The issue of Just War is a hotly debated topic in the evangelical world today. The main reason Christians have a problem with war in general, is that it is violent – that it takes lives – and they believe we as Christians are called to a passive non-violence. Well, it doesn’t take very long of knowing me to figure out that I am not a pacifist. I am a very peaceful person by nature – in fact, I will avoid confrontation of any kind as much as possible – but I am no pacifist, and I do not believe the Bible calls me to be a pacifist, or passive toward evil in any way (Prov. 25:26). And if the Bible does not command passivity, then that certainly opens up wide possibilities for the idea of just war. So let’s look at what Scripture says.
First of all, the Old Testament is full of passages that portray violence in a positive way. In Genesis 14, Abraham leads a group of his men, 318 trained fighters, in a mission to rescue Lot. After defeating four kings and rescuing Lot, Abraham is met and blessed by Melchizedek, king of Salem. In Exodus 22:2, we see a law differentiating between murder, and a justified killing in self-defense. The law explains that if a thief is caught breaking into one’s home at night, and he is beaten to death, there is no guilt of bloodshed. But if the owner of the house goes to find and kill the intruder the next day, that would be considered murder. At this point, if what he stole is found in his possession, he must repay four-fold.
In Numbers 25:6-15, the account is recorded of Phinehas the priest, the grandson of Aaron. An Israelite man took a Midianite woman into his tent, in defiance of Yahweh’s explicit prohibition against intermarrying with the pagan’s who worshiped Baal-Peor. Phinehas followed the Israelite and the woman into the tent, and slew them both with a spear. As a result, God says that Phinehas turned the Lord’s wrath away from Israel because his zeal for God’s honor was as strong as God’s own zeal! He then makes a covenant with Phinehas, called (though often forgotten) the “priestly covenant,” because of Phinehas’ passion for the pure worship of Yahweh.
Beside the many times that God commands Israel to go to battle, I like looking at the many times David praises the Lord for being his strength in battle. My favorite Psalm says,
“May Yahweh, my rock, be praised, who trains my hands for battle, and my fingers for warfare” (Ps. 144:1).
Solomon urges us not to be passive in any way when he says,
“If you do nothing in a time of trouble, how small is your strength. So rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter” (Prov. 24:10-11).
Later, in Proverbs 25:26, Solomon makes a rather anti-pacifistic statement when he says,
“A righteous person who gives way to the wicked is like a muddied spring or a polluted well.”
BUT, for those Christians who don’t appreciate folks like me who think the Old Testament is still actually relevant in such discussions, we’ll look at the New Testament next time!