Who decides it’s right for Christians to fight and kill in war?

So which Christian authority decided it was right for 60 million Christians in Germany to fight and kill people in World War 2, and which Christian authority gave permission to millions of other Christians to fight and kill Germans in return? To whom did both groups of Christians look for their authority?

For a long time Christians have believed their authority to go to war came from Paul in Romans 13:1 when he wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established,” therefore, verse 2, “he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” Christians had better obey their national leaders, in other words, and that includes going to war.

But what should Christians then do if their national leaders tell their people to go to war and it pits Christian against Christian in a fight to the death? Surely that can’t be right, so what common Christian authority do Christians now turn to for an answer?

It’s the same problem for Muslims. Sunnis and Shias don’t share a common authority deciding who is right and who is wrong either. So they, just like millions of Christians, have murdered each other on a massive scale, without any guilt or even embarrassment at how this must look to people being asked to respect Islam and Christianity.

The context of Romans 13, meanwhile, is not about international warfare, or about Christians responding to a call to arms in an international conflict. The context is about being a good citizen in one’s own country, as Paul himself explains in verse 6 when he talks of Christians paying their taxes. It has nothing to do with fighting and killing in war.

When it comes to international conflict – or conflict of any kind for that matter – Christians do have a common authority. It’s Jesus, who clearly stated that “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.” That’s a nice, simple statement all Christians can relate to – that as citizens of Christ’s Kingdom we don’t fight, even in defence of Christ himself.

And since God established Jesus as our Judge (Acts 17:30-31), it is Jesus we answer to. He is our common authority as Christians. He’s also King of Kings and Lord of Lords of the entire planet so his government overrules all human governments. And according to his government regulations his servants do not fight and kill. If our national leaders require us to fight and kill, therefore, we obey Jesus, not them. It’s Jesus we trust to resolve our conflicts, not war or weapons.


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