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Resisting evil, in self defense and war p.1

Solomon wrote “ To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace .”

Does the Bible forbid or encourage us to defend ourselves, or to go to war against an enemy? This is one of the more controversial and difficult subjects to settle as Christians. I know that none of us will agree on all aspects of this matter but there is much to consider.

Are we allowed to defend ourselves and family against attackers or enemies? The Old Testament teaches that it is right to use force in order to restrain evil and wickedness in the world. It is also allowable to defend a nation and one’s family. When we come to the New Testament it is not as clear. What is clear is that the Bible does not teach pacifism, we have numerous examples to defend ourselves against evil-- personally, and for others.


Romans 13:1-7 “ Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom hono .”

The government is to provide safety and security for the population of that country. As Christians we are to obey civil authority. Jesus told his followers to render to Caesar what is his due and God’s His due Mt.22:21, so they were to pay their taxes. In Titus 3:1 Christian’s are told to submit to their rulers. Peter writes we are to submit to every authority instituted among men, 1 Pt.2:13 both kings and lesser authorities, v.17. However we are not to obey them if they want us to disobey God, especially when it involves killing with no justification. We have examples from the Scripture and history of the early Church of those being commanded to do evil but refused, but they did not exercise force to counter the command. Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s is not just limited to money but service. If you were as soldier you would need to obey the government. There were many Centurions that Jesus encountered, some he even commended them on their faith. None of them were told to leave the army. The New Testament does not ask for those who were soldiers to no longer continue to be soldiers. When a Roman soldier became a believer they were not asked to leave, it was left up to their own conscience. In Luke 3 when the soldiers asked John the Baptist what they should do for repentance he answered, “do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely and be content with your wages”, clearly giving his approval of their vocation. Jesus would often distinguish the evil in government and the government itself.

Daniel 3 and 6, Daniel and his three friends disobeyed Nebuchadnezzar’s command that everyone should bow and worship the pagan image on the plain of Dura. They refused and were thrown in the furnace for punishment, they trusted themselves to God and he delivered them.

We are not to have blind obedience to a government when it may supersede the Bible, God, and our own conscience. God has given civil Governments the power to establish a society to be rule justly, morally. Justified civil disobedience is allowed when the believer is commanded to do something contrary to the Word of God. The Bible permits Christians to disobey the law only when they are commanded to do evil or to turn from doing good (Acts 5:28-29).

We see this played out in the abortion issue where rescuers are prohibited by law to exercise Christ's command to “ love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:39). Pro-lifers believe the unborn child is their neighbor who is innocent, weak, unable to speak for themselves. To rescue that child from their death is a good act and obeying Christ, as God has given life and we are to try and preserve life. However, we are to use persuasion not force to accomplish this goal.

As for ourselves, the government is not persuading pro-life Christians to do evil; the state does not require pro-life Christians to abort their own unborn children, they are giving all people a choice. Whether we agree with this or not, our reaction cannot be to do harm or take another's life. To be our siste’s keeper our course of action requires a non- violent protest and the ability to give them the information so they can make a rational choice.

Examples of disobedience in the Bible to preserve life

A law may be superseded by another, under certain conditions. We cannot be obligated to tell the truth and risk innocent people dying as the result of our telling the truth. Lying is sometimes right. I know the Bible does tell us not to bear false witness and to not lie, but it comes down to the motive behind it.

The Bible does give examples of the spiritual law taking precedent over the law of the land, as it is the greater good. In Ex.1:15-22 the midwives disobeyed Pharaoh’s order to kill all the Hebrew baby boys (which was genocide) But the Hebrew midwives Shiprah and Puah “feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do and they let the boys live.” As a result “ God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own ” (vs. 20-21). If they had obeyed Pharaoh, Moses, the deliverer of Israel would have been killed. Preserving life takes priority over indiscriminate murder, even if it is by the king of the land.

I Kings 18:4 wicked queen Jezebel “was killing off the LORD'S prophets.” In defiance of her orders the prophet Obadiah “ had taken a hundred prophets and hid them in two caves ... and had supplied them with food and water ” (v. 4). Although Scripture does not explicitly approve of Obadiah's act, the context and manner of the Bible's presentation implies that God condoned His act because it says he feared the Lord. In other words he obeyed God before he would obey man (vs. 13-15. The same principle is said by Peter on speaking the gospel Acts 5:9).The law of preservation of life admonishes us to do what is right, this overshadows any law of the land that would do harm.

In Joshua 2:1-14 we see the example of Rahab saving the lives of two Hebrew spies by hiding them from soldiers who were searching for them. She risked her life, lying to the soldiers to protect their lives. The spies had no legal right to be in Jericho, the soldiers had every legal right to apprehend them. The preservation of innocent life always takes priority. God honored Rahab calling it faith, and God promised, “ Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent .” (Josh 6:17) And the spies went and rescued all her family and belongings from destruction. We later find her included in the line of the Messiah “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king ” (Matt. 1:5-6).

This is attributed to her faith, she trusted the spies were sent by God and in so doing was trusting God. “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe ” (Heb. 11:31) “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way ?” (James 2:25)

We can see this same example in World War II when the Nazis did house searches for Jews. There were many Christians and non-believers who hid them to protect their lives. If you were someone who broke the law by hiding Jews from the Holocaust, you were doing the greater good-- you were obeying God’s law. We have a moral duty to preserve life whether it’s our own or someone else’ if directly confronted.

The principle taught in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:38-42 would seem to imply that Christians should not resist an evil person. If you are slapped on one cheek give them the other. But this means to not retaliate when insulted or slandered (Romans 12:17-21). Insults do not threaten a Christian's personal safety. The idea of rendering insult for insult, is not the same as defending oneself against a mugger or a rapist, or someone that wants to kill you or a loved one. We are to preserve life, this is a principle carried over from the Old Testament. The use of physical force to protect or defend another is not an alternative but a command.

We protect our children from drug dealers and pedophiles and all other sort of lowlifes. We lock our doors of our homes. We are to be vigilant against evil and take precautions to prevent it. We keep our car keys on our person, we do not leave them in the ignition switch saying I trust God. We do what we can so we do not become sick. We do preventative measures for our safety.

Is violence never a justified act? What of self-defense? Do we stand by and watch someone being abused or physically threatened with harm or watch physical harm perpetrated on them?

If we watch someone steal something and do not speak up or we know of a crime we could prevent, we are complicit to the crime. To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable. To permit a murder to take place when we could have done something to prevent it is ethically wrong. If we fail to use force to protect another whom is confronted with evil we are in fact failing to show love toward them. It would instead be sin to sit by idly and watch another perpetrate physical harm on them when it can be avoided or prevented by force. Not resisting evil is a sin of omission, and a sin of omission can bring the same result as one committing evil. Any man who refuses to protect his wife and children against a violent intruder fails in his moral obligation.

We are to pursue peace, but tolerance, finding compromise condoning criminal activity or withholding punishment does not lead to peace. It is the greatest act of love to sacrifice your life to protect the innocent, to defend their freedom against oppressors when they can’t. Self-sacrifice is part of the definition of agape? But what about sacrificing one’s self for the enemy? This is what Jesus did. We were all enemies before we became friends. We were reconciled by believing in his death

Jesus is known for His teaching on love, compassion, forgiveness, and “not to return evil for evil” But we find Jesus advising the disciples to buy a sword in Luke 22:36: “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy on e.” Jesus told the disciples to buy a sword, and it is clear that Jesus advocated the use of a sword for self-defense purposes. Jesus tells the disciples to buy a sword if he has none vs.38 they showed they had two, he said this is enough. So he is not telling them to arm themselves, lest they trust in man and not God.

The “sword” (Greek: maxairan) that is used is a dagger or short sword that was part of the Jews traveler's equipment for protection against robbers and wild animals. A plain reading of the passage indicates that Jesus approved of conditional self-defense. These were small daggers to protect someone from the criminals they would encounter as they traveled, used for close combat, for self defense, they were also to use against a wild animal.

When Jesus was being arrested Peter stepped forward to protect him and cut off the ear of the servant (Malchus) of the high priest. We have Jesus reacting, stating that “whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword.” That should not be ones first reaction.

Some pacifists to prove Jesus rejected the use of weapons quote this verse. Here Jesus is addressing Peter who previously said he was willing to die with him and instead tried to prevent His being arrested. Peter used the sword to accomplish his goal- Jesus’ response -- We are not to live by force or violence, your life is not to be ruled by a response of force, but by love. There was more to this than Peter could see; the will of God. Peter had pulled the sword out to prevent him from being arrested. Jesus healed the man’s ear immediately and He had Peter put away his sword so that he could be arrested, to fulfill God’s plan by his death (John 18:11).

This does not mean that one is forbidden to use force when confronted with another’s life being taken. If Jesus were a pacifist and opposed the use of weapons, He would not have instructed his disciples to own them. They were not to be heavily armed, but sufficiently armed. When Jesus was arrested, he told his disciples he could call on his Father, who would put legions of angels at his disposal to protect and deliver Him. Instead Jesus submitted to the process that would bring Him to His purpose in coming to earth. So it is important to see God’s purpose at the time.

p.2 The difference between killing and murder



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