What shall we do during war?

The buildup to battle progressed at its own pace–agonizingly slow for some, breathtakingly fast for others. However, diplomacy and debate diminish in focus, if not importance, once the fighting starts. When the battle engages, we find ourselves drawn to TV sets, transfixed as the future of the Middle East, perhaps the planet, beams via satellite into our dens and living rooms.

Military commanders and network executives promise Americans will have the most close-up view of war in history. Communications technology, combined with the Pentagon’s media-ready policy, will enable unprecedented access to “reality” TV.

But we should not think of this as a couch-potato war. We should do more than spend our waking hours absorbing myriad military maneuverings. We should act:

Pray. Baptists and other people of faith always name prayer as the first option in any difficult situation. It would sound trite if it were not true. We need to pray.

Pray for the troops. These are some of the finest women and men called out from among us. They are patriotic, committed, brave. Whether or not you would have sent them into battle–whether or not they themselves would have chosen battle–is beside the point. They have sworn to obey military command, and they are committed to fulfill their duty. Pray for their safety.

Pray for their precision. Experts tell us a new generation of weapons is more sophisticated than any ever engaged in battle. Pray that the troops who use them will use them to the greatest effect, to bring the conflict to a rapid conclusion while also sparing innocent life.

Pray for the Iraqis, particularly civilians and conscripted soldiers, who already have suffered grievously under the regime of Saddam Hussein. Pray that the civilians will be protected from battle and kept from harm’s way. Pray that we will not hear the term collateral damage” except to learn that, miraculously, it does not exist. Pray that Iraqi soldiers will hasten the end to the war by tossing aside their weapons and refusing to fight.

Pray for George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein. Ask God to make our president wise, not only in the waging of war, but also in the implementation of peace. Pray that Hussein will, also miraculously, see the folly of fighting and surrender quickly.

Pray that weapons of mass destruction will be discovered and documented, so that the community of nations can come together, understanding the conflict has served a just cause, to make the region, and indeed the world, a safer place.

Pray that God would confound and confuse terrorists, so that the battle in Baghdad does not spread to the malls and mainstreets of America, England, Spain and elsewhere around the globe.

Remember. Almost any student of war realizes the passions of battle sometimes cause people to forget basic understandings they take for granted when they are at peace. So, we must remember.

Remember we are not at war with each other. One right we enjoy as Americans is free speech. In times of particular passion, however, we sometimes fail to appreciate that freedom, especially when someone with whom we strongly disagree is exercising it at unusually high decibels. But we fight wars for freedom, including free expression of ideas; it’s one of the rights that has made our nation great. Even when we disagree over here, we must remember the great value of being free to disagree.

Remember the ones who suffer acutely. Family and loved ones of military personnel may live in your neighborhood or community. Remember to show them acts of kindness during this time of stress. Let them know of your prayers, but don’t stop there. Help with chores, baby-sitting, conversation and other comforting, sustaining gestures. Remember, also, the Middle Eastern minorities in our midst. Many of them are feeling especially high levels of stress these days, and some are anxious for their own safety. Reassure them of your care and concern. Help them to know, as well as feel, they are valued, wanted and appreciated in this country. Times of trauma are the best times to minister. We must take this opportunity to be the presence of Christ, both for our military families and for Middle Eastern minorities.

Remember that God loves our enemies as much as God loves us. We have been especially blessed. That does not mean we are special. God’s love is broad. We do not own the franchise.

Remember that our security does not reside in military might. Our ultimate security rests with God alone, no matter what specific actions a day might bring. America has been blessed by a fine military, comprised of committed and gifted personnel who implement indescribable technology. But that does not guarantee any person one more day of life. Any of us could die today due to an infinite number of causes. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. But as Christians, we know our eternal security is covered by the sacrifice of Christ. And we know that no matter what happens in the meantime, God is present to sustain us.

Prepare. A few weeks ago, some Americans prepared for chemical terrorism with duct tape and plastic sheeting. We need to prepare to face the future.

Prepare to live each day without submitting to the shackles of terrorism. We don’t know what enemies among us might plan. But if we allow fear to rule our lives, they win, no matter what.

Prepare to help the victims of war. Prepare to give generously to feed and medicate Iraqis. Prepare to help rebuild their nation as a democracy. Prepare to minister to families who lose loved ones in battle. And help those around you prepare to spend eternity with God in Christ.

Marv Knox is editor of the Baptist Standard. Used by permission.

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