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Up until the 4th Century, Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire. Many of them were killed for their beliefs, and one of the things that angered the Roman government the most was that the Christians were pacifists: they refused to carry weapons or serve in the army.
Then, the Emperor Constantine made the empire a Christian nation. Many thought this was a good thing, but it caused a moral problem. A few years later, the barbarian hordes were poised to sack Rome. The Christians were no longer just a religion -- they ran the government and had to decide what to do.
If they decided to remain faithful to their pacifist tradition and refused to fight the barbarians, they would be killed, their wives raped, their children taken into slavery, their possessions stolen and their homes and businesses burned. But, if they fought, they would betray their God. It was a horrible decision that they had to make.
They asked St. Augustine for advice. He turned to the philosopher Cicero for inspiration to find a way out of this terrible dilemma. His answer to this question is now called Just War and he wrote it down in an essay called City of God. It laid the basic outline for most the moral inquiry into just war in the Christian tradition.His proposal was refined by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, and is still evolving today.
The Just War tradition has evolved into two concepts: jus ad bellum and jus in bello. In brief, jus ad bellum means that a war is fought for a just cause, while jus in bello means that the war is fought in a just way.
In all of the just war tradition, there is an implicit injunction against war, an attitude that although war may be at times a necessary evil, it is evil even when necessary.
There is no official list of the criteria for a just war, but here are some that have evolved over the ages:
Jus ad bellum has several components:
Jus in bello requires:
Some Bible Passages about War and PeaceThou shall not kill
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Greet one another with the kiss of Christian love. May peace be with all of you who belong to Christ.
You must turn away from evil and do good; you must strive for peace with all your heart.
And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace.
Try to be at peace with everyone, and try to live a holy life, because no one will see the Lord without it.
May the Lord himself, who is our source of peace, give you peace at all times and in every way.
The peace that Christ gives is to guide you in the decisions you make; for it is to this peace that God has called you together in the one body.
So Christ came and preached the Good News of peace to allto you Gentiles, who were far away from God, and to the Jews, who were near to him.
God has called you to live in peace.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
For the whole Law is summed up in one commandment: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."
A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, "Wonderful! Counselor," "Mighty God," "Eternal Father," "Prince of Peace."
"But now," Jesus said, "whoever has a purse or a bag must take it; and whoever does not have a sword must sell his coat and buy one.
And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.
A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace.
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