Should Christians go to war, to fight and kill?

Yes, some Christians say, it’s our civic duty and right to defend family and nation against evil, and what greater sacrifice can one make than giving one’s life for one’s friends? If someone broke into your home with murderous intent, would you not have the right and the responsibility to protect yourself and your family, using whatever means it took to subdue the villain, which might include killing him?

Other Christians, however, challenge that view, quoting several obvious scriptures in reply like, “Do not kill, love your enemies, don’t repay evil with evil, overcome evil with good, and ‘vengeance is mine’ says the Lord.’” And what about Jesus’ statement in John 14:27? “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” It’s the world that uses war to create peace, not Jesus.

But doesn’t Jesus use war to create peace, too? In Revelation 19:11 he “makes war,” and “out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations,” verse 15. Ah but, other Christians reply, Jesus can kill because he’s God and God can resurrect people back to life again, whereas we can’t. And besides, haven’t these verses been used to justify the Crusades and other monstrous cruelties by Christians?

And on and on the debate goes, scripture versus scripture – but what an awful irony it creates, of Christians fighting each other over whether we should fight, or not. But what’s the answer, when scriptures can be found that support both views?

I don’t know because I have no idea what I might do if someone attacks my home or country. It depends very much on my understanding of Scripture and my relationship with God at the time, I imagine, so how I react now may be very different to how I react in five years time, when my understanding of God has grown. Peter, the disciple of Jesus, for instance, sliced off a man’s ear with his sword in John 18:10, but later in his life, in 1 Peter 1:5, he talks of being shielded by God’s power through faith. He was now totally trusting in God, not his sword anymore. As our understanding of God grows, so will our actions.

What’s helped me in this dilemma is Romans 14, because Christians can have different views, based on their beliefs at the time (verses 3-8), but still be at peace. And isn’t that what this world needs to see? It’s not Christians fighting over whether they should fight, or not, it’s Christians who are living the way of peace with each other (verse 19).

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