Jesus and the prophets looked forward to the time when God’s reign would bring about just and peaceful societies in which people would enjoy the fruits of their labor without interference from foreign oppressors or unjust rulers. This biblical vision calls for more than the simple absence of violence.
The pursuit of peace requires the patient cultivation of relationships among world leaders, diplomats and citizens that are based on respect and understanding. Modern travel and communication advances permit greater contact among people of different countries, which can lead to constructive engagement in the areas of trade, education, development, environmental protection and cultural exchange. Christians can play a unique role through our relationships in the worldwide Body of Christ and our shared missionary outreach. When we focus on positive opportunities for mutually beneficial relationships, we will be less likely to support violent conflict.
While Christians recognize that God does not call us to bring his kingdom by force, we agree that governments should protect and restore just and peaceful social orders. Believers have long differed on what that should look like in practice — when governments may use force, and whether Christians ought to participate in government-authorized force to defend their homelands, rescue others from attack or liberate other people from oppression.
The peaceful and just settling of disputes is a gift of common grace that requires sustained human action. We urge governments to pursue domestic, foreign and security policies that encourage justice and peace by preventing conflict. We urge governments to thoroughly pursue nonviolent paths to peace. If governments use military force, they should deploy it justly in the service of sustainable peace and not to serve narrow national interests.
Governments should at a minimum restrain violence by applying classical just war principles, which are designed to clarify the limited conditions under which military action is justifiable, and establish standards of right conduct in fighting a war. These principles apply to military decision-making and congressional deliberations on the declaration of war or authorizing use of force, and to the critical evaluation of past military action.
We gratefully acknowledge the sacrifices of service members, veterans and their families. They often face profound levels of emotional trauma and moral injury, in addition to the more widely recognized physical wounds and disabilities. We urge governments to recognize and address the multifaceted needs of victims and survivors of armed conflict. We continue our partnership with the military by providing qualified chaplains to all three branches of our military.
We urge followers of Jesus to pray for, support and constructively critique government leaders who bear these responsibilities. As followers of Jesus, we should model and promote mutual respect that leads to just transformation of conflict across boundaries of nation, tribe and religion. As such, we urge the Body of Christ to engage in sober, practical peacemaking, nonviolent conflict resolution and citizen diplomacy at local, national and international levels.
The possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons merits special attention due to their unique destructive capacity and threat to civilian populations. A growing body of Christian thought calls into question the acceptability of nuclear weapons as part of a just national defense, given that the just war theory categorically admonishes against indiscriminate violence and requires proportionality and limited collateral damage. The very weapons meant to restrain evil could potentially destroy all that they were intended to protect, which begs the question whether they can be normatively employed toward a just end.
Accordingly, we support a no first use policy, a continuing ban on nuclear testing, removing nuclear weapons from hair trigger alert status, efforts to secure mutual reductions in current nuclear stockpiles, and ongoing dialogue on the effects of possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons.