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Mission board president addresses war in special series of radio messages

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–What should Christians think about the United States’ involvement in war in Iraq? How can they support the military families left behind? Does God bless nations when their people honor him?

A special series of radio programs released March 20 by North American Mission Board President Robert E. Reccord via Southern Baptists’ weekly radio broadcast “Strength for Living” addresses these and other questions related to the use of military force in Iraq.

Strength for Living is produced by FamilyNet, the broadcast subsidiary of the North American Mission Board.

The series of four sermons was produced in anticipation of war in Iraq, and the series was shipped March 19 for overnight delivery to the show’s 468 radio station clients.

The series begins with a discussion of “just war” ethics principles, a popular topic among Christians when the United States goes to war.

“For centuries, people on both sides of these debates, for and against war, have used the Bible to make their case,” Reccord says in his message. “… But we should not base our opinion on such important matters on which side has the most persuasive argument. Instead, we need to look at some of the key principles that can help you and me judge not so much if war should be pursued, but whether it is no longer avoidable.”

The root cause is sin, Reccord notes. Mankind’s prevailing self-interest has made war a constant for almost all of human history. The struggle for Christians, he says, has been to balance their need to defend against evil and oppression versus the mandate to respect and value all human life — even that of one’s enemies.

Reccord applies the five principles developed by early church father St. Augustine to the current situation in Iraq:

— “War strictly of aggressive offense is never justified.”

— “The intent of that involvement must be to bring justice and peace.”

— “It must be a last resort.”

— “Only the proper authorities — the governing body — can declare and wage war.”

— “War should be waged in a way that once peace is achieved, hostilities end.”

Reccord deals with each point in light of the current circumstances, urging prayer for national leaders as they make the difficult decisions along the way.

“Pray that they will seek God in the decisions that they are making about war and peace,” he urges. “The Christian must walk in a line between honoring decisions our government makes regarding war and loving those who are considered our enemy. We must realize that the greater purposes of God are at work even in the conflict human beings initiate against each other.”

The second sermon in the series deals with the spiritual element of how God can bless a nation when its people repent. Specifically, it is a detailed exposition of 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.”

Reccord shares the story of a man named Jeremiah Lanphier, who in the mid-1800s felt a burden to pass out a small pamphlet titled, “How Often Should I Pray” in New York City. The response was small at first, but within six months the crowd gathering daily had reached 10,000. Over the course of two years, the resulting prayer movement swept the world and more than 1 million people placed their faith in Christ.

“It’s amazing what happens when just one person whose heart is right toward God prays,” Reccord notes of the blessing the nation received. “You know a nation’s heart determines a nation’s destiny.”

The third sermon in the series includes interviews with U.S. Army Col. Frank Bragg, who shares how churches and individuals can pray for and care for the soldiers and their families. Reccord also interviews Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, for further discussion of what the Bible says about war.

In the concluding message in the four-part series, Reccord addresses the role of the Christian during wartime. He repeats a call for prayer for everyone involved, and he exhorts Christians to “seek to be a bridge-builder” — doing things that can lead to a furtherance of God’s Kingdom and impact.

He also urges Christians to find ways they can be a part of the effort by ministering to families on military bases, and to find ways to express appreciation to those who are serving or have served.

“We need to express our love, our prayers, our support and our appreciation on a regular basis,” he states.

To read transcripts or hear excerpts via the Internet, visit www.FamilyNetRadio.com and click on the “Strength for Living” tab at the top of the page. The site also includes schedule information for affiliate stations, organized by zip code.

    About the Author

  • James Dotson