As Christians, we are called to follow the teachings of the Bible and live a life that is pleasing to God. One of the most difficult ethical dilemmas that Christians face is the question of killing in war. With countless wars and conflicts throughout history, Christians have struggled to reconcile the idea of violence and killing with the teachings of Christ. It is important for us to turn to the Bible and seek guidance on this issue.
The Bible is the ultimate authority on ethical issues, and it has much to say about war and killing. From the Old Testament to the New, we can find passages that address this issue and offer insight into how Christians should respond to violence and conflict. However, interpreting these passages and applying them to modern-day situations can be challenging, and Christians have debated this issue for centuries.
In this blog post, we will explore what the Bible says about killing in war. We will examine the historical context of war and killing in biblical times, and we will look at specific scriptures that address this issue. We will also explore different interpretations of these scriptures and the debates that Christians have had on this topic. Finally, we will conclude with some guidance on how Christians can navigate this issue in a way that is faithful to Christ’s teachings.
Historical context of war and killing in biblical times
To understand the Bible’s teachings on killing in war, we must first consider the historical context of war and violence in biblical times. In the Old Testament, wars were common, and Israel was frequently engaged in military campaigns against its enemies. The rules of engagement were often different than those of modern warfare, and killing was sometimes necessary to defend oneself or one’s people.
For example, in the book of Joshua, we read about the Israelites conquering the land of Canaan. While some of the battles were won without bloodshed, others involved violent conflict. In Joshua 8, we read about the Israelites attacking the city of Ai, killing all the inhabitants, and burning the city to the ground.
Scriptures that address killing in war
There are several scriptures in the Bible that address killing in war:
- Exodus 20:13 – The sixth commandment states, “You shall not murder” (NKJV). This commandment prohibits the intentional killing of another person but does not necessarily apply to killing in war.
- Deuteronomy 20:1-20 – These verses outline the laws of war for Israel. The Israelites were commanded to offer terms of peace to their enemies before engaging in battle, and were not to destroy fruit trees or other sources of food. However, they were allowed to kill enemy combatants and take captives. These rules were meant to limit the destruction of war and ensure that the Israelites acted justly in battle.
- Ecclesiastes 3:3 – This verse states that there is “a time to kill, and a time to heal” (NKJV). Some interpret this to mean that killing in war may be necessary at certain times. For example, in the book of Judges, we read about Deborah leading the Israelites into battle against the Canaanites, and in Judges 4:9, God says to Deborah, “I will deliver [the Canaanite general] into your hand.” This implies that God was supporting the Israelites’ military campaign.
- Matthew 5:38-39 – Jesus teaches, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (NKJV). This passage may suggest that Christians should not retaliate or seek revenge in war. However, it is important to note that Jesus is not necessarily speaking about war specifically in this passage. Instead, he is teaching about how Christians should respond to personal offenses and insults.
- Romans 12:17-21 – These verses urge Christians to “not repay evil for evil” and to overcome evil with good (NKJV). This passage encourages Christians to respond to enemies with love and forgiveness rather than violence. While this teaching may seem to contradict the idea of killing in war, it is important to note that these verses refer to personal relationships, not necessarily to larger political conflicts.
Interpretations and debates
There are different interpretations of what the Bible teaches about killing in war, and Christians have debated this issue for centuries. Some Christians believe in the theory of just war, which holds that war is justified only under certain circumstances, such as when it is necessary to defend innocent life or prevent greater evil.
Others believe that Christians should exercise discernment and wisdom in determining whether to engage in war or not. For example, in the New Testament, we read about soldiers who came to John the Baptist asking what they should do. John told them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14 NKJV). While John did not directly address the issue of killing in war, he did provide guidance on how soldiers should conduct themselves in their duties.
Ultimately, the Bible teaches that Christians should respond to their enemies with love and forgiveness rather than violence. While this may seem to contradict the idea of killing in war, it is important to recognize that war is often a complex and messy situation, and Christians must rely on God’s wisdom and guidance in navigating these situations.
In conclusion, the Bible does not provide a clear-cut answer to the question of whether killing in war is permissible or not. While some passages suggest that killing in war may be necessary or justified under certain circumstances, others urge Christians to respond to enemies with love and forgiveness rather than violence.
As Christians, it is important to prayerfully consider these teachings and seek to live in accordance with Christ’s teachings of love and peace, even in the midst of violence and war. Christians should exercise discernment and wisdom in determining whether to engage in war, and should always strive to act justly and limit the destruction of war.
Ultimately, we must trust in God’s sovereignty and pray for His guidance in all circumstances, knowing that He is in control even in the midst of chaos and conflict. We can take comfort in the words of Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (NKJV).