Solomon wrote “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.”
We in America and throughout the world are now in a time of WAR.
Does the Bible forbid or encourage us to defend ourselves, or to go to war against an enemy? This is one of the more controversial and difficult subjects to settle as Christians. I know that none of us will agree on all aspects of this subject but there is much to consider.
Are we allowed to defend ourselves and family against attackers or enemies? The Old Testament teaches that it is right to use force in order to restrain evil and wickedness in the world. It is also allowable to defend a nation and ones family. When we come to the New Testament it is not as clear. What is clear is that the Bible does not teach pacifism, we have numerous examples to defend ourselves against evil-- personally, and for others.
CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IS ALLOWED
Romans 13:1-7 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
The government is to provide safety and security for the population of that country. As Christians we are to obey civil authority. Jesus told his followers to render to Caesar what is his due and God’s His due Mt.22:21, so they were to pay their taxes. In Titus 3:1 Christian’s are told to submit to their rulers. Peter writes we are to submit to every authority instituted among men, 1 Pt.2:13 both kings and lesser authorities v.17. However we are not to obey them if they want us to disobey God, especially when it involves killing with no justification. We have examples from the Scripture and history of the early Church of those being commanded to do evil but refused, but they did not exercise force to counter the command. Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s is not just limited to money but service. If you were as soldier you would need to obey they government. Jesus would often distinguish the evil in government and the government itself.
Daniel 3 and 6, Daniel and his three friends disobeyed Nebuchadnezzar’s command that everyone should bow and worship the pagan image on the plain of Dura. They refused and were thrown in the furnace for punishment, they trusted themselves to God and he delivered them.
We are not to have blind obedience to the government when it may supercede the Bible, God, and our own conscience. God has given civil Governments the power to establish a society to be rule justly, morally. Justified civil disobedience is allowed when the believer is commanded to do something contrary to the Word of God. The Bible permits Christians to disobey the law only when they are commanded to do evil or to turn from doing good (Acts 5:28-29).
We see this played out in the abortion issue where rescuers are prohibited by law to exercise Christ's command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:39). Pro-lifers believe the unborn child is their neighbor who is innocent, unable to speak for themselves. To rescue that child from their death is a good act and obeying Christ, as God has given them life and we are to try and preserve life. However we are to use persuasion not force to accomplish this goal.
As for ourselves, the government is not persuading pro-life Christians to do evil, the state does not require pro-life Christians to abort their own unborn children, they are giving all people a choice. Whether we agree with this or not our reaction cannot be to do harm or take another's life. To be our sisters keeper our course of action requires a non- violent protest and the ability to give them the information so they can make a rational choice.
Examples of disobedience in the Bible to preserve life
A law may be superseded by another, under certain conditions. We cannot be obligated to tell the truth and risk innocent people dying as the result of our telling the truth. Lying is sometimes right. I know the Bible does tell us not to bear false witness and to not lie, but it comes down to the motive behind it.
The Bible does give examples of the spiritual law taking precedent over the law of the land, as it is the greater good. In Ex.1:15-22 The midwives disobeyed Pharaoh’s order to kill all the Hebrew baby boys (which was genocide) But the Hebrew midwives Shiprah and Puah “feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do and they let the boys live.” As a result “God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own” (vs. 20-21). If they had obeyed Pharaoh the deliverer of Israel would have been killed. Preserving life takes priority over indiscriminate murder, even if it is by the king of the land.
I Kings 18:4 wicked queen Jezebel “was killing off the LORD'S prophets.” In defiance of her orders the prophet Obadiah “had taken a hundred prophets and hid them in two caves ... and had supplied them with food and water” (v. 4). Although Scripture does not explicitly approve of Obadiah's act, the context and manner of the Bible's presentation implies that God condoned His act because it says he feared the Lord, in other words he obeyed God before he would obey man (vs. 13-15).The law of preservation of life admonishes us to do what is right, this overshadows any law of the land that would do harm.
In Joshua 2:1-14 we see the example of Rahab saving the lives of two Hebrew spies by hiding them from soldiers who were searching for them. She risked her life in lying to protect their lives and lying to the soldiers. The spies had no legal right to be in Jericho, the soldiers had every legal right to apprehend them. The preservation of innocent life always takes priority. God honored Rahab calling it faith, and God promised, “Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.” (.Josh 6:17)And the spies went and rescued all her family and belongings from destruction. We later find her included in the line of the Messiah “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse,and Jesse begot David the king” (Matt. 1:5-6).
This is attributed to faith, she trusted the spies sent by God and in so doing was trusting God. “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe” (Heb 11:31) “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25)
We can see this same example in World War II when the Nazis did house searches for Jews. There were many Christians and non-believers who hid them to protect their lives. If you were someone who broke the law by hiding Jews from the Holocaust, you were doing the greater good-- you were obeying God’s law. We have a moral duty to preserve life whether its our own or someone else’ if directly confronted.
The principle taught in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:38-42 would seem to imply that Christians should not resist an evil person. If you are slapped on one cheek give them the other. But this means not retaliate when insulted or slandered (Romans 12:17-21). Insults do not threaten a Christian's personal safety. The idea of rendering insult for insult, is not the same as defending oneself against a mugger or a rapist, or someone that wants to kill you or a loved one. We are to preserve life, this is a principle carried over from the Old Testament. The use of physical force to protect or defend another is not an alternative but a command.
We protect our children from drug dealers and pedophiles and all other sort of lowlifes. We lock our doors of our homes. We are to be vigilant against evil and take precautions to prevent it. We will keep our car keys on our person, we do not leave them in the ignition switch saying I have trust. We do what we can so we do not become sick. We do preventative measures for our safety.
If we watch someone steal something and do not speak up or we know of a crime we could prevent, we are complicit to the crime. To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable. To permit a murder to take place when we could have done something to prevent it is ethically wrong. If we fail to use force to protect another whom is confronted with evil we are in fact failing to show love toward them. It would instead be sin to sit by idly and watch another harm physical harm perpetrated on them when it can be avoided or prevented by force. Not resisting evil is a sin of omission, and a sin of omission can bring the same result as one committing evil. Any man who refuses to protect his wife and children against a violent intruder fails in his moral obligation.
Is violence never a justified act? What of self-defense? Do we stand by and watch someone being abused or physically threatened with harm?
We are to pursue peace, but tolerance, finding compromise condoning criminal activity or withholding punishment does not lead to peace. It is the greatest act of love to sacrifice your life to protect the innocent, to defend their freedom against oppressors when they can’t. Self-sacrifice is part of the definition of agape? But what about sacrificing one self for the enemy? This is what Jesus did. We were all enemies before we became friends.
Jesus is known for His teaching on love, compassion, forgiveness, and “not to return evil for evil” But we find Jesus advising the disciples to buy a sword in Luke 22:36: “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” Jesus told the disciples to buy a sword, and it is clear that Jesus advocated the use of a sword for self-defense purposes. Jesus tells the disciples to buy a sword if he has none vs.38 they showed they had two, he said this is enough. The “sword” (Greek: maxairan) that is used is a dagger or short sword that was part of the Jews traveler's equipment for protection against robbers and wild animals. A plain reading of the passage indicates that Jesus approved of conditional self-defense. These were small dagers to protect someone from the criminals they would encounter as they traveled, they were used for close combat, for self defense, they were also to use against a wild animal.
Yet on the other hand we have Jesus stating that “whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword.” Some pacifists to prove Jesus rejected the use of weapons quote this verse. Here Jesus is addressing Peter who tried to prevent His being arrested. You do not use force in this matter. Your life is not to be ruled by a response of force, but by love. There was more to this than Peter could see; the will of God. Jesus healed the man’s ear and He had Peter put away his sword so he could be arrested, to fulfill God’s plan by his death (John 18:11).
This does not mean that one is forbidden to use force when confronted with another’s life being taken. If Jesus were a pacifist and opposed the use of weapons, He would not have instructed his disciples to own them. They were not to be heavily armed, but sufficiently armed. When Jesus was arrested, he told his disciples he could call on his Father, who would put legions of angels at his disposal to protect and deliver Him. Instead Jesus submitted to the process that would bring Him to His purpose in coming to earth. So it is important to see God’s purpose at the time.
If one believes killing is one and the same as murder, then no one would be allowed to us deadly force, even in defense to save lives. The Bible prohibits murder, but not in using killing against a hostile enemy; neither is the ownership and use of weapons are not prohibited. There were times when it became necessary for Israel to fight or go into captivity. The other exception is when God decided to punish Israel for their disobedience and told them to go into captivity so they would live.
In Gen.14 Abraham rescued lot by a battle when he was forcefully taken. Israel battled against her enemies in Deut.20:1, 29:7, Joshua 11:15 the battle of Jericho,vs.20, Joshua 12. In Numbers 35:17 it explains by having the intention to kill, murderers were to be put to death. In Deut. 16:18-19 they were commanded to cast out all their enemies. Killing is different than murder. Murder is senseless and for selfish reasons, while killing is to protect and preserve life.
The Israelites had to take possession of the Promised Land by conquest. They engaged themselves in continued bloody wars with the Canaanite tribes. Except in the case of Jericho and Ai, the war did not become aggressive until after the death of Joshua. Up until then the attack was always first made by the Canaanites. Israel was employed by God to sweep them away off the face of the earth. They were relentless enemies. Israel always had a regimented army, they had Compulsory service in1 Samuel 14:52, there were Captains of fifties 2 Kings 1:9; Isaiah 3:3, Captains of hundreds Numbers 31:14,48; 2 Kings 11:15; 1 Chronicles 28:1; 2 Chronicles 25:5, Commander-in-chief 1 Samuel 14:50; 2 Samuel 2:8; 8:16; 17:25; 19:13; 20:23. Generals of corps and divisions Numbers 2:3,31; 1 Chronicles 27:1-22; 2 Chronicles 17:12-19 Captains of thousands Numbers 31:14,48; 1 Samuel 17:18; 1 Chronicles 28:1; 2 Chronicles 25:5. It is for this reason they have survived as a people even to today.
Scripture describes God as merciful, filled with grace and God is love, but He is also a God of justice, and when necessary He was “The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is His name” (Exod. 15:3).The difference between Killing and Murder
God said to Noah, “from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Gen 9:5-6). So God created a system of capital punishment to be implemented by mankind; man was to take the life of another who needlessly sheds another man’s blood. Because God made man in His own image, murder becomes a crime against God and demands capital punishment. There is no provision in the Old Testament for Israel attempting to rehabilitate a murderer. Death was warranted for anyone who intentionally killed someone (Ex 21:12-14), God instructed capital punishment as necessary for a variety of offenses in the Mosaic Law.
God’s command not to murder is given to mankind before the law was given to Moses; it is a moral law that was to be obeyed since the beginning of time. The punishment that whoever sheds mans blood there blood will be shed. (Gen.9:6) it was held up under the law of Moses (Exod.20:13) and in the New Testament (Rom.13:9). Murder is to be considered wrong at all times and all places for all people. All men and women were created in the image of God (Gen.1:27, 9:6), which is a moral quality which comes from God’s nature (Col.3:10; Jm.3:9). In John 8:44 Jesus tells the religious leaders the Devil is their Father and that “He was a murderer from the beginning.” As the Devil introduced the first lie it began both spiritual physical death to all mankind. To do senseless killing, is from a searing of our conscience that is given as the image of God to all, and violates the life that God gave each person.
Self protection is found in Ex 22:2-3. If a thief was found to be breaking into a home at night, the homeowner had the right to kill the intruder to protect his family and property. The exception was if it occurred during the day, if the homeowner could see and judge the intruder's intentions, and the intruder could see the homeowner was present was going to defend his household; then homeowner could not kill in defense of his household.
Ex.21:12-21 God, who by his providence gives and maintains life, and by His law protects it. A willful murderer was to be taken even from God’s altar. But God provided cities of refuge as an escape to protect those who had this accident occur, as it was not their fault to cause the death of another. It is a different matter when someone kills another without intent of harm. A willful murder is always to be punished with death. To this law there is a reason added. God's image remains upon fallen man, so whoever unjustly kills a man, defaces the image of God. It is about the sanctity of life that we all share.
Jesus goes further into the matter than making one is guilty by committing the act, but by hating another in their heart, this is where it begins. The apostle John echoes Jesus’ sermon on the mount, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (I John 3:15).
The Bible teaches among many sins murder will keep one from heaven Rev. 21:8 “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
When questioned on how to receive eternal life Jesus responded by saying Luke 18:20 “You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother.”
In the Ten Commandments, God did not say, “You shall not kill” but, “You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13, Deut 5:17). This specifically refers to premeditated murder and is never used of executing a criminal or slaying an enemy in battle. God would then be contradicting himself when he told them to give just punishment.
The teachings about the use of force found in the Old and New Testaments are not in opposition but each focuses on when, and how. For example, both the Old and New Covenants teach that it is proper to use force in order to restrain evil and wickedness in the world, as well as for the defense of a nation. Christ’s love being sacrificial in nature asks us to sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of others, whether that involves working to meet their basic human needs, (Mt.25:34-40) or it may come giving up your life to prolong theirs. So defending another person, especially a family member, is not only appropriate but required when confronted with evil.
However, the one area in which deadly force is not permitted is for the defense of the faith. As far as our faith is concerned, we are to turn the other cheek and be willing to become martyrs if it is about Christ. In regard to protecting ourselves from crime and our nation from foreign aggression, force is allowed by both the Old and New Testaments. The Bible does not teach pacifism; pacifists often misuse verses that apply to the defending of the faith and ignore the context, which has nothing to do with defenses against evildoers and national aggression.
What is the motivation of the attacker? Is he attacking you because of your faith? If so, we are not use force to defend ourselves or retaliate forcibly. However, if he is attacking you or your family because he is an evildoer, then you have the right to use every means at your disposal to defend yourself and others against him. To use force for preserving life is appropriate when necessary. I realize that we can’t have a conversation with the person as this is happening so it becomes a judgment call for the individual at the time.
The New Testament does not ask for those who were soldiers to no longer continue to be soldiers. When a Roman soldier became a believer they were not asked to leave, it was left up to their own conscience. In Luke 3 when the soldiers asked John the Baptist what they should do for repentance he answered, “do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely and be content with your wages”, clearly giving his approval of their vocation.
Stephen did not fight back when he was stoned for his testimony about Jesus Acts 6:8-7:60. Men from one of the synagogues seized Stephen and took him before the Sanhedrin, the religious court, for questioning. Stephen boldly rebuked the religious leaders, who became enraged and stoned him to death, he did not resist but became as Jesus praying that those who did it in ignorance would be forgiven. We are told by Luke, “there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem;” and that “they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” About two thousand Christians, suffered martyrdom from the “persecution that arose about Stephen.”
The New Testament does not address prosecution for those who commit murder; the focus is often upon ones personal behavior and the motivation of their heart. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount addressed an individuals heart and motivation that leads to sin.
There are numerous examples of disobedience to save lives in the New Testament. God protected Jesus a number of times by having him flee. The wise men that traveled from the east were asked by Herod to report back to him so he can know where He is and go to worship him also Mt.2:7-8,but his intentions were really to kill him. They disobeyed Herod because God warned them by a dream vs.12. In Mt.2:13 God warned Mary and Joseph to flee to preserve Jesus’ life.
When Jesus was alive he also did what was necessary to preserve his life so he could complete his mission. There was a time to lay His life down, Jesus knew that time was not yet. Matthew 12:14-15 The Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus, so he left the area. Jesus would remove himself from harms way. He taught to flee to save a life instead of fighting. John 7:1 Jesus avoided an area because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. Luke 4:4:28-30 A crowd tried to throw Jesus off a cliff, but he walked through the crowd to escape. He did not surrender to the mob and allow this to occur. John 7:30 The Jews tried to seize Jesus in the temple courts, but “no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come.” In other words, they wanted to and tried, but were unable because He escaped.
The apostles followed his example, Paul was let down in a basket to escape those who were looking to kill him. Acts 9:23-25. In Acts 9:29-30 Saul (Paul) debated with the Grecian Jews, who then tried to kill him. When the other believers heard of this, they sent him to another area. Acts 14:5-7 there was a plot to mistreat and stone Paul and Barnabas, so they fled to another region and continued to preach the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:30-32 Paul says he was endangered “every hour” and he described this peril as He fought “wild beasts” in Ephesus, those who wanted to rip him apart.
2 Timothy 1:8 Paul urged Timothy to join him in suffering for the gospel… the fact is that Christians in many countries face these persecutions each day, many are unable to escape. Jesus said those who follow would be arrested and beaten for his namesake. He never told them to fight for his kingdom. John 16:2 Believers will be killed for their faith; those who kill them will believe they are justified in thinking they are doing God a favor by killing them. On the other hand we are told to deny our self and take up our cross; you can’t kill someone that is already considered dead!
Rom.13 tells us to obey the rule of the land unless they violate our commitment to God. But we cannot fall into what others have done by using force back to those who may challenge our faith, then we become like those we are being harmed by. Acts 5:29 Peter and John refused to cease preaching the Gospel, saying to the Jewish Sanhedrin it is better to obey God than man. I see that tolerance may soon limit our preaching, because of our trying to be at peace with all we may be hindered to give the Gospel. New laws may be instated for political correctness. God’s intention is to save peoples souls, this takes priority over any religious or political law of the land.
In Revelation 11:3-7 The two witnesses destroy anyone who tries to harm them as they minister, but there comes a time when their work is completed and they will be killed, and shortly resurrected.
In Revelation 13 we are told not to take the mark of the beast even though no one will be able to buy or sell without it. Here again we have civil disobedience with the ultimate price, for whoever takes the mark will lose their soul, they will have no second chance. Some may have to fight to get away from taking the mark.
The way I see it, there is no easy answer to this, it becomes and individual choice for a given situation. There is no clear mandate to use force and the only area we are not to use force in is in defense of our faith. Jesus said my kingdom is not of this world, if it were they would fight. He was not addressing about the matters of this world, Jesus was addressing his spiritual kingdom to come. In John 18:22-23 when an officer of the Sanhedrin struck Jesus and rebuked him, Jesus did not retaliate as he taught not to return evil for evil. But Christ did not literally turn the other cheek but spoke up (John 18:22-23), He said if he has spoken evil bear witness of the evil but if well, why do you strike me?
Christianity teaches not to return evil for evil nor to convert people by force, but by love, by discussion. If someone is attacking you or your family as an evil person, a criminal, you have every right to use whatever means is at ones disposal to defend oneself and preserve life. If on the other hand one is attacking you and going to do harm because of your faith you are not to defend yourself. If we are asked specifically to renounce our faith or die we have the example of the early Church. We are told to be willing to become martyrs, Rev.12:11 during the tribulation “they did not love their lives unto death.”
The New Testament does not make it absolutely clear in prohibiting all self-defense, or to protect others from harm. It appears to me that we are allowed to take different positions, depending on our conscience sake and the situation at the time.
Matthew 10:21-22. Jesus told his disciples, and other believers, they would be hated and killed because of the gospel, even by their own family. He didn’t specifically mention running away to protect themselves-- but he also didn't say not to. He instructed the disciples in Matthew 10:23 if you are persecuted in one place, his disciples were to flee to another. When Jesus said he did not come to bring peace but a sword, the rest of the verse reveals that it was not literal but meant a division for those who follow and those who do not.
Christians and non Christians should not disarm, allowing despots, totalitarian governments to take over and enslave millions. This becomes an issue of self defense, and not sitting by idly while others are slaughtered or enslaved, it is not an issue of faith. Certain individuals, religious groups, countries are intent on domination and abusing others. Maintaining peace is sometimes impossible without having a strong defense. A nation as a whole cannot turn the other cheek, as Romans 13 says the government does not bear the sword in vain to those who do evil. At least that is the way I see it.
Ultimately God will punish the evil done in our body here on earth in both our soul and body afterwards. Two of his parables refer to Christ destroying those who oppose him (Luke 19:11-27; 20:9-16). God is God of peace but he can be a God of war when necessary. It is Jesus Himself who comes back to destroy all the armies of the nations that oppose his return, this will happen in the valley Megiddo. Jesus will one day appear to slay all those who oppose him, it is then that evil will be eliminated, as it says “his robe was dipped in blood” Revelation 19:11-13.
Micah a contemporary of Isaiah says in 4:3 what Isaiah 2:4 also said about the Lords coming, “He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
This will happen in the Millennium after Christ returns to set up his perfect kingdom, until then we will have wars between countries and inside countries.
God will be just and in the resurrection for the sinners (the unjust) there will be different increments of punishments. A Hitler will not be punished like a regular sinner would. No one will get away with anything; God who is perfectly just will judge our motives and our actions. At this time we need to pray that our country will do the right thing.