Is it Morally Right to threaten to destroy North Korea?

Psalm 145:20 “The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.”

This past week, our Defense Secretary James Mattis issued a strong ultimatum to North Korea: “Cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people”.

Only the size of Pennsylvania, North Korea has about 24 million citizens, with a military so marginal that former Army Intelligence Officer Michael Pregent said it’s army would most likely desert due to starvation if they tried attacking South Korea: “The regime fears desertion once their forces cross the DMZ since they can’t supply their troops with food, fuel, clothes, and ammunition… sometime between day 3 and day 7 (of the invasion). The mere presence of a food stand bursting with goods on the side of the road would blow them away.” So why would General Mattis threaten to destroy North Korea? Could America morally justify destroying another nation? Aren’t we about tolerance, accepting all beliefs, living peacefully with everyone?

Mattis is responding to the very real threat of North Korea’s nuclear missile program against the US. After test-firing two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month, US intelligence reports that now North Korea can attach a miniature nuclear warhead to fit on top of a missile. And those missiles now have the capability of reaching the US mainland. North Korea now has nuclear weapons capability, and their Communist dictator Kim Jong-Un is publicly threatening to use nuclear weapons against the United States.

A little history on North Korea may help us understand how real this threat is and how our verse for this week, which highlights the opposing biblical concepts of love toward your neighbor but justice against evildoers, can coexist. Korea, once part of Japan, was divided between the American-backed Democratic South Korea and the Russia-backed Communist North Korea after Japan was defeated in World War. Ever since then, North Korea has been an atheist regime whose Communist dictatorship has no fear of a God who would hold them accountable for their actions. Cosmic justice is a myth to them.

Only 5 years after their birth (June 25, 1950), North Korea invaded South Korea and the Korean War erupted. The north murdered anyone refusing to bow to their Communist government. The rate of innocent civilian deaths exceeded that of World War II and Vietnam. 40,000 American soldiers died securing South Korea’s right to the moral principles of human liberty and justice. North Korea was driven out.

Today, North Korea has maintained its Stalinist-style atheistic regime, murdering its own people in “re-education camps” and demonstrating total disregard for human life, all the while working to develop nuclear capability to take its bloodthirsty aggression not only against its democratic South Korean neighbor but ultimately against the United States. This is the North Korea that General Mattis is threatening with destruction, should they take any military action against Americans.

In America we often hear that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist because a God who claims to be loving can’t also be wrathful and judgmental. Skeptics point to verses like our verse this week, where this God of love can, and has, destroyed wicked people. Their argument goes something like this: “People who have been victims of violence sometimes forgive those who have hurt them. Can’t God do the same? If He is so loving and perfect, shouldn’t He forgive and accept everyone, not take vengeance and destroy them?”

Professor Miroslav Volf, who teaches at Yale University, provides an excellent response. Having grown up in Croatia, he witnessed firsthand the violence that he attributes to the lack of belief in a God of vengeance: ‘If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence – that God would not be worthy of worship… The only means of prohibiting all recourse to violence by ourselves is to insist that violence is legitimate only when it comes from God… My thesis that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many in the West. But it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human non-violence results from the belief in God’s refusal to judge. In a sun-scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die… (with) other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.’

While many might complain that belief in a God of judgment could lead to a more brutal society, Professor Volf and many others disagree. They have personally seen, in both Communism and Nazism, that a loss of belief in a God of Judgment often leads to mass brutality. Today we have a real life illustration in North Korea. May we have the courage as a nation to stand with our God and exact justice on evildoers who work to destroy us and the freedoms we stand for.

“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance”, Article #256

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