There is a passage in C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity in which he writes the following:
I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in the First World War, I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and found ourselves together a moment after death. I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it.
Christian believers who are called upon to fight against each other are likely to feel only a sense of obligation and responsibility to do what “their side” requires, as distinct from a kind of mortal hatred of the “other side.” In athletics, this can take the form of conspicuously sportsmanlike, or even compassionate, behavior on the part of the “combatants.”
For example, several years ago, a major league baseball player named Shane Victorino attempted to score from third base when his team, the Philadelphia Phillies, played a game against the Atlanta Braves. At that time, the rules allowed a team’s catcher – in this case, Brian McCann – to “block the plate” with his body to prevent the baserunner’s reaching home plate. Shane plowed into Brian, knocking him semi-conscious, and thereby managing to touch home plate with his hand for the score.
As Brian McCann lay there, flat on his back, being tended to by the Atlanta medical staff, Shane Victorino knelt about three feet away, head down, eyes closed. All of us watching understood that both players had done what was expected in that situation. No one was angry. No one was upset. No one accused anyone of doing something wrong. We all understood that we were seeing what compassion looks like under those circumstances.
When Christian believers oppose each other under any circumstances at all – actual warfare, athletics, public debate, household disagreements – there should be obvious differences in the tone of the conflict, when compared to others in similar situations.
In the latest novel in the Rebecca Series, A Fearful Thing, there is a scene in which one of Rebecca’s “co-stars” in this book, Jack McGriff, finds himself holding a gun on an enemy – a leader of the opposing side in a very dangerous situation – who is also a Christian believer. At the start of this confrontation, both men are armed.
And yet, once both see that their respective agendas at that moment involve mere discussion, rather than combat, guns are put away and they hold a guarded, but respectful, conversation. McGriff even inquires about his “enemy’s” wife and two daughters, whom he knows by name. The confrontation acknowledges their common grounding in Christianity.
As with the C. S. Lewis reminiscence above, things in that novel might have developed in such a way that these two characters would have eventually used their weapons against each other. If so, that would have signaled their allegiance to their respective nation’s interests, and their mutual commitment to those interests, not hatred or even dislike for each other. Christian adversaries understand the difference.