John T. Willis

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Christians Going to War

In my early years in the Highland Church when I was in Abilene High School and Abilene Christian College, a big issue that people discussed frequently was whether a Christian should go to war. Different people argued strongly on both sides of this question. As I remember these discussions in religious papers and in sermons, the arguments ran something like this.

1. It would be a sin for Christians to enter into the armed services because:
    a. The Law of Moses says: "You shall not kill." Therefore, it is clear that killing a person in war is a violation of one of the ten commandments. Exodus 20:13.
    b. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:43-45. Therefore, it would be a violation of Jesus' teaching to kill an enemy in war.
   c. When the Jewish authorities arrested Jesus when Judas Iscariot identified him by kissing him on the cheek, Simon Peter drew his sword and cut off the right ear of the high priest's slave Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword back in your sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?" (John 18:10-11). This "example" shows that the followers of Jesus must not enter into warlike situations.

2. Christian people can enter into the armed services because:
    a. The commandment "You shall not kill" means to murder another person intentionally as a result of anger and retaliation on the part of the murderer. There are three clearly exceptions to this law:
        1. Accidentally or Unintentionally killing another person does not mean "You shall not kill." Deuteronomy 19:5 supplies one example: "Suppose someone goes into the forest with another to cut wood, and when one of them swings the ax to cut down a tree, the head slips from the handle and strikes the other person who then dies; the killer may flee to one of the cities of refuge and live."
        2. Capital punishment. Several laws specifically command those in authority to execute the guilty criminal. "Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death.
                            Whoever kidnaps a person, whether that person has been sold or is still held in
                                 possession, shall be put to death.
                            Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death." (Exodus 21:15-17).
        3. War. God specifically commanded his chosen people Israel to utterly destroy the Canaanites when they entered into the promised land. Deuteronomy 7:1-5. God specifically commanded Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites because they fought against the Israelites as they were moving from the Red Sea to Mount Sinai; when Saul did not obey God's command in this circumstance, God abolished Saul from being king over Israel and replaced David in this position (1 Samuel 15:1-23).
        4. Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17 state that all authorities come from God, and Christians must be in subjection to these authorities. Romans 13:3-5 are especially important on this subject:
             "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the
               authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God's servant
               for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not
               bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.
               Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience."
       5. There are evil people on earth. If evil people break into a person's house and intend to kill a man's wife and children, is it best for that man to stand by and allow them to kill his family? Or is it best for that man to defend himself, his wife, and his children? In doing that, it may be necessary for that man to strike or kill the burglars or invaders. The same principle applies to war. If a nation attacks another nation, what should the attacked nation do? Should all the people just stand by and allow the enemy to kill them? Or should all the people defend the attacked nation?

The purpose of this blog is NOT to take a position, but to make a VERY IMPORTANT point. I have never heard a church to DIVIDE over the WAR ISSUE. Somehow we argue our points, and then continue to study and pray and work TOGETHER. But ironically we DIVIDE over many other questions. This does not make sense. At the very least, we need to be consistent. Through the centuries, the war issue has been important for some, and not for others. Human beings cannot agree on any issue. But Christians should love one another and love all people even when we disagree.

Share YOUR thoughts and shortcomings and insights and experiences and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis



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