In today’s world, killing is a moral issue that continues to plague society. From wars to capital punishment to euthanasia, the issue of taking another human life is complex and controversial. As Christians, we turn to the Bible for guidance on how to live our lives and make ethical decisions, including those related to killing.
The Bible has much to say about killing, from the Ten Commandments to Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence. The Old Testament includes examples of killing in the context of capital punishment and warfare, while the New Testament emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and redemption. The Bible’s teachings on killing have significant implications for contemporary debates on capital punishment, abortion, and euthanasia, among other issues.
In this blog post, we will explore what the Bible says about killing in detail. We will examine the Old and New Testament teachings on killing, interpretations of these teachings, and contemporary debates on killing and the Bible. As Christians, it is essential to understand the Bible’s teachings on killing and how they can guide us in making ethical decisions related to this complex issue. By examining these teachings, we can gain a deeper understanding of the value of every human life and promote a more just and compassionate society.
Old Testament Teachings on Killing
The Ten Commandments and the Prohibition Against Murder
The Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20, include the commandment “You shall not murder” (NKJV). This commandment establishes the sanctity of human life and prohibits the intentional taking of another person’s life without just cause. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “murder” is “ratsach,” which refers specifically to the intentional killing of another person. The prohibition against murder in the Ten Commandments is a foundational principle for the Bible’s teachings on killing.
Examples of Killing in the Old Testament
Despite the prohibition against murder, there are numerous examples of killing in the Old Testament. Capital punishment was used for crimes such as murder, adultery, and idolatry (Leviticus 20:10-16). The Israelites engaged in warfare against their enemies, with God’s approval, and were commanded to destroy entire cities (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). However, it is essential to note that these examples of killing were not arbitrary or unjustifiable; they were commanded by God and carried out for specific purposes.
The Concept of “An Eye for an Eye” and its Implications
The concept of “an eye for an eye” is found in several places in the Old Testament, including Exodus 21:24-25, Leviticus 24:19-20, and Deuteronomy 19:21. This concept is often misunderstood as advocating for revenge or retaliation, but it was intended to establish a system of just punishment. The punishment for a crime should be proportional to the harm caused by the offense, and the victim or victim’s family should not take matters into their own hands. This principle is still applicable today, as it promotes justice and discourages vigilantism.
New Testament Teachings on Killing
Jesus’ Teachings on Nonviolence and Loving One’s Enemies
Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence and loving one’s enemies are perhaps the most well-known examples of the Bible’s teachings on killing. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “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” (Matthew 5:38-39 NKJV). Jesus’ message is clear: violence and retaliation are not the answer, and we should love even our enemies.
The Apostle Paul’s Teachings on Living in Peace
The apostle Paul also emphasizes the importance of living in peace and turning the other cheek. He says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18 NKJV). Paul also encourages Christians to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21) and to bless those who persecute them (Romans 12:14).
The Distinction Between Killing and Murder in the New Testament
In the New Testament, the Greek word “phoneuo” is often used to refer to killing, while “apokteino” is used to refer specifically to murder. This distinction is important because it clarifies that not all killing is considered murder in the eyes of God. For example, the apostle Paul writes that the government “does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:4 NKJV). This suggests that the government has the authority to use force to maintain law and order and protect its citizens.
Interpretations of the Bible’s Teachings on Killing
The Just War Theory and its Application to Christian Teachings
The just war theory is a set of principles used to determine when a war is morally justifiable. These principles include the just cause, right intention, last resort, proportionality, and reasonable chance of success. The just war theory is compatible with Christian teachings, as it promotes the idea that force should only be used as a last resort to defend against aggression and protect innocent life.
The Concept of Self-Defense and its Compatibility with Christian Beliefs
The Bible does not explicitly address the issue of self-defense, but it does teach the importance of protecting oneself and others. In Luke 22:36, Jesus tells his disciples to buy a sword, and in Exodus 22:2-3, the homeowner is justified in using force to protect himself from a thief. The concept of self-defense is compatible with Christian beliefs, as it is motivated by the desire to protect innocent life.
The Role of Forgiveness and Redemption in the Bible’s Teachings on Killing
The Bible teaches that forgiveness and redemption are possible, even in cases of serious wrongdoing. Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), and the apostle Paul was able to turn his life around after persecuting Christians (Acts 9:1-19). The concept of forgiveness and redemption emphasizes the value of every human life and the potential for positive change.
Contemporary Debates on Killing and the Bible
Capital Punishment and the Bible’s Stance on the Death Penalty
The Bible allows for the use of capital punishment for certain crimes, such as murder, but it also emphasizes the importance of mercy and forgiveness. In John 8:7, Jesus says, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” This suggests that no one is without sin and that we should not be quick to condemn others. Christians may have differing opinions on the use of the death penalty, but they should always prioritize mercy and forgiveness.
Abortion and the Bible’s Views on the Sanctity of Life
The Bible teaches that human life is sacred and should be protected from conception to natural death. Psalm 139:13-16 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” This passage emphasizes the value of every human life, regardless of age or development. Christians should advocate for the protection of the unborn and support alternatives to abortion.
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Light of the Bible’s Teachings on Killing
The Bible teaches that life is a gift from God and that we should not take it for granted. Christians may have differing opinions on end-of-life care, but they should always prioritize compassion and comfort for the dying. The concept of euthanasia and assisted suicide raises ethical questions about the value of human life and the role of suffering. Christians should seek to provide comfort and support to those who are dying while also respecting the sanctity of life.
In conclusion, the Bible has much to say about the issue of killing, from the prohibition against murder in the Ten Commandments to Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence and loving one’s enemies. While the Bible allows for certain instances of killing, such as capital punishment and warfare, Christians should always prioritize mercy, forgiveness, and the sanctity of human life. The concepts of just war, self-defense, and forgiveness provide guidance for how to approach complex ethical issues related to the killing. Ultimately, Christians should seek to promote peace, protect innocent life, and support the most vulnerable members of society.
As we navigate contemporary debates on killing, such as capital punishment, abortion, and euthanasia, it is essential to approach these issues with a biblical perspective that prioritizes mercy, forgiveness, and the sanctity of human life. While Christians may have differing opinions on how to address these issues, we must always seek to promote peace, protect innocent life, and support the most vulnerable members of society. By following the Bible’s teachings on killing, we can uphold the value of every human life and promote a more just and compassionate society.