Rescue Those Being Led Away to Death
by Dan Juster, Director, Tikkun Ministries International
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Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering
This is an amazing text and a moral imperative for every person of every rank or position in society. It is a mandate to preserve the lives of others. The implications for evangelism are profound. Indeed, many are those who are staggering toward eternal death. The passage also has profound application for the humanitarian work of the Body of Messiah.
International Military Action to Rescue Those Led to Death
However, I do not want to emphasize these applications here. Rather, I want to apply this text to the issue of the morality of governmental leaders and war. This is something which greatly interests me. It is one of the reasons I rejected the pacifism of my college years. I especially desire to address the behavior of democratic republics. The violation of this principle by government leaders can be seen throughout history. Let us consider a few recent examples.
President Roosevelt and the Holocaust (1940's)
One of the most profound disappointments in modern history was the failure of President Roosevelt to act during the Second World War to prevent the slaughter of six million Jews. Jewish leaders pleaded with the President to bomb the rail lines taking Jews to the death camps. In spite of clear intelligence information, he refused to do so and claimed that this would hinder the war effort. It would hardly have done so, since it would have been at little cost to the United States, and such an act could have saved tens of thousands of lives.
Rwanda in the 1990s
Then we look at Rwanda. In just four months, from April to mid-July 1994, more than 500,000 Tutsis were slaughtered by the Hutus. Some say it was upwards of 800,000. Today, former President Bill Clinton says his inaction in the matter is one of his great regrets. The United Nations, the European Union, and NATO stood aside - wringing their hands but doing nothing - as the Tutsis were systematically killed. Only the advent of a Tutsi army that eventually took over, was able to end the massacre.
The current ongoing situation in Syria is profoundly disturbing. Well over 200,000 have died. Chemical weapons have been used, possibly by both sides. Witnessed, documented human atrocities are without number. The West clearly had the power to stop it, but opposed by Russia and China and burnt by the recent events in Libya, felt unable to act unilaterally. An enforced no-fly zone would have sufficed.
Iraq: The Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL (2013-?)
Today the United States and a coalition of nations confronts one of the most diabolically evil movements that the world has seen since Hitler and Stalin: the threat of the radical and violent movement that calls itself the Islamic State. Thank God that some action is finally being taken. Western nations, afraid of being drawn into another protracted "boots on the ground" military operation like Afghanistan, are hoping that air-strikes and humanitarian aid will suffice. But those measures do not seem to be enough, especially in the present fighting for the Kurdish town of Kobani on the Syrian - Turkish border. For their own evil reasons, the Turks stand by as their neighbors are slaughtered.
Arguments for and against Involvement
Some oppose any involvement in such situations. They say that nations should be guided only by the principle of national self-interest. However, some argue that a benevolent orientation to other nations is actually in the national self-interest since it creates friends and not enemies. But that is as far as they will go. However, a follower of Yeshua must always act in love in all situations! This means seeking the best for the most people.
What are the Principles?
Military action is always dangerous and sometimes leads to unpredictable results, but I believe that for every person who claims to be moral, especially those who claim to act according to biblical norms, there is a clear test of behavior. If a nation or nations together have the power to stop genocide (the intentional destruction of a racial, ethnic or religious group) and slaughter, with losses that are proportionately small compared to the number of lives saved, that nation or group of nations is morally bound to do so. There are biblical humanitarian norms that are more important than national self-interest.
Human Rights and Support for Governments
In addition, those governments that truly practice respect for all human beings, and those with at least a significant degree of human rights, should gain our greatest support. We can even have decent relationships with authoritarian regimes if they allow for a modicum of decency and human rights in their societies. But those who are the most oppressive should not receive our support, even if it appears to be to our benefit. This would place international relations on a moral basis. Yes, sometimes we would have to choose the lesser of two evils with the powers of this world, but we should not do so lightly.
The Bush Policy in Iraq
On this basis, the Bush administration policy toward Iraq was very problematic. Yes, Saddam Hussein used poison gas and slaughtered thousands. Yet, under the Baathists, Christians and religious minorities had protection. Therefore, when the Bush administration decided to remove all the existing government officials and to establish a new democratic republic, I became very concerned. Would the Shiite majority that would certainly be elected, not turn around and oppress the Sunnis who had previously oppressed them? I thought it would be better to remove Saddam himself, and then tell the Baathists to cooperate with the world. The results were as expected. The Shiites allied with Iran (a Shiite state) and oppressed the Sunnis. Thus the Sunnis embraced the Islamic State so as to fight the Shiites. So predictable! The wounds of centuries cannot be overcome without the power of the Gospel and forgiveness. In addition, establishing a democratic republic takes many decades of discipleship in human rights and democratic principles. So in Iraq, we did not ultimately rescue the perishing, but un-leashed demonic forces for death.
If a nation has the power with proportionately low casualties, to stop mass destruction and genocide, then it has an obligation to do so. I believe God will harshly judge such leaders who allow this to take place when they have the power to stop it.
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