When is it OK?

“…Many that live deserve death, and some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise can not see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or evil before this is over…”

Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.

When is it OK to bomb someone out of existence? Or gas their hometown with poison? Or shoot someone because you don’t like their face/heritage/religion? Is there ever a reason? Is it ever really a “just war”?

I wrestle with questions like these because in my short lifetime so far, I have yet to see an armed conflict come out the way it has been planned. One group’s superiority complex tips the balance of power and peace around the globe. Others rising in the defense of the weaker neighbor (or to carefully reinforce their own borders) escalate the conflict.

I do not agree with those who suggest we must bomb/shoot/gas/drone strike others before we are attacked. And I know I am possibly raising the hackles of many who read this… To be fair, I have good friends who serve in the military. They give up a lot to be peacekeepers, and I am grateful.

But this determined stance of “answering” acts of foreign or domestic terror with more bombings, more killing… it does not sit well.

I ponder the realities of the human condition. We are made in the image of God. We are poor reflections of the love of God. We go out of our way to live selfish, petty lives. We hold offenses against us like they are prize possessions, to be nurtured and violently protected. (And by “we” I mean me. And you.)

Have we learned nothing in our centuries of war? Have we not remembered that Evil exists — and that in its very existence we will find ourselves at odds with one another for no other reason than we can not agree on what actually constitutes “evil”!

As I write these words, the final decisions on a response to the mass killings in Syria have not been announced. My heart is heavy, my prayers are constant. For peace. For courage. For wisdom. For hope. For all of us…

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