq?  And how do we love our neighbor?  On TV this past week, the news interviewed a young soldier that was helping to distribute clean water and supplies in Iraq.  Several children were coming up to the soldier, smiling and thanking him.  The news commentator asked him how he felt.  The soldier’s eyes filled with tears of compassion for the children and he said, “Now I know why I’m here.”  For me that was an example of loving our neighbor even in the midst of war.

We pastors are not experts in foreign policy, politics or war making, but we are to know about what the Bible teaches. In this sermon, we now move a step forward into church history because we pastors are also to be knowledgeable about church history. We discover that human beings are warring people. Jesus was right when he said that there will always be wars and rumors of wars. We discover that war is part of our human condition, that we are in bondage to sin and evil, and so we inevitably ask: “What wars can we participate in?” In other words, what wars are just? Augustine, in the fourth century, was the first important theologian of the early church to think deeply about the question: “What wars are just? What makes for a just war?” During the past sixteen hundred years, his ideas have been expanded, but Augustine was the first Christian theologian to think through the question: “What makes a war justified?” As pastors, we will now present the six characteristics of a just war. The two of us pastors believe in just wars, and we need to be reminded of what constitutes a just war.

We want to put on the screen for you the “Just War” theory as it has been understood throughout history and is still applicable today.

What is a Just War? The war must be for a just cause. Examples of a just cause include:  defense against an unjust invader, or humanitarian intervention to stop abuses of human rights by a tyrannical regime.  The main just cause is to put right a wrong. Sometimes a war fought to prevent a wrong from happening may be considered a just war.

The second characteristic of a just was is that it is to be declared by a lawful authority. That is, the war is to be declared by a nation or a government. War cannot be declared by an individual or guerilla group, but by nations or states. More recently, the United Nations has become the highest authority among nations to authorize war or not  authorize war.  That is, technically, the United Nations cannot declare war but the United Nations can give a “lawful authorization” for use of military force e.g. in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Bosnia. For many people, the United Nations is now the highest authority which can authorize war or not. Others insist that individual nations or states still have the authority to declare war, with or without the supporting resolution from the United Nations.


The third characteristic of a just war: the intention behind the war must be good. One’s objectives must be just.  Annihilation of an enemy is not a legitimate goal.  Good intentions include: creating, restoring or keeping a just peace; righting a wrong; assisting the innocent.

The fourth characteristic of a just war is that all other ways of resolving the problem be tried first. War must always be the last resort, after all peaceful means to solve the conflict have been genuinely tried. Non-violent means to solve conflicts between nations are: economic sanctions, diplomacy, withdrawal of aid, condemnation by the United Nations or other nations, a resolution by the United Nations.


Fifth. There must be a reasonable chance of success. Not just war for the sake of war, or having a war that would go on indefinitely.  There must be a reasonably attainable objective at which point the war ends.  This comes from the idea that war is a great evil, and that it is wrong to cause suffering, pain, and death with no chance of success.

A sixth characteristic of a just war is that the means are proportionate to the ends. That is, wars are to prevent more evil and suffering than they create. The positives from engaging in war are to far outweigh the negatives. The benefits are to far outweigh the harm that war will inevitably do.


Innocent people and non-combatants should not be harmed. The Geneva Convention lays down that civilians are not to be subject to attack. This includes direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks against areas in which civilians are present. I am impressed with the great effort our military is putting forth to accomplish this, even to the point of risking their lives such as when people pretend to surrender only to get them out in the open where they can be fired upon.

Only appropriate force is to be used. Let me give you an example: many people have concluded that the use of the atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified during World War II because these enormously powerful bombs prevented the killing of millions of Japanese and hundreds of thousands of G.I.s which would have occurred during an invasion of Japan. But use of atomic bombs would be entirely inappropriate if dropped over Baghdad. Some weapons are appropriate; some are not. This also leads into discussion of which weapons are inherently evil which we will discuss later.  

I would now like you to find the insert in your bulletin entitled, THE ETHICS OF WAR, The Theory of the Just War. (This article is found in the appendix of this sermon.) Please notice the website for this article:

We would ask that you take this article home and examine this website about the theories of the just war. It was the best website we could find on the just war theory. There was good information about Augustine and then Thomas Aquinas. Please turn to page two of this insert and notice the six characteristics of a just war. This has been the outline for this section of the sermon. Each underlined topic is a link to further information. This further information is helpful.

Please turn to the bottom of page two and the category: “Weapons That Are Intrinsically Evil.” I would like to highlight these words and thoughts for you.

“These are usually taken to be chemical and biological weapons. These were banned by the Geneva Protocol in 1925.”

“Many writers will argue that nuclear weapons are inherently evil.” A few comments. Shortly after I arrived in this congregation nearly thirty years ago, I announced that I was a nuclear pacifist, that I believed the use of nuclear weapons was inherently evil, that these weapons indiscriminately destroy both civilians and the environment. I still an a nuclear pacifist and believe that nuclear weapons should be outlawed just as biological weapons were in 1925, after World War I. 

“There is a growing view that landmines, because they are indiscriminate weapons which cause great harm to civilians, are inherently evil.”  Again, it is the same argument that is used against nuclear weapons: indiscriminate weapons cause great harm to civilians. As a member of the board of Lutheran World Relief, I hear of partners of LWR that make prostheses for arms and legs, hands and feet. The innocent victims of landmines are civilians who are injured some fifteen to twenty years after a war was over. LWR consistently advocates that landmines be banned. Lutheran church women by the thousands have signed petitions banning landmines. Our government has not yet joined the overwhelming majority of nations to outlaw landmines.

“The Hague Convention of 1907 bans: poison weapons, killing or wounding treacherously, killing or wounding an enemy who has laid down his arms, using arms to cause unnecessary suffering.” 


I agree with Ed on this.  I believe that all biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons should be outlawed.  They all kill indiscriminately and can cause long-term damage.  They can’t distinguish between combatants and noncombatants.

We now come to the end of our sermon. We have been pastoral in our Biblical teaching about war and peace from Scriptures and from church history. At the conclusion of this sermon, we would now like to speak, not as pastors or as Biblical teachers, but rather we would like to share our own personal views about the war in Iraq.  John, what are your personal feelings … and not as a pastor or Biblical teacher?


I really hate war and I wish the wars would never happen.  I will continue to pray for peace and the end of all wars.  I will continue to hold on the vision of Isaiah where nation will not take up sword against nation and neither will they learn war any more.  But in the mean time, I will be a just war advocate and I will support the brave men and women who fight for the cause of freedom and dignity for all people. Do I totally agree with President Bush and the way he has gone about this war?  No!  Am I nervous about the lack of support from the rest of the world, the UN, and other normal allies?  Yes! But I, like you, helped to elect the leaders of our country, and I believe it’s time to place our trust those leaders, to pray for them, and stand behind them, hoping that when it’s all over we will look back and know that this was the right thing to do.

My personal feelings revolve around two personal points. The first is that I do not trust our political leaders to sufficiently disclose the facts of a given political situation. That is, I did not trust Bill Clinton, Al Gore, nor George Bush. I believe that a primary purpose of elected officials is to shape the truth in order to get re-elected. In the recent past, I have not trusted Clinton, Gore or Bush, but I have trusted and do trust General Colin Powell. For some reason or another, I trust Powell. Perhaps it is because he is a general and not a politician who wants to get re-elected. If General Powell had run for the Presidency, I would have voted for him, regardless of which party he joined. So when Colin Powell supports this war in Iraq, I take him seriously. When Colin Powell believes that this particular war is just, I am sympathetic with his point of view. 

But there is another issue for me personally. That is, in 1991, after the first President Bush marshaled the United Nations and the United States government into supporting a military intervention in Kuwait, I was impressed. I was so impressed that I initiated a resolution for our ELCA synod assembly that commended the first President George Bush for a just war. The resolution was soundly defeated and instead, a much more pacifistic motion against any use of violence was passed by the synod assembly. Twelve years later, I will not submit a similar resolution commending the current President Bush for a just war.

That is, I have three serious reservations that get in my way of initiating a synod resolution. First, the lack of support from the United Nations for a military action against Saddam Hussein. I still cannot figure out why the support of the United Nations was so important in 1991 and a mere twelve years later, the support of the United Nations is not that important.  Secondly, the lack of support from the neighboring Arab nations. Those neighboring Arab nations seem to see America as the “big bully” in the region, having the power and authority to exercise our political will in the region, regardless of their belief and values. Third and perhaps most importantly, I am hesitant for our nation to engage in a pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein, knowing that Hussein is an incredible evil dictator. In the past, “pre-emptive strikes” were not part of the just war theory. I feel uncomfortable in including the concept of a “pre-emptive strike” into the characteristics of a just war. By doing so, we may be unleashing a whole series of problems that we do not foresee. Respecting General Colin Powell’s support of a war with Iraq, I still will not bring a resolution before the synod assembly that praises President Bush for his efforts against Saddam Hussein.

Yes, we are called to believe in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. May we learn to walk in the paths of peace in our generation.


Please see the following two pages that were distributed to the congregation for this sermon.

(A comment: Unfortunately, we had two households leave the parish because of this sermon. They (and others who did not leave) felt strongly that we pastors were free to speak as pastors and be Biblical/historical teachers from the pulpit but that we pastors should not have spoken our personal views at the conclusion of the sermon. In conversations with such people, I pointed out that I previously shared my personal political point of view in a sermon prior to the invasion of Kuwait in 1991 and again in another sermon prior to the voting on State Initiatives 119 and 120 about abortion and euthanasia  (also in 1991, now in Series A, Epiphany 6, CHOSE LIFE). There were no objections to me then about those sermons.

As I think about the differing reactions to me expressing my personal political point of view in 1991 and 2003, it seems that the degree of polarization within the congregation and nation was much stronger in 2003 than in 1991. It also seems that the pastor’s group who previously warned me that a pastor should never criticize a government official from the pulpit knew about the subtleties of pastoral ministry. In 1991 I was positive about the decisions of the first President Bush; 2003, I expressed my reservations about the decisions of the second President Bush. One sermon was supportive; the second sermon expressed reservations. I believe that congregational members are more accepting of supporting of presidential leadership than expressing reservations of that presidential leadership.)

For a broader view of the theme, “Church and Politics,” read the sermon from the Roman series of sermons on Romans 13. I believe that this sermon is also helpful in discussing the role of church in politics. This sermon is can be found at:

THE ETHICS OF WAR   The Theory of the Just War

St Augustine
St Augustine was a 4th century Christian who lived in Algeria and Italy. He believed that the only just reason to go to war was the desire for peace.

"We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace. Be peaceful, therefore, in warring, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against, and bring them to the prosperity of peace."

Augustine tried to reconcile Christian pacifism with the world as it actually was; to bring together the pacifist teachings of Jesus Christ with the obligations of Roman citizens - including Christians - to fight for their country when required to.

Augustine accepted that there would always be wars. He thought that war was always a sin, and if there had to be a war, it should be waged with sadness.

But Augustine said that war was always the result of sin, and that war was also the remedy for sin. And if war was the remedy for sin, then war could sometimes be justifiable - but only if it was a remedy for sin.

Augustine made it clear that individuals and states (or the rulers of states) have different obligations when it came to war or violence.

He stated that Christians did not have the right to defend themselves from violence, however they could use violence if it was necessary to defend the innocent against evil.

The rulers of states, he said, had an obligation to maintain peace, and this obligation gave them the right to wage war in order to maintain peace. It also gave them the right to wage war in order to ensure justice and even impose punishment - something that would not be accepted nowadays.

"A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly."

This was because injustice was a greater evil than war, and it was proper to carry out a lesser evil if it would prevent a greater evil.

But a war is only just if those waging it do so with the intention of doing good. Punishing the enemy is not a sufficient motive on its own.

"True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good."

Augustine was much less concerned with how people should be treated during a war, because to him, physical death was not a particularly important thing.

What is a Just War?
Six conditions must be satisfied for a war to be considered just (each condition is linked):

·The war must be for a just cause.

·The war must be lawfully declared by a lawful authority.

·The intention behind the war must be good.

·All other ways of resolving the problem should have been tried first.

·There must be a reasonable chance of success.

·The means used must be in proportion to the end that the war seeks to achieve.

How should a Just War be Fought?
A war that starts as a Just War may stop being a Just War if the means used to wage it are inappropriate.

· Innocent people and non-combatants should not be harmed.

· Only appropriate force should be used.

oThis applies to both the sort of force, and how much force is used.

·Internationally agreed conventions regulating war must be obeyed.

Weapons that are intrinsically evil
These are usually taken to be chemical and biological weapons. These were banned by the Geneva Protocol in 1925.

Many writers argue that nuclear weapons are inherently evil.

There is a growing view that landmines, because they are indiscriminate weapons which cause great harm to civilians, are inherently evil.

Certain military methods are also regarded as intrinsically evil such as genocide, mass rape, torture and so on. The Hague Convention of 1907 bans: poison or poisoned weapons, killing or wounding treacherously, killing or wounding an enemy who has laid down his arms and surrendered, declaring that no mercy be given to defeated opponents, using arms to cause unnecessary suffering.

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