I remember vividly the shock. I was just learning to read the Bible by myself. I came upon a verse - I don't remember which one - that associated God with war and killing. I ran to my father, because even before I had learned to read, our Sunday School teacher had helped us learn the Ten Commandments. I knew that one said unequivocally, "Thou shalt not kill."
My father said that sometimes war was necessary. At that time, or maybe later, he told me about the Geneva Convention, which spelled out rules that would make warfare more humane. I grew up with a vague sense of what the Geneva Convention accomplished. It was not, however, until recently, while pursuing the subject via the Internet, that I fully appreciated its value.
I find it interesting that in 1964 at the Geneva meeting, there was an acknowledgment that there were new and frightful weapons of destruction and that it was likely that future battles would be more and more murderous. Now we're grateful for any strategies and weapons that reduce collateral damage, especially the killing of civilians. Yet we are confronted also with weapons of mass destruction and a segment of society committed to deliberating killing civilians.
Today as the world is grappling with questions of righteous and unrighteous warfare, I'm finding any effort to reduce killing in civil as well as in international conflicts a valid goal supported by prayer.
How to pray
The ultimate aim of peace-loving peoples is summed up in a biblical prophecy: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.... nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:2, 4). The prophet Micah repeats this statement, but adds, "and none shall make them afraid" (Mic. 4:4). These promises give me a direction for my prayer.
First I go to the "top of the mountains." From this standpoint of inspiration, I acknowledge the supremacy of God. Knowing that God is Love itself, I am acknowledging that Love is supreme. I can pray this way as surely in times of war as in times of peace. Actually, it is imperative to understand genuine peace as the result of the supremacy of Love, and not just fortuitous circumstances.
The second step of this prophecy-prayer is to recognize that we are not, alone, a favored nation. All peoples and all nations may stand on this exalted mountain and understand that God, not evil, is supreme. In fact, all national leaders have access to the humility that allows them to serve this universal God.
This enables a movement, a flow, to replace entrenched positions. Furthermore, it assures safe disarmament. With disarmament, resources become available for enrichment of daily life, thus, eliminating one of the greatest causes of conflict - poverty and inequitable distribution. We discover then the vicious cycle of war and its causes turned into peace and its fulfillment.
The climax of this prophecy - that we shall not "learn war any more" - is needed to put the seal of accomplishment on our prayers. We may need to pray over and over again until humankind has built a defense against considering armed conflict a possibility in resolving disputes.
Oblivion for evil
Micah's addition to the prophecy, that "none shall make them afraid," adds to our prayers the assurance that the time will come when nations will not fear each other and there will be no cause for fear. Right now, this wonderful state of affairs may seem a long way off, but it will come. The supremacy of God is not wishful thinking, but a spiritual fact.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, was devoted to helping her followers bring harmony to all conflicts, global and personal. A chapter in one of her books is entitled "Peace and War," and she makes an observation with a prophecy of her own. "Bloodshed, war, and oppression belong to the darker ages, and shall be relegated to oblivion" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 285). Revengeful bloodshed, declared and undeclared war, and selfish oppression are destined ultimately to failure as the righteous prayers of millions reflect the supremacy of God.
My childhood naiveté that could not associate God with war and killing has given place to a better understanding of how to eliminate war. The innocence that innately knows that God has nothing to do with war and killing is still valid.