Fighting in wars

michael_legna's picture


I am starting this new thread in response to something you said in the Interpreting Scripture with Scripture thread.

I agree with all you say about the fact that to truly believe in Jesus we must obey His teachings, but I think we differ on some aspects of what those teachings are. That is why I cannot agree with the following:

drp said -
Back to your question about my point. In both World Wars and in other arenas (of which N. Ireland is only one), “believing Christians” assaulted each other with all sorts of weapons. They “believed”, but can we say they “followed”? They were firmly within an orthodoxy (Protestant or Catholic), but were they Christians in their behavior? (Mt 23:3)

I see no indication of any change on the part of the leaders of the various “Christian” nations. Do you? They still “believe”, but are they any better at “following”?

If not, where do we turn? Is it possible to find good, practical leadership in the bible? And just what must we do to “follow” Jesus?

Of course Jesus taught us to love one another, but love does not always involve peace.

That is why Paul tells us:

Rom 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Sometimes in order to protect the weak or to stand up for truth and virtue one must resist evil.

Jesus Himself resisted evil when he drove the sellers out of the Temple (Lt 21, Lk 11).

I myself have made a personal decision never to take another life (because it removes that person's last chance to accept Christ as their savior) but I can certainly see defending myself and family and loved ones short of the point of force intending to cause death, and I can certainly see how others may not be led to that same decision through their understanding of Christ's teachings.

I guess I would ask you where the Scriptures teach in a consistent, unified method that we cannot go to war, fight and even kill to defend that which is right? What is the specific Scriptural basis for this, and how does it address all the scriptures which speak to the followers of God and Christ who did just that?

But of course this needs to be a separate thread so the moderator does not remove the posts as being off topic. :)

ibjmn2's picture


I realize that the Old Testament seems utterly contrary to the teachings of Christ, at least on the question of violence and war. Jesus, in fact, did contrast His teaching with that of the OT in Matthew 5.

For instance, was God encouraging violence when He commanded, "Wound for wound, eye for eye and life for life."? This is the famous lex talionis. It is sheer justice, a balancing of the scales; vengeance, yes, but limited by the extent of injury. What was God aiming at? He was aiming at a reduction in violence and bringing it within at least the bounds of justice. The popular standard of the day was vendetta, or "seven wounds for one, seven eyes for an eye and seven lives for a life." Seven here simply stands for as many as will satisfy the one who avenges.

You will recall that God originally placed a mark on Cain to keep others from killing him for having killed his brother, Abel. God was against capital punishment. In fact, He expressed this so strongly that it was taken in the wrong sense by Cain and his descendants: "Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold." (Gen. 4:15) This was taken by men to mean that seven-fold vengeance was the standard, rather than that God would be the one to punish. Later, Lamech would kill a boy for wounding him and declare: "If Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold!" (verses 23-24)

By the end of the antediluvian age the earth had grown "corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence." (Gen. 6:11) For that reason, God decided to send a flood upon the earth but first sent Noah, a "preacher of righteousness", to warn the world even as he built an ark to save those who would believe his message.

After the flood, God limited man's exaction of vengeance to the standard of lex talionis, life for life. But when the Messiah came, that was to change back to the original standard God made for man: leaving vengeance to God. (Romans 12:19-20) Just as in the matter of divorce, Jesus restores man to the standard God set up in the beginning (Matthew 19:1-9). The original standard is the present standard because Jesus is the Messiah! Christians who truly follow Christ in this matter will not participate in war or consent to capital punishment when it is in their power to determine governmental policy on these matters.

Christians who use the Old Testament to condone war and capital punishment are using the Law unlawfully. They are not rightly dividing the word of God. They do not take the whole witness of Scripture as a progressive, unfolding of God's will culminating in the perfect revelation brought to us through Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2).

John Novak