Peter Hammond

The Christian at War (part 2)

God has commanded man to kill

'Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.' Genesis 9:6

'Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death... if a man schemes and kills another man deliberately, take him away from my alter and put him to death... Anyone who kidnaps... must be put to death... You are to take life for life.' Exodus 21:12;14;16;23

'Do not allow a sorceress to live.' Exodus 22:18

False prophets were also to executed - Deuteronomy 13:1-5

'A prophet who presumes to speak in My Name anything I have not commanded him to say or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods must be put to death.' Deuteronomy 18:20

The God who commanded individuals in the Sixth Commandment - 'You shall not murder', Exodus 20:13, also commanded the Nation on Israel, as a whole, to annihilate the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 'When the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show no mercy.' Deuteronomy 7:2

God's Commandment to the individual is to 'Not murder'; God's Command to the nation was to 'Destroy them totally' because of their evil debauchery and sinfulness had made them God's enemy. Killing by an individual (out of selfish motivations, vengefulness and greed, etc.) is always prohibited, but killing by a nation (for self-defence, justice, etc.) is commanded.

God has delegated authority

Jesus emphasized that civil authority is delegated by God when He said to Pilate: 'You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.' John 19:11

Paul wrote: 'Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.' Titus 3:1

'Everyone must submit himself to the Governing authorities because there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.' Romans 13:1-5

It is worth noting that Paul wrote that Scripture during the reign of a particularly ruthless pagan government (that of Nero) which was even persecuting the Church!

Like Daniel, or Joseph, Christians are to serve worthily within the framework of any system of government under which he is called to live. JOSEPH rose to the prime minister of pagan Egypt without compromising his faith and was (...) used to save the Hebrews from starvation. DANIEL fearlessly testified to God's power and sovereignty within the pagan courts of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius, rising to the highest levels of government.

'The Most High is Sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.' Daniel 4:17

'He sets up kings and deposes them.' Daniel 2:21

God raised up Pharoh (Romans 9:17); Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28;45:1-5); and Nebuchadnezzer (Daniel 2:37,38). Even Pilate received his position and power by God's perfect sovereign will and design (John 19:11).

Hence Jesus taught: 'Give to Ceaser what is Ceaser's and to God what is God's.' This teaches our dual responsibility. As citizens, we are responsible to obey the laws of the land, pay taxes and defend our country. As members of the church, we are responible to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, obey His commands and seek first God's kingdom.

Only if the state forbids obedience to God may we say with the Apostle: 'We must obey God rather then man!' Acts 5:29. When the state forbids prayer to God (Daniel 6:6-13), forbids evangelism (Acts 5:40-42) or commands us to worship false gods (Daniel 3:12-18), then we must say: 'We have no need to answer you in this matter' Daniel 3:16; 'Judge for yourself whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather then God.' Acts 4:19

So, with the exception of matters of worship and evangelism, Christians are commanded to: 'Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king as supreme authority, or to the governors, who are sent by Him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.' I Peter 2:13,14

Jesus taught that 'those who take up the sword', in the context of rebellion against lawful authority, 'will perish by the sword.' Matthew 26:52. This He said in rebuke to the Apostle Peter who was interfering in God's plan of redemption.

Many men of God have been soldiers

JOSHUA was a mighty man of God and a mighty soldier commanding the Israelite army in the battle with the Amalekites (Exods 17:8-16), and in the conquest of the promised land (Joshua).

King DAVID was 'a man after God's own heart,' and the writer of much of the Psalms as well as a great soldier (I Samuel 17:45,47; 18:5; 7; 17; 2 Samuel 5:17-25; 8:1-14; 10:12; 12:26-29). Hence David was able to say:'Praise be to the Lord, my Rock who trains my hands for war, My fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, My stroghold and my deliverer, My shield, in whom I take refuge. Who subdues people under me.' Psalm 144:1,2

ABRAHAM resorted to military action to rescue Lot from the four heathe kings (Genesis 14:11-16).

DEBORAH and BARAK were led by the Lord to conquer Sisera and the Canaanite armies (Judges 4:14,15).

GIDEON was commanded by God to defeat the Midianites and rescue Israel from their power (Judges 6:14).

God gave SAMSON the power to defeat the Philistines and keep Israel for twenty years (Judges 14:19; 15:4,15,20; 16:28-30).

The four CENTURIANS (Roman officers) mentioned in the New Testament are all commended in one way or another (Luke 7:9; 23:47; Acts 19:2; 27:43). The Centurian at Capernaum was praised for his faith. Cornelius and the Italian Regiment of the Roman Army had the great honor of being the first Gentiles to be baptised by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.

Through the Bible the work and calling of soldiers are frequently mentioned, yet never with any suggestion that it could be in and of itself dishonorable or unchristian. John the Baptist, in answering the soldiers' question of what they were to do, never suggested that they should leave the army. He merely replied, 'Don't extort money and do't accuse people falsely - be content with your pay.' Luke 3:14. He told them how to be good soldiers.

The Christian life is often likened to many acceptable and honorable occupations, such as that of a farmer, athlete, worker, citizen, pilgrim and soldier (1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 2:3,4; Eph 6:11-17). Many of the aspects of a soldier's life such as his spirit of self-sacrifice, discipline and loyalty are commended.

'Turn the other cheek'

Pacifists often seem to have a limited knowledge of Scripture and predictably parrot these old favourites: 'Turn the other cheek' and 'love your enemies'. Jesus said, f someone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too.' Matthew 5:39. Let us not say more than what Jesus said. What he did NOT say was, 'if someone stabs you in the one cheek et him stab you in the heart too'; neither did Jesus suggest that if someone rapes your sister let him attack your mother too. Nor did Jesus demand that if the Soviets bomb London that NATO should let them nuke Washington as well. These ridiculous things Jesus emphatically never taught!Yet that is how some pacifists are misinterpreting these verses.

Jesus said, 'If someone slaps you....' Let us not suggest more than what our Lord taught. Don't fight over a insult. Don't kill to preserve your pride. Don't retaliate just because of an insult. A slap can hardly be interpreted as a threat of bodily harm or fatal injury - a slap represents an insult. Matthew 5:39 was never meant to abolish national defence. It was never given that cowards could quote it as an excuse for not doing their duty or protecting their family. For the man who believes that God's commands of the Old Testament which allow capital punishment for murderers and military defence for nations could be abolished by the coming of our Lord - Jesus said:

'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.' Matthew 5:17

'Love your enemies'

To 'love your enemies', Matthew 5:44, is a Christian obligation. So is to love your brother, to honor your parents, and to love your neighbor. Surely my priority must be to defend my family and neighbor against any aggressor - be he a criminal, terrorist or foreign invader. And I was never commanded to love God's enemies - who persecute His Church. Nor was I commanded to love my country's enemies. Personal jealousies are forbidden. My enemies I must forgive. But my family must be protected, my country must be defended, and my neighbor must be saved from crime and terrorism.

I have personally taken the Gospel to SWAPO, ANC and PAC terrorists,, ZANU, FRELIMO and MPLA communists and to Russians, Cubans and Et (eastern - editorial note) Germans over the border. But when they cross the border and threaten my neighbours, I will do my duty and take up arms to stop them.

I will do everything in my power to bring the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ to the enemies of my land and faith, I will endeavour to bring as many as possible to repentance from sin and to faith in Christ. But when called up to serve my country, I will do my utmost to protect my fellow citizens from all foreign aggression or communist terrorism. Those who refuse to repent of their sins and turn away from the ways of terror, intimidation, fear and hate - those who endanger the live of the innocent and defenceless - I will fight, kill or capture.

Of course, any captured or wounded enemy will receive prompt medical care, humane treatment and the Gospel. That is Christian love demonstrated in a practical and balanced way.

A Christian response to war

The Christian response can never be compromise with tyranny. Whether Piet Retief with Dingaan in 1838 or Chamberlain with Hitler in 1938, appeasement always leads to treahery and war. Strong defence leads to peace through strength. As the scripture says: 'Who will stand up for me the evildoers or who will rise up or me against the workers of iniquity.' Psalm 94:16

We need to learn to be courageous, to be loyal, to be sacrificial and unselfish. We need to suppress fears and desires, and choose to do our duty, to protect the innocent and defend the defenceless.

Those encouraging pacifism and promoting an end to conscription have the easy task. They have human nature on their side. All of us are prone to selfish temptations to avoid difficulties, run from danger and resist discomfort. The draft-dodgers are often dodging the dangers inherent in defence. The consciences objectors are often objecting to cold showers, strenuous training, being shouted at at 5 am and being separated from their teddy bears. The end-conscription campaign appeals to the laziness and selfishness that lurks in each and every one of us.

To demand a choice for hardship, tough training, long absences from home, self-sacrifice, discipline, dedication, loyalty, duty and courage is to fight against human nature.

Prosperity, affluence and abundance spoil us (...) Adversity, suffering and hardships builds character, faith and courage. The Christian dare not choose 'the easy way out.'

War, like other extreme situations, can bring out the best and the worst in people - depending on their spiritual state. (That is war chaplaincy work is so crucial). But military training and combat situations have brought out many great acts of sacrifice, bravery, loyalty, courage and unselfish devotion to duty. Never ha pacifism produced such admirable qualities in its adherents as military service has produced in some Christians.

As Jesus said: 'Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.' John 15:13

War in Church history

Often we here the view that all war is wrong - wrong for the defenders as well as for the aggressors. That war is wrong even when waged with the sincere purpose of defending the innocent and restraining evil.

Yet much of the religious and political freedoms which have been taken for granted were won through wars approved by the churches of those days. If the people of Europe had not resisted the Islamic invasion of the Moors and the Turks the Europe would have been conquered. And Islam would have replaced Christianity in the mission sending base from where our faith was communicated to us.

If, at the time of he reformation, the Protestants had not resisted the Roman Catholic oppression the the persecutions which were practised so freely in the Spanish, Italian and other Inquisitions would have become common throughout Europe. The Protestant faith would have been crushed.

If the Puritans ha not fought under Oliver Cromwell to establish the first parliamentary republic - then from where would the cause of freedom have received its first example of the rule of law, Lex Rex.

If the American colonists had not fought for the rule of law and a Constitutionally limited republic then where there would have been no United States of America.

Of course in most wars the guilt has been shared by both sides and there have been many senseless and unnecessary wars in which neither side was at all concerned about righteousness. Nevertheless freedom is never free - it has to be bought with sacrifice and suffering.

'You have never lived until you have almost died, and for those who fight for it, life has a flavor the protected will never know.'Christians may desire peace, but we need to realise that there are worse things than war: such as the peace of a cemetery, or of a concentration camp, or an eternity in hell.

War in the Bible

Judges 3:1-2 'These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan. He did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience.'

God's strategy for complacency is to train His people through conflict. Taught to trust God in battle - to be purged, purified and prepared as soldiers of Christ.

Exodus 15:3,4 'The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is His Name. Pharaoh's chariots and His army He has hurled into the sea.'

Exodus 17:8-16 Victory over the Amalekites by prayer and the sword.

Deut 20:1 'When you go to war...Do not be found faint hearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight...'

Joshua 5:13-15 The Lord is revealed as 'the Commander of the army of the Lord...'

Joshua 6:1-5 and guides the Israelites to victory over Jericho.

Judges 5:16-18;23 Deborah's song of victory rebuked those who failed to fight for freedom. 'Why did you stay among the campfires? 'Curse Meroz' said the angel of the Lord. 'Curse its people bitterly because they did not come to help the Lord, to help the Lord against the mighty.

Judges 6 & 7 God directed Gideon to defeat the Midianites and rescue Israel their power.

I Sam 11 The Spirit of God led Saul and Israel to rescue the people of Jabesh Gilead.

I Sam 14:6,23 The Lord rescued Israel from the Philistines by the faith, courage and initiative of Jonathan.

I Sam 15:2-3 The Lord commanded Saul to uterly destroy the Amalekites.

I Sam 17:45-47 David was enabled by the Lord to defeat Goliath.

2 Sam 5:19-20 David seeks the Lord's will and is guided to attack the Philistines.

Psalms May of the Psalms are prayers to God for the guidance in war or hymns of thanksgiving to the Lord for victory in battle.

Psalm 18:29-48 'With Your help I can advance against a troop... It is God who arms me with strength... He trains my hands for battle... I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back until they were destroyed. I crushed them so they could not rise... You armed me with strengt for battle... The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior! He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, who saves me from my enemies.'

In the Bible wars were ordained as a means of restraining evil, judging wickedness, purging sin and purifying God's people.

When God's people rebelled against His law then God allowed them to e defeated and enslaved or exiled by the Midianites, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans or others.

Deut 28:1,7 'If you fully obey the Lord and carefully follow His commandments... the Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated.' (cf Lev 26:7-8; Joshua 1:5)

Lev 26:14-17 'But... if you reject My decrees and abhor My laws and fail to carry out my commands... you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you...' (cf Deut 28:25;43)

The Scriptures reveal God as a God of war a well as a God of peace, because God is primarily a God of justice.

Jeremiah 21:12 'Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done.'

On certain occasions God has not only permitted war but commanded it. In the Bible military defence against aggressor nations is given the same status as capital punishment for murderers.

Proverbs 21:15 'when justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.'

To obey God or man?

The Scriptures command general obedience to family, church and civil authorities (see Romans 13:1-4; I Tim 2:1-2; I Peter 2:13-15). In event of conflict between the Law of God and the Law of man:

'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.' Acts 4:19-20

Some Biblical examples of disobeying civil authorities include:
1. The Midwives disobeyed Pharaoh's decree that all Hebrew boys were to be killed at birh (Exodus 1:17).
2. Moses' parents hid their child and kept him for 3 months against the law of Pharaoh (Hebrews 11:23).
3. Moses worked to free his people from bondage in Egypt against the will of Pharaoh (Exodus 5:1-9; 14:23-25).
4. Rahab is twice commended in Scripture (James 2:25; Hebrews 11:31) for disobeying her pagan Canaaite government and protecting the Hebrew spies (Joshua 2:1-16).
5. David fed from King Saul and evaded capture on numerous occasions. He did not give himself up, but neither did he harm Saul when he had the opportunity (I Samuel 16:24).
6. The army of Israel intervened to stop King Saul from executing his son Jonathan. Although legally condemned to death the army successfully rescued Jonathan from the unjust and foolish command of the king (I Samuel 14:24-45).
7. Nathan the prophet confronted King David and rebuked him for the crimes of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 12).
8. When Queen Jezebel began her bloody purge of God's prophets, the prophet Obadiah defied her edicts by hiding a hundred prophets (I Kings 18:4).
9. Elijah pronounced judgement on King Ahab for his injustice (I Kings 21:17-29).
10. Elijah refused to answer the summons of King Aha (2 Kings 1).
11. Jehu mobilised the military to overthrow the wicked king Ahaziah and Queen Jezebel - in obedience to the Word of od (2 Kings 9:6-13; 22-23).
12. Jeosheba rescued the infant Joash from Athaliah's agents who were sent to slaughter him. (2 Kings 11:2-3).
13. Jeremiah was considered a traitor by his government when he proclaimed God's Word of judgement and called for repentance and surrender during the seige by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 38).
14. Daniel refused to defile himself with the royal food (which had been offered to idols) and successfully appealed to be permitted to eat only vegetables and water (Daniel 1:8-16).
15. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to obey the king's order to bow down before his golden image (Daniel 3:12-18).
16. Daniel openly defied a ban against prayer (Daniel 6:6-13).
17. Esther violated a no-trespassing law at the risk of death in order to rescue her people from a bloody purge (Esther 4:8-16).
18. The wise men from the East disobeyed Herod by not returning through Jerusalem and not reporting on the whereabouts of the Messiah as ordered (Mtthew 2:7-12).
19. Joseph fled to Egypt to save Jesus from the edict of King Herod (matt 2:13-15).
20. Peter and John refused to stop preaching (Acts 5:42).
21. Paul refused to leave prison without an official apology (Acts 16:37-39).
22. We ought to obey God rather than men.' Acts 5:29

Above text is distributed by Frontline Fellowship, P.O.Box 74, Newlands 7725, South Africa.