In light of what the Bible says about government and murder, how should Christians view war?
And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.Luke 22:35-38
Let this sink in for a moment, Jesus commanded His disciples to be armed. He even went so far as to say that you should sell the shirt off your back to buy a sword. What did He mean by this?
When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.Luke 22:49-51
And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.Matthew 26:51-56
In the events that follow Jesus’ command to buy a sword, Jesus clearly speaks out against the disciples using the sword to keep Him from being arrested. I would say that the safest interpretation was that Jesus wanted the disciples to be armed as protection or self-defense. Just the presence of weapons can be a great defense.
“You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.” – attributed to Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.John 18:36
Jesus is clear, He is adamantly opposed to the use of physical force to advance His Kingdom. Contrast that with the following quote:
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.Ann Coulter
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.Matthew 5:9
Christians advance the cause of Christ through the preaching of the Gospel, not through war. The children of God are those who make peace in this world. Christians should not be known for a spirit of vengeance, violence, hatred, or war. We should be known as a people who are seeking to usher in the Kingdom of God which is characterized by peace.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. Luke 9:23-24
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.Matthew 5:38-48
Christ is clear, His followers are to love their fellow man and give their lives for the good of others. We are to be willing to be wronged, suffer injustices, be insulted, lose our property, and even give up our lives while maintaining love for our fellow man.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.Ephesians 6:11-20
The enemy is not ISIS. The enemy is not Islam. The enemy is not the Syrians. The enemy is spiritual. It is the power of Satan that holds men in darkness. It is the power of the Gospel that sets men free. Notice the sword is the Word of God and the Gospel is the Gospel of Peace. We are to go into the world and make peace through the power of the Gospel.
In light of this, war can only have two possible places in the Christian life.
- Execution of justice by the civil magistrate
- Defense of life
We will look at these two things in depth over the next few weeks.