Chap 11 INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

The Bible, the divine revelation of the Creator of all mankind, cuts across all cultural and national peculiarities and deals with mankind universally. It was written by individuals and initially addressed to nations, communities or individuals within their historical times. However, because the Bible is a supernatural revelation from the Author and Sustainer of all history, its time-oriented-specifics may also be eternally-principled-universals.

Foreign policies or international relations practiced by nations many centuries ago may be technologically or technique-wise inapplicable to our modern world, but the principles are as valid today as they were 3000 years ago. Truth and values do not change. God is the author of all truth and all morality. In fact, God is truth and God is morality. Truth and righteousness have their source in the Divine Person that is where they reside. Since he does not change, they do not change. They are his nature.

The Creator made man in his own image, a person whose worth is determined by the truth, righteousness, love and justice that resides in him. Man, this creature of the Divine Father, is pro-creative and social. Man has communalized himself into social structures, in response to Divine fiat and providential circumstances. The larger of these social structures are called "nations." Because God scattered his creatures, confounding human language into many diverse tongues, men have adapted themselves to many different "cultures," climates, circumstances and political contingencies. Huge masses of individuals with the same languages and cultures have come together to cooperate in political, economic and other structures to form nations. But nations are still simply massive concentrations of individuals.

Therefore, what is called "international relations" must be fundamentally approached from the perspective of individual, personal relations. Practically all the biblical truths which reveal the mind of God for individual relations may be extrapolated to the national level:

  1. So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets (Matt. 7:12).
  2. Everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required (Luke 12:48).
  3. Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15).
  4. Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? . . . The one who showed mercy on him .... Go and do likewise (Luke 10:36).
  5. He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).
  6. Live in harmony with one another .... If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all (Rom. 12:16, 18).
  7. Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law (Rom. 13:8).
  8. ... aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you; so that you may command the respect of outsiders, and be dependent on nobody (I Thess. 4:11,12).
  9. What causes wars, and what causes fighting among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (James 4:1-3).
  10. If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? (James 2:15, 16).
  11. Scores of other principles concerning human relations could be cited from the Bible which apply universally and internationally. But there are also principles and illustrations in the Bible that have something to say more specifically about God's will for international relations. Some of these are as follows:

    1. The world is a "community of nations" all men are brothers in the sense that they are God's creatures and "sons." We are "our brother's keeper" (Gen. 4:9) because we have all descended from one father and mother (Adam and Eve). Furthermore, Jesus dictated this principle of the "brotherhood of man" and its implications for international relations in his parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). Peter further amplified the principle in his statement, "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:34). Nations should conduct their relations with other nations on the principle that God is not partial to any nation, but that people are, as far as this world is concerned, brothers especially when any are in need of succor (see Job 31:13-15).
    2. Jehovah God in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, is Sovereign Lord of lords, and King of kings. His will rules the universe and the affairs of men. He sets up kings and deposes them (Dan. 2:21, 47, 4:1-3; 4:17; 4:34-37; 6:25-27). "Man proposes and God disposes." Kings and rulers make their choices and act, and God uses all to his glory and the fulfillment of his redemptive program in history (e.g. Isa. 10:5-27; Jer. 27:1-11; John 19:10, 11). God expects nations to conduct their international relations through an acknowledgment, to some degree, of his sovereignty. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that Amos held pagan nations morally responsible to Jehovah for their relations with other nations (Amos 1:3-2:16). Others uncompromisingly reinforce this principle (Isaiah ch. 13-23; Jonah; Jeremiah ch. 46-51; Ezekiel ch. 26-39). And the book of Revelation portrays the once Incarnate Lamb (Jesus) as the Glorified and Enthroned ruler of nations who "puts it into their hearts to carry out his purpose ..." (Rev. 17:15-18; compare Dan. 7:13ff).
    3. There has been only one theocratic nation, it is true (Israel). However, the law of God by which all nations are to conduct their affairs has been written on men's hearts (Rom. 2:12-16) innately, it has been written in "nature" (Rom. l:18ff) objectively, personified in Jesus Christ, historically (John l:1ff, I John 1:1-4), and revealed to mankind in human language (I Cor. 1:18-25; 2:10-13), propositionally. So that all men (and nations) are without excuse! All men of every nation have been given minds with which to think and laws of logic by which to think. Therefore, they "ought not to think" that God is nonexistent or that he is a piece of wood or stone (Acts 17:26-31). "Oughtness" implies moral responsibility. It is a self-evident truth, that all men are created, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.

      While no nation, including the one theocratic one, has ever conducted its international relations whole-heartedly from this principle they are not guiltless, even though heathen, for having failed to do so. Nations are warned to give "homage" to God's Son (Psa. 2:1-12). Only the very naive unbeliever and the uninformed Christian will ever expect this principle to be made a primary factor in the foreign policies of human governments. Human governments by nature and necessity are coercive and materialistically oriented. Even the best of them are never completely surrendered to the sovereignty of God spiritually or ideologically. Some are by degrees; some not at all. But there is a plateau of relative acknowledgment of Divine sovereignty for nations that is acceptable to God. The Bible expects it! It is upon this principle, for the first time in history (except the Israelite theocracy) that the founding fathers (from the "plantation" at Plymouth to the framers of the Constitution) established the United States of America. While more and more atheistic minority groups try to undermine this as a principle of American civil government, the vigilance of Americans who still believe strongly in this principle must remain ever alert and passionate to insure that it is continued.

    4. Another principle of international relations enunciated in the Bible is that there must be no "one-world government." The principle is first stated in Genesis 10:5ff and is revealed to be the will of God in Genesis 11:1-9. Man has been resisting this principle from Genesis 11 to this day. The great Mesopotamian civilizations (Assyria, Babylon and Persia) attempted to conquer the world and amalgamate all peoples into one Mesopotamian culture. The expected result would be peace, prosperity and a humanistic "utopia." Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of himself as the magnificent, powerful, and beneficent "tree" whose "top reached to heaven, and . . . was visible to the end of the whole earth ... its leaves were fair and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all ... the beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the air dwelt in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it . . . "(Dan. 4:11, 12). Alexander the Great, emperor of Greece took with him on his crusade to conquer the world philosophers, scientists, poets, artisans, and the trappings of Western culture fully intending to "Hellenize" (Greekize) all of civilization. Remnants of Greek culture may be seen as far east as India, as far west as the Balkans, and as far south as Egypt to this day. Alexander's thrust was the most far-reaching and the shortest-lived. It lasted only eleven years and was divided up, never to fulfill its Utopian ambitions, when Alexander died at the prime age of thirty-two. Then came the Roman Empire with its aspirations of creating on earth the "golden age of man." Daniel predicted that these four attempts at "one-world government" would temporarily succeed (Daniel, ch. 2,7) but would eventually collapse and in the days of the "fourth" world-domination by man, God would establish his spiritual kingdom which would be the only truly universal kingdom (the church of Jesus Christ) to last forever (Dan. 2:44,45). "One-world government" does not work it never has and it never will. History has proven that time and again. The "Holy Roman Empire," Napoleon, Kaiser, the British Empire, Hitler, Communism, none of them have produced "Shangri-La." At the end of World War I, the victorious allies (U.S., England, France, et al.) formed "The League of Nations" as a "one-world" government structure but in 20 short years World War II ensued. In 1945, at San Francisco, California, the "United Nations" was born. Since that time there have been scores of wars (hot and cold), economic depressions, famines, and other world-wide catastrophes to which the "United Nations" is demonstrably incapable of responding with a solution. It has proven to be almost totally impotent! "One-world government" will never work while this sinful world lasts. Furthermore, the Bible rejects it (see Deut. 32:8; Acts 17:26).
    5. A fourth principle by which international relations should be conducted is the inviolability of national sovereignty. A nation has the right to borders or territories which have been established by cultural and language difference, by topographical circumstances, and by long generations of occupancy. This has seldom been honored by any civil government or by any people. The history of the world is one of constant movements of national borders through treaties, purchases, migrations, coercive annexations (wars), and sundry other sociological changes. The Bible is silent about most of these, except "coercive annexations." "And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation ..." (Acts 17:26). "When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the people according to the number of the sons of God" (Deut. 32:8).
      1. Isaiah predicted that the Assyrian emperor would violate the national sovereignty of Israel, as he had that of others, but God would punish the arrogance of Assyria in due time (Isa. 10:5ff). The prophet Nahum especially brings God's accusation against "Nineveh" (Assyria) for "preying" upon other nations and "plundering" them (Nahum 2:9-13; 3:1-12). When Assyria threatened the national sovereignty of Judah in the reign of Hezekiah, God brought judgment upon Sennacherib (Isa. 37:22ff).
      2. The same condemnation falls upon Babylon for violating the national sovereignty of many peoples and nations (see Isa. 13, 14; Jer. 50, 51). Habakkuk had difficulty understanding how God, it seemed to him, could allow the king of Babylon to sweep nations into his "net" like a great fisherman (Hab. 1:14-17). God answered Habakkuk by showing him the future destruction of Babylon for violating the sovereignty of other nations (Hab. 2:6-17).
    1. Amos condemns Syria, Gaza, Edom, Ammon, and Moab for invasions and violations of other nations' sovereignty (Amos 1:3-2:3).
    2. Daniel prophetically condemns the aggressive and violent invasions of other nations' sovereignty by the "kings of the north and the kings of the south" (Syria and Ptolemies) (Dan. 11:1-45).

The principle of inviolable individual sovereignty is clearly upheld in the Bible. No individual has the right to invade another individual's domain or take his property by coercion or stealth. Unquestionably the same principle would apply nationally. God is not man that he would change. As for the land of Canaan, first, God had the right of "divine domain." He had the right to give it to whomever he chose (see Jer. 27:5ff), so in his sovereign wisdom, he "gave" it to Abraham and his descendants. Second, the many nomadic clans "squatting" in Canaan, could claim no more "squatter's rights" to it than Abraham, a clan from Ur of Chaldea, who migrated and "squatted" there just as the others had done. Third, Abraham and his descendants brought righteousness, justice, and physical improvement (relatively speaking) to the land where other "squatters" had not. Technically, Israel violated no "nation's" sovereignty when they occupied Canaan. In God's sovereign justness, the despicable clans "squatting" in Canaan had forfeited any claims they might have to any portion of the land by defiling the land with their inhuman and atrocious behavior.

    1. A fifth fundamental for international relations between civil governments found in the Bible is that of national integrity (especially in the keeping of treaties and upholding basic human rights or humaneness). "... I will not revoke the punishment; because . . . they . . . did not remember the covenant of brotherhood ..." (Amos 1:9). God promises to punish Tyre because she violated a treaty ("covenant of brotherhood").
    2. In Romans 1:32, "covenant breakers" (or the "faithless" are severely condemned.

      God expects vows by individuals to be kept (Num. 30:2; Deut. 23:21; Eccl. 5:4-6) and that would apply equally to nations.

      The prophet Obadiah commiserated about the tragedy befalling Edom due to the fact that "All your allies have deceived you, they have driven you to the border; your confederates have prevailed against you; your trusted friends have set a trap under you there is no understanding of it" (Obadiah v. 7).

      The same tragic failure of international integrity befalls Judah, according to Jeremiah (Jer. 30:14) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 16:39ff; see also Jer. 38:22).

      Nahum accuses Nineveh of "countless harlotries . . . graceful and deadly charms, who betrays nations with her harlotries, and peoples with her charms ..." (Nah. 3:4).

      Amos charges certain nations with inhumanity: "... they threshed Gilead with threshing sledges of iron . . . they carried into exile a whole people . . . cast off all pity, and his anger tore perpetually . . . they have ripped up women with child . . . and burned to lime the bones of the king of Edom (Amos l:3ff).

      Isaiah condemns Egypt, calling her, "Rahab who sits still" (Isa. 30:7). "Rahab" is a Hebrew word meaning, "big mouth, braggart, vain-talker"; and the words "sits still" are from the Hebrew word shabath, or "resting, inert, unmoving." Egypt's word was worthless she could not and would not keep it.

      The empire of Rome is represented as having "deceived" all nations (Rev. 18:23). In her latter years, Rome lost her integrity. She would not keep her word.

      At the end of his second term as President, which would be his last public service to America, George Washington, in his Farewell Address, said: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports .... In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens . . . reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles .... It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.... Observe good faith and justice toward all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all; religion and morality enjoin this conduct.... It will be worthy of a free, enlightened and ... a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous . . . example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence .... Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue?"

      The Bible says that nations must maintain moral integrity. They must, to the best of their ability, keep their word; they must not deceive for wicked purposes; they must make every effort toward international peace and harmony; and they must do good whenever and wherever they are able.

    3. The Bible appears to give a sixth principle of international relations as a caution against naiveté or foolishness. It is very unwise for a nation to make an alliance with another nation when their ideologies are diametrically opposed to one another. It would seem to be clear logic that a nation whose political ideology is basically theistic should not expect a nation whose ideology is overtly atheistic to keep its treaties except when it is forced to do so by powers greater than its own. Atheism's motives are those of the jungle. In nearly all accounts of international relations in the Old Testament, alliances between governments of different ideologies wrought only evil and destruction:
      1. God's theocratic people were warned not to "return" to Egypt for military assistance (Deut. 17:16).
      2. Joshua and the Israelites were deceived into making a treaty with some of the Canaanites (Josh. 9:1-27) and it resulted in the oppressive days of the Judges (see also Josh. 10:5,33; 11:5, Judges 3:13, etc.).
      3. Menahem of Israel made an alliance with the Assyrian Tiglath Pileser (II Kings 15:19) and the Assyrian quickly violated it invading Israel (II Kings 15:29).
      4. Ahaz of Judah, for fear of the coalition of Israel and Syria (II Kings 16:5-20; Isa. 7:1-25) made an alliance with Tiglath Pileser of Assyria. But Assyria soon forgot this alliance and at the invasion of Israel kept marching southward, invading Judah and devastating over 40 cities of Judah also (II Kings 18:13ff).
    1. Hosea made a treaty with Shalmaneser of Assyria (II Kings 17:1-6), but in a few years violated it which resulted in the Assyrians taking the ten northern tribes into exile.
    2. Hezekiah treatied with the emperor of Assyria, paid tribute, but woke up one morning to find Jerusalem under Assyrian siege (II Kings 18:14-19:37).
    3. Hezekiah "showed" his treasury and armory to the Babylonians (apparently in a treaty-making session against the Assyrians) (II Kings 20:12-19; Isa. 39:1-8), which precipitated a later siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and exile for Judah.
    4. Asa treatied with Benhadad of Syria (II Chron. 16:3-10) which resulted in perpetual war during his reign,
    5. Jehoshaphat of Judah entered into a semi-treaty relationship with Ahab of Israel through the marriage of Jehoshaphat's son to the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (Athaliah) (II Chron. 18:1ff). This led to Baalism in Judah and murder of the royal family.
    6. Jehoshaphat made an alliance with king Ahaziah of Israel (he did not seem to learn anything from his relationship with Ahab) and it resulted in failure (II Chron. 20:35-37).
    7. Even the "sweet singer of Israel" was wise enough to recognize that most international alliances usually pit the "bad" against the "good" (Psa. 83:1-18).
    8. The Old Testament prophets severely rebuked the theistic nation of Israel (and Judah) for attempted alliances with idolatrous nations (Isa. 30:1-7; 31:1-3; 28:15-18; 36:6; Jer. 2:14-18; 2:36,37; Ezek. 17:15; Hosea 7:11; 8:8-10; 12:1).
    9. Daniel (11:1ff) depicted the idolatrous Seleucids and Ptolemies ("kings of the north and kings of the south") as inveterate treaty-breakers. Daniel especially points out that nations with such ideologies deliberately make treaties to deceive other nations (Dan. 11:23).

It is unequivocally true that there is no civil society which is to be equated in any way with Israel of the Old Testament or the Church of the New Testament. God has no "chosen people" now according to race, nationality, or culture. At the same time, the Bible clearly reveals that God expects all civil governments to conduct their "ministries" (Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet. 2:13-17) though basic "natural laws" (Rom. l:18ff; 2:12-16) of goodness, integrity, and logic. That being so, the statement of Paul to the Corinthians (II Cor. 6:14-18) should be a part of that generic law of God which would apply to civil international relations "Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity?" The fact that the majority of civil governments do not see their powers as "ministries" of God does not invalidate the Biblical expectation that they should do so!

The sagacious and godly "father of our country," George Washington, said: "In the execution of such a plan (a government observing good faith and justice toward all nations . . .), nothing is more essential than that permanent inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachment for others, should be excluded; and that in place of them, just and amicable feelings toward all should be cultivated .... As avenues to foreign influence, in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the art of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, toward a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.... Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence ... the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government.... There can be no greater error than to expect . . . real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard."

Farewell Address, September 17, 1796)

In a world whose modern technology (communications, weapons, transportation) has made all nations "next door neighbors, does George Washington's warning about "foreign entanglements" still hold true? Are the biblical principles we have been enumerating still valid for international relations? We believe they are. The Bible does not prohibit all relations between sovereign nations. George Washington advised an "amicable" balance between cooperation and non-cooperation. Biblical principles of Divine sovereignty, national sovereignty, and national integrity do not have to be compromised to promote a diplomacy of "balance" in international relations. Ronald Kirkemo, Associate Professor of International Relations at Point Loma College in San Diego, California, former employee of the U.S. Government and candidate for the California State Legislature, expounds a philosophy of "balance":

What, then, brings peace? How is peace attained and preserved? How can the world be made safe with international diversity and safe for international diversity?

Peace does not come because nations are friendly and generous with each other since then it would be gone whenever some nation wanted to be unfriendly or covetous and had the power to have its own way. To have peace requires more than just being peaceful and hoping all the other nations will be peaceful too. To have peace the nations must create the conditions that will protect it.

Peace among nations has to be built. Natural peace does not exist. But a constructed one is possible. It results from the conscious fashioning and maintaining of certain international and domestic conditions. Foreign policy, then, must not direct its efforts toward peace itself but toward the creation of balance of power, moderation in policy, legitimacy and acceptance of these by public opinion.

Balance, the first pillar of a constructed peace, is important to prevent any one nation from becoming powerful enough that it can successfully insure (through the use or threat of military and economic power) that its specific demands are met by other nations. Balance comes when nations align and realign themselves in such a way that the sum of their combined power equals or surpasses the power of the threatening nation. In this way its power and demands are either scaled down or neutralized altogether.

This process of maintaining an international balance among nations requires leaders who are adept at manipulating their countries' alignments with each other. They must be flexible, able to shift their relationships when necessary. Such manipulation means that a nation will have no or few permanent friends and enemies. As America has experienced with Germany, Japan, China, Russia, Turkey and others, enmities and friendships do not last forever. The leaders must also be willing and able to work and cooperate with nations they disapprove of, nations whose internal activities are open to criticism but whose support is necessary to prevent a general war. That can be very uncomfortable for nations and their people, but the preservation of peace usually involves neither simplicity nor an easy and permanent division of countries into good and bad.

Lastly, the balancing process may involve conflict, and nations must be willing and able to engage in limited conflict to prevent the balance from being over thrown. If this balance can be preserved, then the ambitions of nations can be resisted. Conflicts that do occur can be kept limited, or they can be isolated and contained within a geographic region before they become global and catastrophic.

The successful operation of an international balance over a long period can lead to the second element of a constructed peace, moderation. Moderation is the absence of grandiose ambitions, and intemperate actions, the presence of restraint and toleration. A nation can be induced to be moderate when other nations act together to contain and frustrate its ambitious design, and to accommodate its aspirations whenever reconciliation is both possible and safe. The process of balancing can lead to moderation but it must be coupled with efforts to bring some relative satisfaction to all the nations so that all will find it worthwhile to be moderate. An international balance itself is too fragile, too mechanical. Without the leaven of reconciliation and relative satisfaction, ambitious nations will simply bide their time until they can move and catch the others off guard.

This accommodation and reconciliation comes from negotiations and mutual compromises. We cannot expect the world to be changeless, and we cannot expect nations to be talked out of their historical aspirations and ideological convictions. But if these nations with aspirations and convictions can be balanced and contained, they can be given the choice of no satisfaction by mutual compromise. It is then in their interest to moderate their goals. That in turn makes it in the interest of the other nations to be tolerant.

This reconciliation process is not appeasement. The deals and agreements that are worked out must not be based on personal friendships or friendly atmospheres. Rather, the bargains made must be deeply analyzed and thought through to insure that all concerned are protected. This means that the first round of negotiations may not be successful because the goals have not been moderated enough for it to be safe to accommodate. But if the nations can negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement, then the factors of moderation and tolerance will be strengthened and international relationships made more stable.

The two elements of balance and moderation can construct a peace among the nations. But both are fragile and may not survive changes of leadership in key nations or the development of new issues of crucial importance to some. New leaders may not be skillful in handling the balancing process. The advantages of moderation and mutual compromise may not be self-evident to those facing important new issues. What is needed is a concept of cooperation that will transcend immediate problems and justify commitment to an international system of relative equality of nations (balance) and relative satisfaction of needs and goals (moderation). In other words, the nations need a concept of world affairs that will lead them to see a stable world as a legitimate world, a world they feel obliged to protect from disruption. With such a concept of legitimacy, mediocre leaders can be tolerated and new issues resolved without conflict. The great legitimizing principle of the second half of the twentieth century is the commitment to avoid nuclear war. What is needed now is another legitimizing principle to join it, one which would take nations beyond a commitment to avoid nuclear war to a commitment to establish conditions of greater humaneness and justice among the peoples of the world.

The fourth element in a constructed and lasting peace relates to domestic public opinion. The leaders must convey to the people how the legitimacy of world cooperation makes sense in light of their historical heritage and aspirations. They must explain why shifting national alignments and a balance of power are necessary. The importance of participation in world cooperation must be made clear. This is difficult to achieve because the need to compromise is dimly understood by a public that believes its values and policies are right and just. There is also the danger of apathy by citizens who consider shifting alignments to be too intricate or too political (and thus disgusting) to pay close attention. On the other end of the spectrum is the danger that the public will become infected with utopianism and expect far more than its leader can deliver by participation in international cooperation.

If any of these conditions occur, the regime may find its policies emasculated in an unsympathetic Congress. Or it may find itself voted out of office in the next election and replaced by a regime which promises either more "hard-headed realism" and less association with international conferences and disagreeable nations, or more grand and Utopian goals. Long-term, patient domestic support is a necessity for the establishment of an international order that provides moderation and stability as well as benefits, all without loss of sovereignty and independence.

Between the Eagle & the Dove, by Ronald Kirkemo,
pub. IVP, pp. 50-53

Would this philosophy of "balance" in international diplomacy compromise biblical principle? We do not believe it would. There appears to be biblical precedent for some political cooperation between nations with quite opposite ideological bases. David, the "man after God's own heart", entered into some international commerce with Hiram, king of Tyre (Phoenicia) (II Sam. 5:1 If) without any disapproval from God and with no disastrous results. This international cooperation continued into the reign of Solomon (I Kings 5:1-18). Solomon and the Queen of Sheba were on friendly terms (I Kings 10:1ff). But even earlier, Abraham cooperated with the king of Sodom in an international effort without compromising his faith in God (Gen. 14). The Egyptians in Joseph's time sold grain to people from all over the world (Gen. 42:5-7), and offered asylum to thousands (Gen. 47:Iff). Jacob and Esau entered into amicable "international" relations (Gen. 33). Israel tried diplomacy with Edom as she marched toward Canaan (Num. 20:14-21) but Edom would not negotiate. David, fleeing from his own king Saul, took his family to the king of Moab for his protection (I Sam. 22:3, 4). Both Ezra and Nehemiah tell of the cooperativeness of the Persians in the restoration of the Jewish commonwealth.

Many acts of international diplomacy are recorded in these two books of the Bible. Finally, the book of Esther chronicles a series of "international relations" transpiring between a nation-within-a-nation (Israel) and that nation itself (Persia).

The New Testament takes no historical note of international relations of the first century, except for the prophetic ones concerning the Roman Empire (Rev. 17-18). The very silence of the Gospels and the Epistles indicates divine latitude in international relations anticipating that the fundamental moral principles of "natural law" will prevail. The New Testament (the book of Revelation, specifically), like the Old (Daniel, especially), is revelationally realistic about human, civil government calling it "beastly." All human governments are predatory some more than others. It is not without significance that most nations symbolize themselves as wild animals (lion, bear, eagle, tiger, etc.). The Bible does not portray any human civil government as a paragon of godly virtue; none of them will ever be the "kingdom of God." But the Bible does expect civil governments to serve God as "ministers" to enforce the virtues of logic and natural law. On that basis, international diplomacy and commerce can be conducted from a base of "balance of power" and biblical integrity maintained. Perhaps the statement of the apostle Paul to Christians at Corinth concerning necessary relations with non-Christians would help believers resolve the pragmatics of international relations:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world (I Cor. 5:9, 10).

Christians are in the world; Christians are subject to civil governments; civil governments are not "Christian" per se. The best a Christian can expect of his civil government is that it see itself as a "minister" of God to punish evil doers and reward good doers, guided by the will of God demonstrated in the natural and propositional revelation, as impartially as possible in a highly pluralistic world.

7. Finally, the Bible's highest expectation for international relations would be that of humaneness international relief, especially when unavoidable human suffering occurs on a massive and unexpected scale.

Several biblical examples of this may be cited:

    1. Abraham and the people of Sodom (Gen. 14).
    2. The Egyptians and the nations (Gen. 42-47).
    3. Moab offered political asylum to David's family (I Sam. 22:3, 4).
    4. Isaiah exhorts his own nation to "be a refuge" to suffering Moabites (Isa. 15:5-16:5).
    5. God expected Edom to lend assistance to the people of Jerusalem when they were ravaged by foreign invaders (Obadiah).
    6. Surely the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) could be applied on a national scale.
    7. While Paul's collection of money to help feed the famine-stricken saints in Judea was not taken through the auspices of any civil government but from individual Christians it was, nevertheless, an "international" relief fund (Rom. 15:22-29: II Cor. 8-9; Acts 24:17).
    8. The principle of "cast your bread upon the waters ..." (Eccl. 11:1, 2) could be applied internationally.
    9. The call for international compassion, as well as for individual mercy, is in the words of Jesus, "Love your enemies ..." (Matt. 5:43-48).
    10. The same call is in Paul's words: "... if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink ..." (Rom. 12:14-21).

Compassion is a most God-like virtue. But no one nation should be expected to feed the whole world of starving people. No one nation should be expected to arm all the defenseless nations or fight all their battles for them. Nations must be self-centered to the extent that their first responsibility is to their own citizens. That is the primary purpose for which God ordained civil governments. The principle enunciated by Paul that those who "do not provide for their own" has disowned the faith (I Tim. 5:7, 8) is applicable here. Certainly, another principle, "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required" (Luke 12:48) should also apply internationally. America has certainly been "given much." She should be expected to extend a compassionate hand to those less fortunate. But she must not jeopardize her own economy or her own national security to do so. America's biblical mandate is to so govern her own affairs that she is "Gods servant for your (America's) good" (Rom. 13:4). She must, in the words of George Washington, "avoid passionate attachments" to any other nation. She must act in her own self interest. That is what civil governments are for. They are not the kingdom of God they are not the church of Christ. They are servants of God in the secular world to insure a "quiet and peaceable life" for their citizens so that men may come to the knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:1-4). Let us pray for our nation and all the nations of the world to that end.


Copyright © 1990, Paul T. Butler