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Conflict

War! Why does it happen? Is religion the cause? Is it ever right? How should a Christian respond to war? Can Christians fight in a war or act as police officers? How can we be both peacemakers and call the world to repentance?
 

Rationale

War is perhaps the final and greatest product of the entry of sin into the world. How Christians should respond to War has been a matter of debate throughout the centuries. Attitudes range from in the name of Jesus we fight, through to Christians should never fight in wars or even serve as police officers. The causes of conflict are many and complicated. There is a common claim that religion lies behind most conflicts. Is this true? How does Christianity relate to other religions? Indeed, what do we mean by religion? The British academic who proposed that religion was the cause of war used the term religion to include all systems of belief. So Atheism, Patriotism/Nationalism, Communism and so on all fall under the rubric of religion. This, however, is not how most people use the term. Christians are called to be peacemakers, Matthew 5:9, and yet Jesus said he did not come to bring peace, Matthew 10:34-39. In no uncertain terms he describes the two roads we all must choose between, Matthew 7:13,14, and says he is the only way to the Father, John 14:6. Yet, don’t such claims automatically create conflict? This is another idea which has become quite common today.
 

Key Concepts

  • History of warfare – prevalence, cost and causes
  • Is war ever justifiable?
  • The Just War argument
  • Pacifist arguments
  • Religious wars? What do we mean by religion?
  • How do our personal conflicts relate to conflicts between nations?
  • Jesus calls us to be peacemakers and yet said he did not come to bring peace. What do these mean and how do we do it?
  • Are Christians intolerant? Are we destroying social harmony by insisting Jesus is the only way?
  • Can you both love someone and yet use force to stop them at the same time?

Scripture References

Joshua - God told the people of Israel to entirely destroy the people of Canaan (Why? How does this apply to us today?)
Matthew 5-7 Sermon on the Mount - especially Chapters 5 and 7
Matthew 10 - the disciples are sent out to preach the Gospel and told of the trouble it would cause. Jesus did not come to bring peace.
Romans 13 - the Christian response to government, v 1-7,  and the call to love others for this fulfills the Law, v8-14. See especially 13:4 and a possible reference to 
Galatians 5:16-23  Fruit of the Spirit
1 Peter 3 and onwards - deals a lot with how Christian should respond to persecution 

Resources

Issues Facing Christians by John Stott - Kindle book, great to have a permanent resource for many areas
Studies in the Life of Joshua - series of short studies on the Book of Joshua
Should Christian Endorse War? - article from Bible.org

Internet searches on these issues e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/war/just/against.shtml

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/war/against/pacifism_1.shtml

http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/war-holy-war.html

http://www.veritas.org/talks/ - many talks on many topics of relevance. High level discussions
See especially Does Religion Cause Violence and Can we Co-exist? along with related videos listed bellow these
Article Disputing that Religion causes wars - cites various studies and statistics. Looks at the wide range of factors as to why conflict happens and looks at the role of atheism in world conflicts
YouTube Videos
Many videos on this topic, short and long
Short video highlighting relevant statistics and the real problem and the real solution
 

Ideas/Strategies for Lessons

Research the greatest conflicts and cause of death and look at their causes
Debate the key issues - give relevant resources to discuss
Find relevant short videos and use them as a springboard for discussion
Research the current conflicts in the world Why are they happening? How should Christian respond?
Discuss current social issues where Christians are being portrayed as intolerant/bigoted/hateful and so on. Are we?
Use digital platforms like Popplet to get anonymous comments/questions on these issues
Bring in relevant newspaper/media articles/videos on current conflicts or key social issues. What has Jesus got to do with any of this?

Brainstorming : what wars do they know about, what do you think is a sufficient reason to go to war

Debating the pacifist argument v. just war argument

Role play personal conflict scenarios and how to make peace; role play similar between nations

Just Act – Tear Resource

PeaceWise - Can this be applied to trouble between nations or are these conflicts different?
Read the Sermon on the mount and discuss relevant passages, as well as Matthew 10