What does the Bible say about going to war?
By Joe Keim
April 21, 2013
The question, "is going to war against God commandments" has caused a lot of division in the body of Christ.
1. Should a Christian go to war, take the chance of killing other people when the Bible says to "turn the other cheek" (Luke 6:29)?
Those against going to war, might bring up Luke 6:27-29, where Jesus said:
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
2. Since the Bible clearly states "Thou shalt not kill", how can going to war and killing be right?
Those who are against going to war often refer to Exodus 20:13 where God said, "Thou shall not kill," and make the mistake of applying this command to war. However, the Hebrew word (in this case) literally means "the intentional, premeditated killing of another person with malice; murder."
3. Before we move on, let's consider a truth that all believers agree on. The Bible says God is the same yesterday, today and forever. If we truly believe that, then let's consider how God handled wars and killings in the Old Testament.
- God often ordered the Israelites to go to war with other nations (1 Samuel 15:3; Joshua 4:13).
- God also ordered the death penalty for numerous crimes (Exodus 21:12, 15; 22:19; Leviticus 20:11).
Note: At this point, we would have to conclude that God is not against killing in all circumstances, but only murder.
4. War is never a good thing, but sometimes it is a necessary thing. In a world filled with sinful people (Romans 3:10-18), war is inevitable. Sometimes the only way to keep sinful people from doing great harm to the innocent is by going to war. Let's look at some more instances where God was involved and commanded His people to go to war.
In the Old Testament, God ordered the Israelites to:
- Numbers 31:2: "avenge (or take vengeance) on the Midianites for the Israelites"
- Deuteronomy 20:16-17: "But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them...as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:"
- 1 Samuel 15:18: "... Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed."
5. Someone once said, but that was in the Old Testament; we are living in the New Testament and, according to Jesus, we live under different guidelines. To that I would say, don't forget, the bloodiest and goriest battle ever fought in the history of mankind is yet to happen in the New Testament.
- Revelation 19:11-21 describes the ultimate war with Christ, the conquering commander who judges and makes war "with justice" (v. 11). It's going to be bloody (v. 13) and gory.
- We are told that birds will eat the flesh of all those who oppose Him (v. 17-18). In this case, God has no compassion upon His enemies, whom He will conquer completely and deliver to a "lake of fire burning with brimstone" (v. 20).
6. It would be wrong to say God never supports a war. In a world filled with evil people, war is sometimes necessary to prevent even greater evil. Consider for instance:
- If Hitler had not been defeated by World War II, how many more millions would have been killed?
- If the American Civil War had not been fought, how much longer would African-Americans have had to suffer as slaves?
7. War is a terrible thing. Yes, some wars are more "just" than others, but war is always the result of sin (Romans 3:10-18).
8. Christians should not desire war, but neither are Christians to oppose the government God has placed in authority over them (Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:17).
9. The most important thing we can be doing in a time of war is to be praying for godly wisdom for our leaders, praying for the safety of our military, praying for quick resolution to conflicts, and praying for a minimum of casualties among civilians on both sides (Philippians 4:6-7).
-- Joe Keim
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