OK, I’m not running to Bunnings anytime soon. But you have to admit, the temperature in our region is rising. The headlines are full of talk about a possible war on the Korean peninsula. 

And even Australia is now a target for nuclear attack. 

A North Korean spokesman recently warned that Australia’s continued support of the US would result in ‘a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of [North Korea].’ 

Although North Korea has nuclear weapons, we’re not in range of North Korean missiles just yet (give that a few more years). But the densely populated countries of South Korea and Japan are, and so it’s a nervous time for people in the region.  

So what are we to make of North Korea’s continued aggression? 

Here are 4 things for Christians to consider:

1. ‘Crazy Fat Kid’ or Evil Genius? 

US Senator John McCain recently labelled North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un a ‘Crazy Fat Kid,’ because of North Korea’s belligerent behaviour. Calling murderous dictators ‘crazy’, ‘mad’, or ‘irrational’ is a common secular response. After all, threatening the region with nuclear war can only be irrational, can’t it? 

But as veteran Guardian reporter Tania Branigan points out

‘North Korea isn’t mad. It’s smart. The reason [North Korea] is developing nuclear weapons is because it keeps them in power. It keeps regime change firmly off the table.’

That's not irrational. That's completely logical – if you're an evil regime intent on dominating your own people and the surrounding region. 

Kim Jong Un is rational, even a genius (after all, North Korea has been able to force China and the US to the negotiating table). But he's an evil genius: his goals of regional domination and dictatorship are profoundly wicked. 

The category of ‘evil’ might be disappearing from secular discourse, but it’s the only explanation that makes sense of North Korean actions. 

2. Past performance doesn’t guarantee future results. Including when it comes to peace. 

Although the Korean peninsula and our region have enjoyed overall peace for the last 50 years, there’s no guarantee this will continue.  

In pre-WW1 Europe,  intelligent people were claiming that a European war had become impossible—that Europe had moved to a post-war reality. Similar claims were made after the fall of communism by scholars such as Francis Fukuyama. It’s tempting to be lulled into the narrative that humanity has progressed to the point where war is over. 

But Jesus warns us against such naive thinking. Speaking of human history leading up to his return, he said: 

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.’ [Matt 24:6-7]

War is normal in our fallen world. Peace is not guaranteed to us—including on the Korean peninsula. 

3. War is horrific. But war is sometimes necessary in a fallen world, to uphold justice and peace. 

War is awful. And a war—should it break out on the Korean peninsula—would be utterly catastrophic, due to the high population density (the South Korean capital is within shelling distance of North Korean artillery). 

And so it’s tempting to think that pacifism is the answer: if only we got rid of our weapons, we would increase the chances of peace. After all, if we laid down our arms, won’t the evil dictators of the world do the same? 

History proves otherwise. 

A similar tactic was tried with Adolf Hitler in the 1938 Munich agreement—to no avail. The only thing that stopped the genocide in Bosnia during the 1990’s was the threat of US airstrikes. And arguably the only thing stopping South Korea from joining North  Korea to become the world’s largest prison camp are the large South Korean and US military forces stationed there. 

When it comes to facing evil, sometimes the threat of force—even lethal force—is necessary. That’s not to say war is somehow good or wholesome. It’s brutal (just ask any veteran). But if we’re going to defend justice, there are times when war is a sombre necessity.

As Christian scholar  D.A. Carson points out:

‘Where an enemy is perpetrating its horrible holocaust, is it not an act of love that intervenes, even militarily, to prevent that holocaust if a nation has the power to do so? And is not restraint in such cases a display, not of loving pacifism, but of lack of love—of the unwillingness to sacrifice anything for the sake of others?’ [1]

4. Trump won’t bring lasting peace. But the resurrection age will. 

When we’re under threat it’s tempting to look to political and military leaders for security. Yes, we should hope and pray that Trump and Kim Jong Un arrive at a peaceful settlement. 

But as we saw earlier, war is normal this side of eternity:  as Jesus said, ‘Such things must happen…’

Speaking to a world rocked by the unthinkable—by the fall of Rome, the ‘eternal city’ to barbarians in 410—the early church theologian Augustine reminded Christians that they were members of an enduring eternal city: a ‘City [that is] on pilgrimage until the time of its kingdom comes.’  [2]

Yes, war may break out in our region. And it's tempting to press the panic button.

But as Augustine goes onto say, if we belong to God’s eternal City, we don’t need to despair. We don’t need to fear. For the day will come when Christians ‘will be given the promised kingdom, where with their Prince, ‘the king of ages’, they will reign, world without end.’  [3]

[1] D.A. Carson,  Love in Hard Places (Wheaton, ILL: Crossway, 2002), 112.

[2], [3] City of God XV.1

Photos: Roberto Saltori, flickr