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I remember one of the first times my children came home to proudly report on what they had learned in history class. As they talked I thought to myself, “That isn’t history. That happened in my lifetime! Everyone knows that.” 

Except of course, my children didn’t know it. They needed to be taught it. 

I find myself thinking of this as I watch the coverage of the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East. Either deliberately or out of ignorance, many are ignoring hundred of years of our understanding of what a just war is. Yes, there is such a thing as Just War Theory. This guided our military and countries around the world. 

But, of course, that information must be passed on to a new generation. If you have young adults in the home, this might be good time to learn about the subject and explain to them.

There are many sources I could have used, but the excerpt below is quoted directly from the ESV Study Bible

From the Study Bible:

Definition of War
War is a large-scale armed conflict between countries or between groups within a country aiming at changing or dividing established government. Throughout history, wars have frequently been started by rulers seeking to expand their territory and power, but wars can be started for a variety of economic, political, religious, or ethnic reasons.

What is a Just War?
Over time, the just war ethic has developed a common set of criteria that can be used to decide if going to war in a specific situation is right.

These include the following:
(1) just cause (Is the reason for going to war a morally right cause, such as defense of a nation? cf. Rev. 19:11);

(2) competent authority (Has the war been declared not simply by a renegade band within a nation but by a recognized, competent authority within the nation. cf. Rom. 13:1);

(3) comparative justice (It should be clear that the actions of the enemy are morally wrong, and the motives and actions of one’s own nation in going to war are, in comparison, morally right; cf. Rom. 13:3);

(4 )right intention (Is the purpose of going to war to protect justice and righteousness rather than simply to rob and pillage and destroy another nation? cf. Prov. 21:2);

(5) last resort (Have all other reasonable means of resolving the conflict been exhausted? cf. Matt. 5:9; Rom 12:18);

(6) probability of success (Is there a reasonable expectation that the war can be won? cf. Luke 14:31);

(7) proportionality of projected results (Will the good results that come from a victory in war be significantly greater than the harm and loss that will inevitably come with pursuing the war? cf. Rom 12:21 with 13:4);  and

(8) right spirit (Is the war undertaken with great reluctance and sorrow at the harm that will come rather than simply with a “delight in war,” as in Ps. 68:30?

How is a Just War Fought?
In addition to these criteria for deciding whether a specific war is “just,” advocates of just war theory have also developed some moral restrictions on how a just war should be fought.

These include the following:
(1) proportionality in the use of force (No greater destruction should be caused than is needed to win the war; cf. Deut. 20:10-23);

(2) discrimination between combatants and noncombatants (Insofar as it is feasible in the successful pursuit of a war, is adequate care being taken to prevent harm to noncombatants? cf. Deut. 20:13-14, 19-20);

(3) avoidance of evil means (Will captured or defeated enemies be treated with justice and compassion, and are one’s own soldiers being treated justly in captivity? cf. Ps. 34:14); and

(4) good faith (Is there a genuine desire for restoration of peace and eventually living in harmony with the attacking nation? cf. Matt. 5:43-44; Rom 12:18).

If a war is just, it should not be viewed as morally wrong but still necessary, nor as morally neutral, but as something that is morally right, carried out (with sorrow and regret) in obedience to responsibilities given by God (Rom 13:4). Those who serve in a just war should understand that such service is not sinful in God’s sight but that they do this as “God’s servant for your good” (Rom 13:4; cf. Luke 3:14; John 15:13; also Num 32:6, 20-23; Ps. 144:1).  

it seems the current wars involve numerous violations of these principles. For example, by hiding weapons among noncombatants, there is a deliberate violation of #2. But in the upside down thinking of our day, this is ignored. 

I want to stay in my lane of family discipleship. But part of rightly influencing our teens is helping them become discerning to the worldviews of those who report the news. Encourage your young adults to keep these principles in mind as they watch the news.