Do you think it’s biblical to go to war? What does the Bible teach on this subject?
The Root Cause of War
James addresses the root cause of all wars by first asking the question, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” He then answers it: “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:1-2). The wealth that is found in the natural resources of another nation can be a great motivation for conquering that land. Another nation covets what the other nation has, and often the aggressor will create a phony reason to engage them in war. This can even be seen in American history where lands that were already promised to the Indians were thought to have gold. Just as in the southeastern United States with the Cherokee or the Dakotas in the North, where many American Indian lands were confiscated by settlers and then later granted it by the United States. They broke treaty after treaty, all in the name of obtaining what they didn’t have. We murder because we’re coveting what we want to obtain. This is not unique to America. This pattern is found on every continent. Needless to say, these are not biblical reasons to go to war. But are there legitimate reasons to go to war?
If someone broke into your home and threatened to kill your family, would you stand by and do nothing but pray or try to defend the lives of your family by any means necessary with anything at your disposal? I really believe I would take a bullet for my wife, children, and grandchildren but also many a friend, the point being we must defend life by any means necessary. That’s why those who bear the sword as God’s appointed officials (Romans 13:3) ought to be feared. Law enforcement is ready to put their lives on the line in order to save lives. If that means killing someone who is taking lives, they will do it. God supports this idea even in the Old Testament: Kill in order to prevent other killings. God has sovereignly placed them in our society so that we might lead peaceable lives and have the freedom and safety of sharing the Gospel. The Apostle Paul wanted the Christian Romans to know that “he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). By the way, there is a vast difference between murder and killing. Murder is taking the life of an innocent person, while killing might be done to prevent other murders from taking place. If it is justifiable to kill in order to save lives, isn’t going to war biblical? As we will read, it depends on the situation (James 4:1-2).
Old Testament Wars
In the Old Testament, there were dozens of wars. In some cases, God is the One Who literally commands the nation of Israel to go to war. Since God is sovereign and ruler over all and tells Israel to go into war, isn’t war part of His will? God encouraged Moses and all of Israel by telling them, “When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 20:1). That is a verbal command. Don’t be afraid because victory only comes from God and not them. This gives Him the glory, as it should. On more than one occasion, “David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ And the LORD said to David, ‘Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah’” (1 Samuel 23:2). Would God say, “No. War is wrong. It is not part of my will”? What God actually says is, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand” (1 Samuel 23:4). God could have wiped them out on the spot, not even needing Israel’s forces; however, God often uses them (and us) as a means to do His will on earth. Even today, God will use other nations as His own sword, just as I believe He has in World War I and World War II.
Are Wars Justifiable Before God?
If the Imperial Forces of Japan had been allowed to occupy and take control of the entire Pacific and China, then there would have been no end to their expansion and power, mainly because of the nearly unlimited resources that would be at their disposal. At nearly the same time, the Third Reich was reaching its deadly tentacles into parts of Europe, eventually coming to the rim of the British Empire. If there were little or no resistance, then these deadly powers could have changed the world into a one- or two-nation world power. When these two empires joined forces, the potential was enough to create a resistance called the Allies. The Allies began to join the British and what was left of France; and then Australia, Canada, the United States (after Pearl Harbor), and many others joined forces. Such a huge force was felt necessary if they were to prevent a two-nation alliance that would threaten to dominate the world. Was it wrong for these allies to jump into the war because they would probably be next? It would appear that it was not God’s will for the Nazis to exterminate His people, the Jews, and to have two world powers dominate the globe. Therefore, God used allied forces to overcome these evil empires and free the Jews, returning many of them to their original home in Israel (thanks in large part to the British).
I want to publicly thank every one of our men and women who have served in the military or are still serving because you are due our thanks for sacrificing so much of your lives to the preservation and protection of our nation. We have some members in our church who are of the old order of the Brethren, who are nonswearing (in oaths) and nonresistant (in war); and they refuse to either take an oath or bear arms against their fellow man because their consciences object to killing another person. We need to respect those who believe this because they can’t violate our own consciences. We’re told not to do that in the Bible. Whatever is sin to them is sin. It may not be to us, but that doesn’t matter. We need to show grace for either side of this issue. We can disagree but still not be disagreeable.