SHOULD CHRISTIANS SUPPORT WARS OR SHOULD THEY BE PACIFISTS?
by Shawn Brasseaux
What a loaded question, dear friend, but I am more than happy to answer it from the Scriptures.
Just so we all know exactly what “pacifism” is, we consult The Oxford American English Dictionary: “the belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.” Its sub-definition is: “the refusal to participate in war or military service because of such a belief.” With “pacifism” now defined, we can see what the Holy Scriptures say about it.
Absolutely, we should try to live peaceably with all people, especially with other Christians. The Bible says, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Yes, we agree with the pacifists in that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means. Unfortunately, that is not always feasible. We have to live in reality and not in a fantasyland. Not everyone wants to be our friend. Some nations/leaders/people are simply not interested in getting along with anyone, anywhere, anytime. They just want to bicker with, bully, conquer, and plunder others. Pacifism is of no use when the other party is bent on harming or killing you!
James 4:1 says that, because of sin, wars are inevitable: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” Whether or not we have weapons, wars cannot be avoided! Weapons do not cause wars! Sin causes wars! Sin causes violence! Weapons do not cause violence! Sinners cause violence!
THE DIVINE ORDINANCE OF GOVERNMENT/NATIONALISM
The God of the Bible instituted government and national borders to protect life and property. Without defined borders and a strong military, any country could be invaded and robbed by another. In this sin-cursed world, God never intended pacifism. He wants distinct nations, borders that are clearly defined. Study Genesis chapter 10, when God separated Noah’s descendants to create the nations of the world. Acts 17:26 summarizes: “[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” God gave all nations definable boundaries. When those boundaries are crossed, that is a breach of divine institution.
When commenting on human governments, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul talks about the “sword” in Romans 13:4. This is the military power that God gave to human governments. Governments, as God intended, are to suppress Satan’s policy of evil. Evil cannot reign in a nation unless its government allows it—that is, provided the government itself is not corrupt, ignorant of God’s Word. To ensure sound Bible doctrine is upheld, the government should defend itself against those entities that want to overthrow the reign of righteousness. That includes guarding sound Bible doctrine from those outside the nation as well as those evil individuals within the nation. There is safety in nationalism, for nationalism ensures “pockets” of righteousness will flourish. True, nations are corrupt, but there is no one chief nation controlling them all. A dictator in one country has no sway over all nations. If one nation is corrupt, one may flee to another nation.
THE MOSAIC LAW AND THE PROTECTION OF PERSONAL PROPERTY
In the Mosaic Law, JEHOVAH God went to great lengths to ensure personal property was secure. One law that applies to our current discussion is, “If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him” (Exodus 22:2). That is to say, if a thief was “breaking and entering” and the owner of the house or property caught him or her in the act, and the owner in self-defense struck/injured the thief, even to the point of the thief dying, God Almighty said the owner was justified in taking the life of the intruder. Under these circumstances, the divine commandment was that personal property could be guarded, even to the point of the criminal’s death. Sometimes, matters cannot be settled with a rational discussion. In this case of personal property being wrongfully taken, God tolerated violence and killing.
Let us extend the above principle to the national level. If a terrorist group wants to come to our nation and take over it, we are justified in forcing them to retreat. We should not “pick” at them and make them mad. There must be an utter defeat of them, that they think twice about coming back again… if coming back at all! Whatever military hardware and equipment we have, we need to use it to defend ourselves and our property. There is nothing sinful about it. What is sinful is when personal property is not respected, and then the owner is wrongly blamed when he or she defends that property.
EXAMPLES OF ISRAEL’S WARS SANCTIONED BY GOD
Throughout the Old Testament, God encouraged Israel to war with her enemies. He would actually give them the victory when they obeyed Him. Even beyond our day, the God of the Bible will fight Israel’s battles for to deliver her from the nations and the Antichrist. (More on this later.)
Perhaps the chief example of God warring on Israel’s behalf is in Exodus chapter 14, when He destroyed Pharaoh and his armies who were trying to slaughter the Jews. Moses encourages fretting Israel in verse 14, “The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” In chapter 15, Israel sings the Song of Moses, part of it being, “The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name” (verse 3). What had the LORD Himself just done? Had He pled with Egypt to stop harassing His people? Had He settled the matter peacefully? Oh, not at all, friends! Earlier, Pharaoh had nearly a dozen opportunities to do right, and he failed to act right in all of them. JEHOVAH God was not going to play around with wicked Egypt anymore. He took Pharaoh’s mighty armies, skillfully drew them into the empty sea basin, and then He crushed them with mighty waves of water. As the Jews saw the dead soldiers’ bodies floating, they sang out in victory, “The LORD is a man of war!”
A few chapters later, Israel is (again) complaining for water to drink. God provides water for them by having Moses strike a rock. In that Middle Eastern desert, water is a rare commodity, so when the Amalekites see Israel enjoying it, they want to fight the Jews to get it. You can read all about in Exodus chapter 17. Suffice it to say that there is another war that God Himself supported! Moses tells Joshua to gather some Jewish warriors to fight the Amalekites, which he does. By the end of the chapter, God gives Israel victory over the Amalekites. That water was Israel’s, and Israel’s alone. God would not let some foreigners come in and take what He had provided for Israel.
Notice how God encouraged Israel’s war with the Midianites before Moses died. Numbers 31:1-4 says: “ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.  And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian.  Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war.”
After Moses’ decease, Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, fighting many battles to win it from the Gentiles. You can read about that in the book of Joshua, but suffice it to say that God gave Israel many military victories under Joshua’s command. Do you recall how once God destroyed Jericho’s walls in chapter 6, He let Israel go in and fight and take Jericho’s possessions? For another instance of divinely-sanctioned war, see Joshua 10:8: “And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.”
JEHOVAH God empowered shy Gideon to become a mighty warrior and, with an army of 300 (!), he defeated the Midianites that had oppressed Israel (Judges chapters 7 and 8). Under Samuel’s leadership, and through God’s power, Israel defeated the Philistines and they never again came to Israel’s land while Samuel was alive (1 Samuel chapter 7). We are probably all familiar with King David’s battles—God gave him those victories. For example, 2 Samuel 8:6: “…And the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went.”
We read an interesting tidbit in 2 Samuel 5:10: “And David went on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him.” The LORD God of hosts with David in all of his battles. The qualifier “of hosts” is a military epithet of God, a title that denotes His role as leader/commander of armies (mighty angelic armies). Later on in that chapter, David could hear the LORD (and perhaps his angelic soldiers) rushing forth in the winds, enabling him to defeat the Philistines (see verses 22-25).
These are just some examples of JEHOVAH and wars in the Old Testament economy.
DOES THAT MEAN WE SHOULD BE AGGRESSIVE?
Now, please do not misunderstand. Just because we have the God-given right to defend ourselves and our property, that does not mean that we should go around picking fights with other nations or individuals. What it does mean is that if they threaten us or our property, we have the God-given means (personal weapons, government, and military/police) to protect ourselves and our property. On a day-to-day basis, we should be at peace with others, especially with government (1 Timothy 2:1-3). But, again, this is not always possible.
“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). Again, there is no question that the Holy Spirit would have us get along with others. As Christians, we should be particularly careful to try to live peaceably with others. Remember, as Paul quoted Moses, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Galatians 5:14).
When someone tries to steal our possessions or kill us, God expects us to defend ourselves. Personal property and defending to keep it is a concept that God taught Israel throughout the Mosaic Law. The whole purpose of human government is to maintain order, and the military/police should protect citizens and their property, domestic and abroad.
DID JESUS TEACH AND PRACTICE PACIFISM?
Anti-war people enjoy citing how the Lord Jesus taught and practiced pacifism in His earthly ministry. They say we should follow Jesus and be peaceful. (What about following Jesus by faith in His crosswork? Oh no, that does not fit their agenda so they do not bother with that!) Supposedly, Jesus said to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) when someone smites us. (Actually, Jesus said if someone struck us on the right cheek, turn the other to him!) “Love your enemies,” they remind of us Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44. It seems like the pacifists only know the Bible verses that they agree with. They ignore the verses we looked at earlier, the ones that describe the LORD Himself (Jesus Christ before He became a Man) fighting for Israel and encouraging her to go to war with her pagan neighbors.
We find a most fascinating passage in John chapter 2, a passage that “Bible-quoting pacifists” obviously disregard: “ And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:  And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;  And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.  And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” What did “pacifistic” Jesus do? He braided a whip and literally ran the thieves out of the Temple! How is that for “peaceful means?”
Friend, do you know why Jesus was so “peaceful” in Matthew through John? Was it because war was wrong? Nay! Jesus was largely peaceful because it was not yet time for Him to pour out His wrath! He had to first submit to sinful man so He could die His death on Calvary. He would return later to judge sinful man in righteous war.
Luke chapter 9: “ And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,  And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.  And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.  And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?  But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.  For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.”
THE LORD’S FUTURE BATTLE
After our Dispensation of Grace ends, there will come a battle, the most awesome battle the world has ever known or will ever know. The God of the Bible will once again prove that there is such a thing as a justified war. The 2,000-year-long period of God’s “grace and peace” (present-day Dispensation of Grace) will terminate. God will be finished with trying to get along with sinful mankind. Now, it will be full-fledged war… and, friend, God is sure to be victorious!
Consider Joel 3:9-11, the LORD’S exhortation to the nations to prepare to meet Him in battle: “ Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up:  Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.  Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.”
Do you know what the Prophet Joel is talking about? When the Lord Jesus Christ literally, physically, and visibly comes to Earth to conclude the seven-year Tribulation, when He gathers and then wipes out Israel’s enemies! As the “LORD of hosts,” He calls down His angelic armies and they fight against Satan’s human and angelic troops gathered on Earth. Revelation 19:11: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” John the Apostle finished the chapter by talking about how the scavenger birds will come and devour the flesh of all the fallen soldiers of the Antichrist.
Zechariah the Prophet described this awesome Second Coming of Christ, in chapter 14: “ Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.  For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.  Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.  And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”
Skipping the details, suffice it to say that this battle will make way for the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ on Earth (see Revelation chapter 20).
WHEN TRUE PEACE REIGNS ON EARTH
Let us be honest. As long as sin reigns on Earth, peace will not reign on Earth. Again, we recall what James 4:1 says: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” There is coming a day, however, when the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), Jesus Christ, will return and establish His earthly kingdom, a benevolent monarchy of truth and righteousness. It is then that true peace will abound on planet Earth. On the night the Lord Jesus was born, this is why the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14). Peace will come, true peace will come. Let us be patient.
Isaiah 2:2-4 says: “ And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.  And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (cf. Micah 4:1-3).
What a day that will be!