On Sunday I’m scheduled to preach the morning services at College Church on the topic of ‘holy war’ from Josh 5. Sermon preparation has provoked more than a little thought, especially in light of America’s current involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Following is a quote from Lloyd-Jones that didn’t make it into the message, but is still worth considering.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899 – 1981) left a brilliant career in medicine to serve as a Christian minister. Over time he became one of the most significant British evangelicals of the twentieth century. He came to Westminster Chapel, in London, as assistant minister in April 1939, with the shadow of war looming ever larger over Britain. Six months later, the nation now at war, he preached a series of sermons, published in December of that year as the book Why Does God Allow War? He argues that many of our demands and desires for peace are governed not by godliness, but by worldliness.
“‘Why do we expect God to prohibit war?’ or ‘Why should God prevent war?’ . . . Has not the tendency been to take it for granted that we have a right to a state and condition of peace? Do we stop to ask what is the real value and purpose and function of peace? . . .
There are two passages, at least, in scripture which show very clearly why we should desire peace. The first is in Acts 9:31: “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” . . . The other passage is in 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving thanks, be made for all men, and all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” . . .
It is not enough that we should desire peace merely that we may avoid the horror and sufferings of war . . . Man’s chief business in life is to serve and to glorify God . . . and consequently he should desire peace because it enables him to do that more freely and fully than he can during a state of war.
But is that our reason for desiring peace? Is that the real motive in our prayers for peace? . . . Far too often, I fear, the motive has been purely selfish . . . and one has felt that many have desired peace merely in order to avoid a disturbance of the kind of life which they were living and enjoying so heartily. What kind of life was that? In a word it was almost the exact opposite of that described in our two passages of scripture. Under the blessing of peace, men and women, in constantly increasing numbers, have forsaken God and religion and settled down to a life which is essentially materialistic and sinful . . . This became evident not only in the decline of religion, but still more markedly in the appalling decline in morals; and indeed, finally, even in a decline in a political and social sense. It was a life of purely selfish and carnal enjoyment, with all the slackness in every respect that such a life always produces. It led to the decadence which the rulers of Germany banked, and on which they based their calculations. They did not believe that we would not fight because we were highly spiritual, but, rather, because they felt that we had lost our stamina and would allow nothing to interfere with our indolent life.
Then came a crisis in September, 1938. Men and women crowded to places of worship and prayed for peace. Afterwards they assembled to thank God for peace. . . What if war has come because we were not fit for peace, because we did not deserve peace; because we by our disobedience godlessness and sinfulness had so utterly abused the blessings of peace? Have we a right to expect God to preserve a state of peace merely to allow men and women to continue a life that is an insult to His Holy Name?”1
1 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Why Does God Allow Suffering? (1939; reprint, Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, 1994), 91-95. In later editions, the title was changed from Why Does God Allow War?