Christian and war

Keith Sharp, first negative

Brother van Zanten simply assumes that just, legal killing by military personnel is murder. This is the very thing he must prove - not just assume and assert. Not all killing of humans is murder. Under the Mosaic law, the Lord God commanded Israel, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17). But the same Lord God commanded the same Israelites to go to war (Numbers 31:1-7). Whereas Christ Jesus forbids anger, angry words, and hatred that lead to murder (Matthew 5:21-22,43-48), He did not change the forbidden outward act. Murder is unjust or unlawful killing of people. The just, lawful taking of human life in warfare was not murder under the Old Testament and is not under the New Testament.

In World War II Allied soldiers killed Nazi soldiers when they freed Jewish civilians from the hideous death camps. Brother van Zanten’s position implies that the Allied soldiers were just as much murderers as the Nazis who brutally murdered 6 million Jewish civilians and that the German civilians who stood idly by and did not lift a finger to help those Jewish civilians were righteous in their failure to act. The conscientious objector position provides no defense of innocent, civilian victims from the pillage, murder, and rape of brutal regimes such as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Hussein. If all good people adopted their position, the world would return to the violent condition before the Flood that caused God to destroy the world (Genesis 6:11-13).

We must do good to all (Galatians 6:10). But when a soldier or police officer uses lawful, just, lethal force, he is "God’s minister to you for good" (Romans 13:4). Who did good for the Jewish civilians in the Nazi death camps, the German civilians who sat idly by or the Allied soldiers who killed Nazi soldiers in order to free the Jewish victims? "God’s minister ... for good" is not committing murder.

When military personnel use lethal force to protect us from terrorists, are they doing good? Is standing by and allowing terrorists to bomb law abiding civilians doing good? To oppose the just, legal work of military personnel protecting us from evil doers is to oppose doing good in behalf of God.

No, we are not to avenge ourselves, and God will do the avenging (Romans 12:19), but the soldier using lethal, lawful, just force is "God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:4). He is not acting out of hatred, nor is he taking his own vengeance. He is God’s minister to execute God’s vengeance. To oppose their just, legal use of lethal force is to oppose "the ordinance of God" (Romans 13:2).

Of course we must follow the example of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:22-23; Hebrews 12:14). The Lord Jesus Christ rules the nations "with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Revelation 19:15). When military personnel oppose evil governments bent on cruel oppression they are following Christ.

Yes, all Christians throughout the world are citizens of a spiritual kingdom (John 18:36; cf. Ephesians 2:19; Romans 14:17), and it's weaponry is spiritual (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:10-20). But we are also citizens of civil nations (cf. Acts 22:23-29). The nations of men are fleshly, and their weapons are fleshly (Romans 13:4). We may be loyal citizens both of the kingdom of heaven and a nation of men (Matthew 22:21). We may exercise the citizenship rights of a nation of men (Acts 22:23-29) and demand its armed protection from evil doers (Acts 23:12-33). If it is right to demand protection by those who justly use lethal force, it is right to supply this force (Ephesians 5:11).

No, my proposition does not imply that Christians should fight Christians or that the kingdom of God is divided (Matthew 12:25-26). If the standard for the use of lethal force is that it must be just and lawful (Romans 13:1-7), then faithful Christians will only be on one side of the conflict. Why would a Christian be fighting for injustice? Besides, why is it worse to kill a Christian than to kill an alien sinner? Murder is murder. The lawful, just use of lethal force against perpetrators of evil is not murder.

The kingdom of Christ is indeed one of peace (Isaiah 2:2-5; 9:6), and Christians must be peace seekers (Matthew 5:9; Romans 14:17). That peace is first between God and man (Ephesians 2:14-18) but also includes peace of mind (Philippians 4:6-7), and peace between people (Romans 12:18; 14:19). The just enforcement of just laws with lethal force by civil government assures us we will live in a peaceable society where we can take the gospel to all without interference from felons and oppressors (cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-4) rather than live in the kind of violent world that existed before the Flood.

All the passages Brother van Zanten employs to teach us to love others deal with personal relationships. Police and soldiers acting justly and lawfully are not acting in their own, personal behalf but in God’s. The soldier so acting is "God’s minister to you for good" (Romans 13:4).

The authorization for civil government to use lethal force (Romans 13:1-7) immediately follows the prohibition against personal vengeance (Romans 12:17-21) and immediately precedes the command to love one another (Romans 13:8). The lawful, just use of lethal force by soldiers and police does not contradict either the prohibition against personal vengeance or the demand that we love each other.

The ultimate measure of our love toward others is that we treat them as we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). If you were being mugged, would you want the police to use lethal force to protect you? If terrorists try to bomb you, do you want soldiers to use deadly force to defend you? Paul was willing to accept death if he had committed an act worthy of death (Acts 25:11).

Brother van Zanten’s argument on love ignores the innocent victim and protects the evil doer. Should the Allied soldiers have stopped the mass murder of Jewish civilians by using lethal force against the Nazis or let the Nazis continue their extermination of Jews? Which would demonstrate love for the innocent victim?

The conscientious objector position shows emotional but not biblical love for the perpetrators of crime but callous unconcern for the innocent victims. It makes Christians parasites on a peaceful society, where we enjoy the benefits provided by just, civil law but refuse to help uphold those laws and even slander divinely ordained civil servants as murderers.

Love does not eliminate all taking of human life. The highest standard of love and our example to follow is the love of God for all mankind (Matthew 5:43-48; 1 John 4:7-11). There is no higher standard of love than the love of God ( John 15:13; Romans 5:6-10). But God has taken human life Himself many times (e.g., Leviticus 10:1-3). He not only authorizes but has commanded the taking of human life (e.g., 1 Samuel 15:1-3), and He Himself ordained civil government to uphold justice with lethal weapons and declared this to be good (Romans 13:4). Yes, the law of God changed, but His essential nature is unchanging and unchangeable (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; James 1:17). If legal, just killing did not violate His nature of love under the Old Testament, it does not now.

When a Christian becomes a soldier, he still is a Christian with a conscience and must answer to God for his conduct. He has the right to use deadly force but only in a legal manner to uphold justice (Romans 13:1-7).

If it is sinful for civil rulers to use force to uphold just laws, whether against internal or external foes, then the proper state of the world is anarchy. That’s what existed before the Flood (Genesis 6:11,13), and the Lord instituted the principle "Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed" (Genesis 9:6) after the Flood to prevent this state of anarchy from occurring again. Ever since the Flood the legal taking of the life of a perpetrator of evil for the greater good of all has been a command of God, has been good, and has never been murder. Civil government is the divinely appointed institution to take the life of evil doers and to prevent anarchy (Romans 13:1-7).

I can understand how a tender conscience against killing causes many Christians to refuse to serve in the military and law enforcement fields. I don’t want you to violate your conscience (Romans 14:23), and I don’t despise you (Romans 14:1-3).

But please don’t let your conscience problem cause you to condemn those who are God’s ministers to you for good (Ibid). Rather, pray for them that they will do their jobs well (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

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