Peter Hammond

The Christian at War (part 1)

I am a Christian who has spent the last twelve years working as a missionary in the war zones of Southern Africa. I have ministered to soldiers, guerillas and terrorists on all sides of the wars in Angola, South West Africa/Nambia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. I have witnessed the persecution of the church by Marxist regimes, atrocities by terrorists and I have see the results of war, counselling both the victims and the combatants.

As a theological student, I tackled the controversial subject of war and the Christian - from both sides. I have been both a convinced pacifist and an active soldier. I have also sought, as a missionary, to apply the teachings of the Bible to the realities around me. I have walked amongst the unburied corpses of the killing fields of Mozambique and I've cradled in my hands the dead and dying. I've walked through devastated towns in Angola, where not a living being remained - only wrecked houses, decomposing corpses and revolutionary slogans. As a missionary, I've ridden through an ambush on my motorbike scrambler, preached under mortal fire, witnessed at ambush sites, shown Christian films to terrorists, been arrested and imprisoned, been led handcuffed and blindfolded through the streets of Livingstone and Lusaka, escorted to prison in Maputo in a Soviet Mi 8 Hip helicopter and come under fire on many occasions.

Most of all, as a Bible reading, Bible-believing Christian I have spent days, nights, weeks, months and years agonizing, praying and studying over this subject of War and the Christian.

What is the Christian response to war? Should a Christian be involved in the active military defense of his country?Is it ever permissible to take the life of another?Is pacifism the answer to violence?

The changing face of warfare

There was a time in warfare when the men at arms fought the opposing army on a pre-arranged battlefield. Conflicts between nations were settled by soldiers on the field of battle - and civilians, especially women and children, were kept out of the firing line.

For centuries a code of honor precluded the endangering of innocent lives. Soldiers fought openly - in uniform - against armed and uniformed foes. Non-combatants were respected. Women and children were protected. At times conflicts were limited to two opposing champions - such as David and Goliath - deciding the fate of their nations in honourable hand to hand combat. Their respective armies were bound to respect the outcome of such duels. In the Middle Ages in Europe such practices became commonplace with knights fighting for their cause and country according to a set code of conduct.

In modern times, however, warfare has deteriorated dramatically. More and more civilians have been caught in the crossfire as mobile total warfare has devastated whole towns and villages.

This century began with scorched earth tactics and concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer war. The frustrated British army resorted to burning down the Boer farm homes, the destruction of their crops and the detaining of the Boer women and children in concentration camps. This marked a new low in battlefield standards. Unable to win by conventional warfare the British Empire resorted to what was in effect terrorism. They targeted the civilian homes and the women and children who, until then, had been respected and protected.

During the Second World War, whole cities were targeted for mass bombings. A thousand bomber aircraft would fill the skies and rain death and destruction upon the cities of Europe. Instead of targeting legitimate military targets at he front, these aircraft were used to massacre hundreds of thousands of women and children at home.

Since that terrible war, the face of battle has changed. Now civilians are no longer isolated from the cruel effects of war. No longer are civilians merely endangered by the crossfire of conflict. Now women and children seem to be the main targets of the enemy.

Those who place land mines in dirt roads know that they have more chance of killing unarmed civilians than anyone else. By placing bombs in restaurants and shopping centres terrorists are targeting our wives and our children. Those cowards who throw petrol bombs or hand grenades into homes at night are wanting to murder the innocent. And now we even see terrorists bursting into church services and murdering Christians while they worship God. Such people are not only enemies of society, they are enemies of God.

To such people God's Word declares:'Surely God will crush the heads of His enemies, the skulls of those who go in their sins.' (Psalm 68:21)

To us the Bible commands: 'Do not be afraid... remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.' (Nehemiah 4:14)

The pacifist position

Pacifists claim that non-resistance and passive inactivity will break the cycle of violence. They say that to defend oneself will prevent war and that non-violence will result in peace. However, it is important to distinguish between the various motivations which lead people to adopt these views. Some pacifists are CONSISTENT PACIFISTS, claiming they would never involve themselves in either national defence or self defence. They would generally claim a spiritual motivation for refusing to protect even family members. Most are pacifists are actually SELECTIVE PACIFISTS, refusing to involve themselves in the national defence of (normally) Western democracies, but being willing to fight in certain other circumstances. These selective pacifists are often politically motivated, although they may use some religious arguments to justify their political stance. Many of these politically motivated, selective pacifists actually support violent revolutionary movements. Most are motivated by selfish desires to avoid discomfort, discipline, danger or being separated from their girlfriend, mother or home comforts.

Pacifism is an non biblical position. Although being able to appeal to superficial arguments of conscience and quote the odd verse out of content - the whole spirit and thrust of pacifism is anti Christian. Pacifists may be sincere - but they are sincerely wrong.

A Christian, by definition, must be active - with his or her sleeves rolled up, being willing to get his hands dirty protecting the innocent, defending the defenceless and saving lives from unprovoked aggression. Christian love is not mere words and sentiments. True love shows itself in action. (1 John 3:18). If all the people with a conscience refuse to fight then it will leave the battle fields in the hands of men without a conscience.

A false idea of man

Pacifism finds it's rots in HUMANISM. Despite some impressive but superficial Christian pretension, pacifism is humanism. In common with humanism, pacifism shares a false idea of man. It sees man as basically good. To the pacifist all people are just too good to kill. Neither rapists, murderers nor terrorists deserve to be stopped, in the view of the pacifist.

In contrast to this notion of people being basically good, the Bible teaches us that 'the heart of man is desperately wicked and deceitful';that they are quick to hurt and kill;they leave ruin and destruction wherever they go... everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence.' (Romans 3:15,23) Pacifists often display more concern for the aggressor then for the defender, more sympathy for the criminal then for his victim.

A false idea of God

Pacifism also has a false idea of God. It fails to understand the holiness and justice of God. It ignores the wrath of Almighty God against sin. The pacifist seems to fail to understand the nature of God. They must see God as a pleasant, amoral softie - either to blind to see sinful man for what he is or too gentle to punish evil. What kind of God would be unmoved by ruthless sadists torturing Christians in concentration camps? Do we really think that God will not punish those who kill and cripple the innocent through car bombs, limpet mines and land mines?

Do we really believe that God does not require us to stop murder - whether by abortion or arson, whether by muggers or Marxists.

God is not a pacifist!

The creator of all life (John 1:1-3) 'determines whether you live or die' - Daniel 5:23.

God killed everyone on earth, except Noah, his family and the animals - in THE FLOOD (Genesis 6:5-7;13;7:4;23).

God killed every Egyptian first-born as a judgement on Egypt and in order to free the Israelites on the night of THE PASSOVER (Exodus 12:12;29).

God destroyed the Egyptian army in the RED SEA (Exodus 14:13-31; 15:1-18).

The Lord caused the earth to open up and swallow the Jews who rebelled against Moses (Numbers 16:20,21;23-35).

God killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers who were attacking Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:32-35).

God killed Annias and Sapphira because of their lying (Acts 5-1-11); and Herod because of his pride (Acts 12:23), and God continues to use 'My four dreadful judgments - sword and <starvation> and wild beasts and plague' (Ezekiel 14:21), in order to lead sinful people to repent.

'I and I alone, am God; no other God s real. I kill and I give life, I wound and I heal, and no one can oppose what do.' (Deuteronomy 32:39)

Neither is Jesus a pacifist

Our Lord Jesus may have been meek but He was never mild! His teaching was powerful, dynamic, direct and uncompromising. This tough carpenter from Nazareth was able to survive forty days fasting in the desert and forty lashes from the brutal Roman whip. He could walk hundreds of kilometers in the blazing heat of Palestine's inhospitable terrain and He could walk through a murderous mob with such a presence that no-one dared stop Him (Luke 4:28-30).

When Jesus saw how corrupt men were desecrating the temple with their money-grabbing greed, He made a whip, overturned their tables and drove them forcibly from God's House (Matthew 21:12-13).

When Jesus returns to this world it will be as the conquering King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Bible teaches us that the first time Jesus came as a Saviour - and all who turn from their sin and trust in Christ, following Him in obedience, are saved. But when Jesus comes again it will be as Judge - and all who have not repented and obeyed will be condemned and eternally punished. The Scripture warns us that when Jesus returns He will annihilate the forces of the false church and the Antichrist. We are told that rivers of blood will flow from the carnage of mankind's rebellion against Christ (Revelation 14:19-20).

'With justice He... makes war... He will rule them with an iron sceptre. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty... King of Kings and Lord of Lords.' (Revelation 19:11,15,16).

An unrealistic view of society

Pacifism also has an unrealistic view of society. The reality of this world is that it is a fallen world, inhabited by sinful mankind in rebellion against the Creator. Idealistic fantasies about a world of peace and Utopia without war are cruelly false and dangerously deceptive. In the Bible we are warned that those who say 'Peace! Peace!' when there is no peace are 'loathsome' false prophets (Jeremiah 6:!4; 8:11). Jesus warned us that 'wars and revolutions' would increase (Matthew 24:6,7; Luke 21:9,10). We are warned in the scriptures that 'While people are saying 'Peace and Safety', destruction will come on them suddenly.' (I Thessalonians 5:3)

'PEACE' seems to be the modern equivalent of Baal worship. There is an irrational deifying of peace. This selfish materialistic age has made an idol out of peace. 'Peace at any price' inevitably leads to tyranny and destruction - the peace of a graveyard.

People say that war is hell - but often peace is worse. More people died in the peace following the revolution in CAMBODIA than died in the entire war before it. Three-milion Cambodians (40% of the population) were slaughtered by Pol Pot's Marxist Khmer Rouge in the 'peace' following 1975. In fact, more people have been tortured, maimed and massacred in times of peace than in times of war during this century!

Have we become so soft, decadent and self-seeking that we are no longer willing to risk our lives for anything? Is nothing worth fighting for? Do we have nothing worth defending? Do we care so little for others that we're unwilling to risk anything for their protection? Are we so engrossed in watching videos, in 'wine, women and song' that we can no longer tell the difference between right and wrong? Or don't we even care?

For centuries Christians have believed that there were worse things than war. For our ancestors death in battle was not the worst thing that could happen to them. An eternity in hell was. They did not fear death. They feared God. They realised that death for the Christian is not fatal. They had a clear belief in eternal life. Principles were more important then personal safety. Duty, honor, country, family and God meant more to them than selfish desires for peace and safety. And thank God for that because the faith and freedoms we enjoy were won and preserved by their blood, sweat and sacrifices.

The wise Christian does not seek to selfishly avoid the problems of this world, but courageously steps out in faith to be part of the solution. We should recognize that sinful man needs to be restrained by laws and by force, that liberty needs to be defended, that our freedoms came through, and often need to be maintained by hard fighting.

If all Christians became pacifists,would all muslims, atheists and communists also become pacifists?

Not likely.

It bothers me that the anti-defense, ban-the-bomb, end-conscription draft-dodgers and pacifists often demonstrate in London, Washington, Bonn and Cape Town - but seemingly never in Moscow, Havana, Tripoli, Tehran, Maputo, Lasaka, Harare, or Luanda.


It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism - while the wolf remains of a different opinion. The Bible declares: 'Blessed are the peacemakers' - Matthew 5:9. NOT blessed are the pacifists! You have to make peace. It takes action. For the pacifists hoping for worldwide peace - Jesus said: 'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.' (Matthew 10:44)

An inadequate understanding on Scripture

Pacifists also often have an inadequate understanding on the Bible. Are they aware that God is not a pacifist? Do they realise that God has specified certain circumstances in which men have been commanded to kill?

Virtual Vendée's Editorial Note

Above text is distributed by Frontline Fellowship, P.O.Box 74, Newlands 7725, South Africa. The author is a protestant, what influenced the text and caused that some thesis are not acceptable for a catholic. Nevertheless, it's very valuable.