When the Christian’s country is involved in war, the Christian is faced with a decision and generally it is to be either an objector or to follow the armed forces and be troubled with reconciling his acts with his religion. Neither decision can be wholly justified from the point of view of Christian reasoning. Or perhaps, we should better say that neither decision leaves the Christian entirely without doubt as to his proper move. This is best exemplified, probably, by the fact that many conscientious objectors volunteer for some non-combat service.
Perhaps the Christian’s greatest obligation is one we haven’t mentioned. Know what it is? It is the responsibility of the prevention of war. Most of us shudder at this responsibility because we feel so helpless. The forces in the world, particularly the evil forces, appear to be so stupendous that we individuals just give up in trying to do anything about changing the course of history. What can we, as individuals, do to serve the cause of peace? We can love our neighbors, pray for our enemies, and do not want what our neighbors have. Do what we can for peace-loving organizations, but be careful that these organizations are not using a false front. What else can we do?
There is another group of killings that we should discuss and these are what is legally entitled manslaughter. There are a lot of ways that we humans can be guilty of manslaughter. The most common of these is by automobile. There have been several hundred people killed in automobile wrecks in Texas. What is our responsibility for these people? What are the stop signs, the red lights, the slow signs really saying to us but, “Thou shall not kill.” What is your responsibility as a driver of a car? As a passenger of a car? How about hunting accidents? Other accidents? What about maintaining dangerous nuisances?
There is another group of killing that might come under something called our social responsibility. These killings are more by inaction than by action. In the first place, are we our brother’s keeper? Are we responsible for taking care of him? What are some of the things we are responsible for? Food, shelter, medicine, right to work, etc.
And there’s another group of killings, capital punishment. There are a lot of people who have been thinking about this. There are many states that have abolished it, and truthfully, there does not seem to be much difference in the crime rate of those states that have it and those that don’t. The forms and types of punishment for crime are a lesson in themselves, and we can’t go into them here. We simply want to think for a minute about the punishing of a person by taking his life. Do you think that is proper? Can you reconcile that with this, the Sixth Commandment? Barring another war, and provided you are careful in driving, your closest brush with murder may come from sitting on a jury in a capital case in the next few years. You may disqualify yourself, and you should prepare to decide one way or another.