Participation in War

Human life is sacred. One of the Ten Commandments says, “Thou shalt not kill (Exodus 20:13). God is the author of life. He formed man’s body out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and “man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). And because God has given man life, He alone holds the prerogative to take it.

The prohibition against taking human life surely includes restrictions against murder and suicide, abortion and euthanasia, hate and anger, carelessness and neglect, and participation in national warfare. Wars between nations involve murder – only it is the murder of masses (by huge armies), instead of the murder of one person (by another person). What is the difference, for example, between throwing rive hundred babies into a fire, and throwing fire from airplanes on rive hundred babies? There is, no difference! Yet multitudes who abhor the thought of throwing the babies into a flaming fire, approve of participating in warfare (and throwing the fire on the babies).

The Bible shows that wars will persist in spite of human efforts to stop them. However, wars will end one day, not because men will solve their problems, but because Jesus Christ will come to set things right on the earth (Matt. 24:6-8; Isaiah 2:2-4; Daniel 2:44). Meanwhile the purpose of war between nations is to destroy as much enemy life and property as possible, and in light of Jesus’ teachings concerning our treatment of enemies, the Christian cannot participate (Matt. 5:44-45).

There are several New Testament principles that forbid Christian participation in war:

(1) Love is the supreme law for the Christian (Romans 13:10).
(2) Peace is the Christian’s obligation (Romans 12:18).
(3) Retaliation is to be avoided (Romans 12:19).

When Jesus said to Pilate (John 18:36), “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight” –He was saying that the nations of the world do fight. As long as men reject Jesus Christ and choose to live in an unregenerate state, there will be wars, but Jesus says, “My kingdom is a different kingdom; it operates by higher laws; those who are members of my kingdom do not fight.” Thus for the disciples of Jesus, nonresistance is a way of life. We do not participate in war, but we remember too that an effective war-time exemption requires a consistent peace-time practice. If our testimony in war-time is going to be meaningful, we must be known as a peace-loving people.

–Harold S. Martin
July/August 1977