Hasn’t religion been the cause of so much hatred, bloodshed and war?
No one can deny the long list of wars, evils and oppression that has been carried out in the name of religion throughout history. From the Crusades even down to our modern age, where Terrorism and Jihad are regular breaking news, we can’t miss the collateral damage done. Much harm has been carried out behind the banner of a religion. But what conclusion should a person draw from this? Is the religion to blame?
OF GOD OR MAN?
There is a vital distinction that needs to be considered. A person or persons who are part of an organisation do not always act as good representatives of that organisation. Just because a person may say they are doing something in the name of religion does not mean they are acting in accordance with that religion or its beliefs and ethics.
Take for example the Crusades. The great number of battles waged over that vast length of time was because of the powerful influence of the Catholic Church and their use of religious “justification”. War and evil were done under the banner of “Christ”, “Christians against heathens”.
But this is clearly not the way true representatives of Jesus Christ would act. Jesus’ own words in Matthew 26:52 state:“Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword”.
And again in John 18:36:“My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”
A true follower of Jesus Christ would see that such wars between people were not only against the commands of their religion but also involving themselves in these organisations is to make them a part of Man’s Kingdoms, not Christ’s. We should be“strangers and pilgrims” here.
So what were the Crusades all about? Simply the pride of man, not religion. The Church misused its position andreligious influence to “justify” its own selfish quest for greed, land, power and dominion. It was OF man, not of God or a religion that these wars were waged. Judging Jesus or religion based on these examples is not seeing the clear distinction of what really caused these wars.
MAN’S DESIRE IS TO PLEASE SELF
As humans we all know how we have pushed ahead with an action while giving others a “justifiable” reason for it to hide our true motive. I remember telling my parents how important it was for me to get to Bible Class one night, as God would want me to put Him first. But my true motive then was to see my friends! We might try to give a religious reason, but it is really our own desires at work.
James Chapter 4 is a great explanation of this. Among the believers in James’ day there were “wars and fightings”. People were fighting each other and even praying to God that He would help them win over their Brothers and Sister in these disagreements or wars. So James asks the question; “Where do these wars &fightings come from?”(v1). If they were truly honest they would agree with James who told them that they “came from their own lusts or desires”(v2).
They were not being motivated by God or religion, they were being motived y their own lust to have and be better or more important than someone else. What they wanted was for their selfish benefit, not the good of God or others (v2-3).
Would “God’s spirit that He caused to dwell in them be what motivated this envy and jealously toward each other?”(v5). Absolutely not, in fact they were acting like an enemy of God, being motivated by the same selfish desires that filled the world (v4). The answer was to be humble and speak no evil against others. This was the true religion that James spoke of (Ch 3v13-18), different from the earthly motives of man.
Here lies the exact same problem with trying to blame religion for all the wars and evil in history. What is motivating people is really their own pride, selfish ambition, power or greed. It might be done in the name of religion, but in reality this is a mask to “justify” man’s own selfish motives.
WHAT ABOUT THE WARS IN THE BIBLE?
How then should we view the wars in the Bible? Were there not times when God actually commanded war against another city, nation or people?
This is easy to answer, as there are many examples showing this to be true. What is hard is convincing people who don’t believe in the Bible that God has the right to judge any person or nation according to His laws. This is very challenging because man’s idea of “fair” is not based on Godly ideas, rather his own.
What is vitally important to consider is the fact that God will command war because He is judging sin and destroying the evil they do. God is absolutely fair in that He will carry out judgement on all men equally. This means that He will destroy His own chosen people Israel by bringing war against them in the same way He will judge any nation through any means He chooses.
|Babylonian Invasion – God judged Israel for their sins. They did not deserve to stay in God’s Land||Canaan invaded by Joshua – judgement against their immorality (2 Chron 33:2)|
|Invaded by Romans – God judged them for the killing of God’s son & prophets (Matt 23:32)||Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed by natural disaster because of immorality|
In Jeremiah 27:6, Nebuchadnezzar is actually called “God’s servant” because Babylon was the instrument God chose to judge Israel. Also in Matthew 24:3, where Jesus prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies, he describes this as his “coming”. This is because Rome was against God’s instrument of judgement against Israel’s sinfulness (Dan 8:12, 23).
The same reason was behind Joshua’s conquest of the Land of Canaan. The inhabitants of the land were full of immorality and iniquity, and Israel was God’s instruments of judgement. This is seen in Gen 15:16 and Lev 20:23. The utter destruction of these nations was from God because He was judging them, but also He did not want their sinful ways to influence Israel (Deut 7:1-12). But unfortunately Israel didn’t obey God, and were judged for committing the same sins. God is fair!
The warning is the same for us. God will judge the world in righteousness(Acts 17:31) by Jesus when he returns. We need to see right and wrong from God’s perspective. Man’s wars are not religious, they are selfish. God’s actions are always right. Although God wants to save the world, He is also fair. God will give us what we want. We must choose between life or death!