Since the fall of man, war has been an unfortunate reality. Each time a nation or nations engage in warfare, it brings to the front questions regarding the Christian view of war. The ability of modern media to visually disseminate the horrors of war has made the questions even more complex: How can war be consistent with the biblical principles of forgiveness and love? Is it a sin in God’s eyes to kill another man in war, a man created by Him? Are there causes dire enough to justify waging war against another nation? Does Just War exist? Reliable answers to these questions can only be found in the scriptures.
Biblical Truths Concerning War
Does scripture reveal God being personally involved in war? In the Old Testament we find:
- The courage and direction God gave David, allowing him to face Goliath.1
- The specific characteristics given to Gideon regarding warrior selection.2
- God’s detailed battle plans given Joshua to be implemented at Jericho.3
- God personally fighting the battle for the Israelites at the Red Sea 4 , resulting in the Lord Himself being called a Warrior.5
The New Testament contains passages regarding a believer’s participation in warfare. Both Peter and Paul revealed that we, as believers, are members of two kingdoms, one spiritual and eternal, and the other earthly.6 We are not called upon to physically fight for our spiritual kingdom. We may be called upon to do so for our earthly kingdom. The New Testament addresses that situation by outlining the citizen responsibilities we owe our earthly kingdom. The right of our earthly government (established by God) to punish evil is confirmed by scripture and Christians belonging to that government are instructed to obey their leaders. It follows that we are not forbidden active participation in a war waged by that government.7 We, as believers, would not be fighting on behalf of the church, but rather combatants representing the country in which we live.
Revelation reveals Jesus himself at the end times, will lead heavenly armies to wage war against nations, personally striking them with His sword.8
Does Just War exist? That question is answered in the scriptures. Our Heavenly Father, who can only act justly, has been and will be involved in warfare on different occasions in varied ways. Therefore, Just War does exist.
That answered question does not completely solve our dilemma. As Christians living in a complex fallen world, our view of warfare has become even more problematic. Is this war we are being asked to support just? How can we know? History has shown us that wars that appear to be just may have hidden agendas. The scriptures provide wisdom to help us deal with this:
- Revenge should never be the objective of taking another life in warfare. Taking a life should always present a dilemma.
- Taking of another life in war for the following reasons is not considered a sin:1. Self defense2. Restraint of life-threatening evil3. Protection of defenseless innocent people subjected to unspeakable evil
- Realize that God does punish nations and accomplish justice through warfare.
All war, just or unjust, grieves God’s heart. Attempts to avoid war (diplomacy, sanctions, etc.) should be exhausted before waging war is considered. As believers, we should be diligent to pray for wisdom for our government leaders facing difficult situations involving warfare and for our response to the decisions that result. It is also our right and responsibility as citizens to question whether a war is just or unjust and respond appropriately. It is most important of all, as believing citizens of a nation facing warfare, that we earnestly ask our Heavenly Father that his will be done.9