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BY: Don Walton
Does the Bible teach pacifism? Was Jesus a pacifist? Should all Christians be
conscientious objectors, refusing to serve in our nation’s military and to fight in a
war? What does the Bible really say about war?

The Inevitability of War

In Matthew 24:6, Jesus said, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see
that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not
yet.” Notice, Jesus said that wars “must come to pass.” According to Jesus, war is
an inevitability in this sin-cursed, Satan-controlled, dark and dying world. It is
inescapable and unavoidable.

Some will argue at this point that this cannot be, since Jesus came to bring peace
on earth. We are all familiar with the words proclaimed by the angels to the
shepherds at the birth of Christ: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). However, a far better translation of the
angels’ annunciation of the birth of Christ is found in the New International
Version of the Bible, where the same verse reads: “Glory to God in the highest
heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus did not come the first time to bring peace on
earth, but peace with God. He came to end the sinner’s enmity with God by
reconciling God and man. All who put their faith in Christ are no longer separated
from God by their trespasses and sins, but have peace with God, being recipients of
His “favor” or grace.

Instead of coming to bring peace on earth, Jesus said He came the first time to
“bring a sword.” In Matthew 10:34, Christ said, “Think not that I am come to
send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” If Jesus did come
the first time to bring peace on earth, as is popularly believed today, then, are we
not forced to admit that He miserably failed, since the world has known no
cessation of war from the day of Christ’s birth until the present?

It is true that Jesus is coming again to bring peace on earth. It is at the Second
Coming of Jesus Christ that the lamb will lay down with the lion and that men will
“beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah
2:4; 11:6-9). It is then, but not until, that “nation shall not lift up sword against
nation, neither shall [men] learn war any more.”

Until the Prince of Peace returns there will be no peace in this fallen, war-torn
world. War will continue to be an inevitability, the growing menace of which will
serve as one of the signs of the times proceeding the Second Coming of Jesus
Christ. According to Jesus, the inevitable end-time escalation of wars will serve as
a clear indicator of the imminence of His return.

The Reality of Evil

Why is war inevitable in this world? The answer is found in the reality of evil. It is
the reality of evil that makes war inevitable in this fallen world.

Now, I know that we live in a politically correct day within which men desperately
attempt to deny the reality of evil. They try to explain it away as nothing more than
mishaps and misunderstandings. For instance, today’s psychologists deny the
reality of evil, insisting that man is naturally good unless circumstances program
him to be otherwise. This explains why there are no more villains in the world, but
only victims. Instead of bad people, the psychologist argues that there are only
misfortunate souls forced to do bad things by mothers who made them eat green
peas when they were growing up.

Like today’s psychologists, many false religions, like Hinduism, as well as many
cultists, like Christian Scientists, deny the reality of evil. They insist that it is only
an illusion, a mere figment found in an illusionary world existing only in our
imaginations. Take for example, actor Richard Gere’s advice on how to combat
terrorism with “love vibes.” Gere, who is a Buddhist, told ABC News that
terrorists should not be seen as evil, but as sick relatives in our human family. “We
have to give them medicine,” Gere argued, “and the medicine is love and
compassion; there’s nothing better.”

Do you remember actress and New Age prophetess Shirley MacLaine’s advice to
America following the 9/11 terrorist attack upon our nation? She urged us all to get
together and bombard the terrorists with love by melting our hearts and weapons
into love and positive energy. Though I can’t speak for the rest of my countrymen,
as far as I’m concerned, her advice was completely nonsensical; but then again,
I’ve never been able to make any sense out of anything she has ever said.

The undeniable truth of our day is that our present-day world is populated with
people like Father Flanagan, the founder of Boy’s Town, who always insisted that
“there is no such thing as a bad boy.” In fact, today’s “Flanagans” take it even

further by insisting that there is no such thing as a bad person, regardless of
whether they are boys and girls or men and women.

Unlike our politically correct world, the Bible empathetically declares the reality of
evil! According to the Bible, Satan—the god of this world—is the “evil one.” The
unregenerate human heart is evil, as the ancient prophet Jeremiah avowed: “The
heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
And according to the Apostle Paul, it was to “deliver us from this present evil
world” that Christ “gave Himself for our sins” (Galatians 1:4).

The scriptural truth of evil’s reality led Edmund Burke to proclaim, “The only
thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” In his book, The
Baptist Faith And Message, Herschel Hobbs wrote that our refusal to go to war
against evil “would turn the world into a jungle ruled by criminals and tyrants, and
in which all moral and spiritual values would disappear from the social order.” In
other words, both Burke and Hobbs taught the necessity of the world warring
against evil, lest evil take the world!

The Sanctity of Human Life

Since the Bible teaches the reality of evil, it also teaches the inevitability of war.
Contrary to the opinion of many, the Bible does not teach pacifism. Speaking of
pacifism, George Orwell once wrote, “Those who abjure violence can only do so
because others are committing violence on their behalf.” More to the point is the
words of C. S. Lewis, who once said, “Pacifism means taking a straight road to a
world in which there will be no more pacifists.”

Did you know that there are places in the Bible where God commands His people
to go to war? Did you also know that there are places in the Bible where God
actually gives His people battle plans to assure their victory in war? Furthermore,
did you know that there are places in the Bible where God’s people are actually
commanded by Him to completely wipeout an enemy? That’s right; there are some
people who just shouldn’t be around.

While it may offend the politically correct sensibilities of many bleeding hearts in
the world today, the Scripture clearly teaches that there are some people who just
shouldn’t be around. Who are these people? According to the Bible, it is those who
have proven their cold-blooded indifference to the sanctity of human life. It is
those who have taken another human live indiscriminately or are known to be
capable of doing so without so much as a shrug of their shoulders. Such people are

too dangerous a threat to innocent lives to be allowed to exists as a member of any
civilized society.

Now, before someone misinterprets what the Bible says as scriptural permission to
practice vigilantism, let me point out that there are only three institutions in the
world today that are ordained by God. The oldest is the family or the home.
Another is the church, which Christ has commissioned to preach the Gospel to the
ends of the earth. Finally, there is the government, which the Apostle Paul says has
been given the “sword” by God in order to protect the innocent and to punish the
evil doer (Romans 13:1-7).

It is the government that has been ordained by God to protect us from those who
do not hold to the sanctity of human life. This explains why it is an inexcusable sin
against God and others for any individual to take the law into their own hands and
perpetrate some heinous crime, like the bombing of an abortion clinic or the
gunning down of an abortionist. Though abortion is definitely the murder of
innocent unborn children, no Christian has the right to take the government’s
“sword” into their own hands and act as a vigilante.

It is the government’s God-given responsibility to protect innocent lives, even

those of unborn children. This is why it is hard for me to imagine our government
—a government that has sanctioned abortion rather than defended the unborn
child’s right to life—escaping the judgment of Almighty God. How can God fail to
pour out His wrath upon a government that has hands stained with the blood of
millions of aborted children?

In protection of innocent lives, the government has been given the God-given
power to wield the sword in two ways. First, it has been given the power to execute
murderers. In Genesis 9:6, the Bible says, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man
shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” The Bible clearly
teaches capital punishment.

Many can’t understand how Christians can oppose abortion and at the same time
support capital punishment. In actuality, it is the same belief that causes the saints
to take both stands; namely, our belief in the sanctity of human life. When someone
has proven their disregard of the sanctity of human life by taking the life of
another, they should be eliminated from society so that they never have an
opportunity to repeat their crime.

Are you aware of the fact that the vast majority of violent crimes in our country are
committed by repeat offenders? Are you also aware of the fact that many murders
are committed by repeat offenders? If these murderers had been executed the first
time, they would have never had an opportunity to take another innocent life. This
is why the Bible teaches capital punishment. It is also why there is no contradiction
in the conviction of Christians who oppose abortion and favor capital punishment.

The second way that government has been divinely empowered to wield its God-
given sword in protection of innocent lives is in the executing of wars against all
foreign aggressors. If an enemy threatens our lives, land or liberty, our government
not only has the God-given power, but also the God-given right and responsibility
to wage war against that enemy. Our government’s failure to do so would not be in
accordance with the teachings of Scripture, but in violation of the Scripture, as well
as a failure to fulfill the God-ordained role of government.

The Common Arguments for Christian Pacifism

1. The Sixth Commandment

Many site the sixth commandment—“Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13)—as an
argument for pacifism. However, the Hebrew word for “kill” means “homicide.”
All the sixth commandment prohibits is murder. It does not, as many erroneously
allege, forbid one from going hunting or stepping on a bug or a spider. Neither
does it prohibit killing in war (the defense of our country), in police action (the
protection of orderly society), in capital punishment (the protection of innocent
lives), or in self-defense (the protection of our persons and property).

2. John 18:36

In John 18:36, Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world: if
my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not
be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” There you
have it; many insist, Jesus plainly taught pacifism. He even asserts that His
disciples are to be pacifists. The truth, however, is nothing of the sort.

In this verse, Jesus is merely teaching that His kingdom, unlike earthly kingdoms,
is not spread by the sword. Men cannot be forced or coerced into the Kingdom of
God. They must voluntarily choose to become subjects of that kingdom. No one
can force them to bow the knee to Christ. Although all men will eventually do so
(Philippians 2:10-11), no one can currently be forced to do so by Christ’s

followers. It is therefore futile for Christians to take up the sword in defense of
Christ’s Kingdom.

Isn’t it interesting that Christ’s teaching is the opposite of what the Prophet
Mohammed taught? Mohammed taught that Islam, which is known as the Religion
of the Sword, was to be spread by the sword. All men everywhere are to be forced
and coerced into becoming Muslims. Any who refuse to convert at the point of the
sword are to be slain by the sword. Whereas Christ came to save lives, not to
destroy them (Luke 9:51-56), Mohammed claimed to have come “to fight with
people until they say, ‘There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.’”

3. Matthew 26:52

In Matthew 26:52, Jesus rebukes Peter for wielding the sword in His defense. Our
Lord told Peter to “put up…[his] sword…for all they that take the sword shall
perish with the sword.” Again, many claim that this verse proves that Christ was a
pacifist and that all Christians should be conscientious objectors when it comes to
military service.

If we will rewind from this point, we will discover something interesting in the
biblical narrative. Before coming to the garden that eventful evening, Christ had
told His disciples in the upper room, “He that hath no sword, let him sell his
garment, and buy one” (Luke 22:36). Afterward, the disciples, finding two swords
in the upper room, pointed them out to Christ. Once they did, our Lord responded,
“It is enough” (Luke 22:38). The sword Peter used to cut off Malchus’ ear in
defense of Christ was actually brought to the garden by Peter at our Lord’s behest
(John 18:10-11).

The above makes perfect sense when one considers Christ’s instructions to His
disciples in the garden (Matthew 26:41). To “watch and pray” meant to “stand
guard” while they prayed. The reason Christ instructed them to bring swords to the
garden was so that they could guard against His premature arrest. However, now
that the “hour had come”—the hour for Christ to surrender His will to the
Father’s, to submit to arrest, and to die on the cross for the sins of the world—
resistance was not only uncalled for, but wrong as well (Matthew 26:45). This
explains why Jesus rebuked Peter for using the very sword that He had instructed
him to bring to Gethsemane.

4. Matthew 5:39

In His famous Sermon on the Mount, our Lord taught us to turn the other cheek
(Matthew 5:39). Many misinterpret this teaching as a call for pacifism and a
prohibition against self-defense. Jesus was neither advocating the former nor
forbidding the latter; instead, He was simply teaching us not to return evil for evil.

The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible. What the Bible says in one place it
will explain in other places. The Apostle Peter provides us with excellent
commentary on Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek. In 1 Peter 3:9, Peter writes,
“Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing;
knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Peter

No Christian should want to hurt someone who has hurt them. Instead, we should
want to do good to those who have done bad things to us. This is not only the
Christian way, but also the way to distinguish ourselves from others as the children
of God (Matthew 5:38-48). When it comes to avenging ourselves, we should leave
that in God’s hands, for He has said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Romans

Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in no way forbids us from defending
our person, our family or our property. If we have to hurt or even kill someone to
protect ourselves we have not sinned nor in anyway disobeyed Christ’s teaching,
since our motive was not to hurt them, but to protect ourselves. We have not sinned
against God, but merely prevented the perpetration of a crime against ourselves or
our family, something that we have every right to do!

A Time for War

Did you know that the Bible teaches that there is a time for war? In Ecclesiastes
3:1-8, the Bible says: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every
purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which 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 together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time
to rend, 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.”

When Ronald Reagan nominated Alexander Haig to be his Secretary of State,
many feared that General Haig, with his military background, would lead our
nation into war. During his senate confirmation hearings, Mr. Haig was asked if he
would promise to keep our nation at peace. The senators on the committee were
somewhat shocked at Haig’s unhesitant reply, “No!” When asked by them to
explain his answer, General Haig simply explained that there are somethings in life
more important than peace!

According to the Bible, General Haig was right. There are somethings more
important than peace. There are somethings in this life worth fighting for, even
worth killing and dying for. This explains why the Bible plainly teaches that there
is “a time to kill” and “a time of war”!