Is a war ever just?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect,just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The preceding sentences come from the 5th Chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel. I can’t find anything in any of the gospels that justifies striking your enemy in any way. My research indicates in the early days of Christianity followers refused service in the Roman Army. Christians refused to take up arms. That all changed in the 5th Century when Augustine of Hippo came up with what is now called the “just war” theory. So it was Augustine and not Jesus the Christ, the Prince of Peace who articulated the “just war” theory. Just war is then anti-Christian or a watering down of the Gospel message.

At Assisi in the Province of Umbria in 1182 the “alter Christus” Francesco Bernardone was born. Following a dissolute early life punctuated by military service Francis experienced a conversion so powerful that he sought to literally follow the Lord Jesus. It was St. Francis and his followers who literally ended the Crusades by the unwillingness to take up arms. Francis brought a renewal to the church. Secular Franciscans today are called to conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls ‘conversion’. I’m a Franciscan who believes that there is no such thing as just war. Just war produces just that ‘just war’.

Those who chose to follow Augustine rather than Christ should call themselves Augustinians or Augustinian Christians that would seem appropriate. Peace.

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