Biblical Validity of Self and National Defense
The following is a fictional letter from a man named Andrew to his nephew Gabriel. Gabriel wrote to his uncle asking for some clarity on the Biblical view of self and national defense. This is Andrew’s response:
What if, as you suggested in your letter, these are the days that try men’s souls? Does one with a soul like yours have anything to fear?
As you said, there are times when the only remaining means of making peace between two parties is war. After peacemakers have exhausted all diplomatic options, they are left to choose between surrender or using physical force for the purpose of defense.
In regards to your question, it has been my experience that many people are not necessarily pacifist, thinking that physical force ought never to be used, but many are unsure of what their position is. A lack of understanding on the matter can easily give way to confusion when people of the pacifist persuasion claim that Jesus commands His followers to never defend themselves.
Pacifists argue that Jesus’ teaching to “turn the other cheek” forbids all use of physical force in self and national defense. They argue that to defend oneself, one’s family, and one’s nation is sin.
Many a good heart has been troubled by many a bad teaching on “turning the other cheek.” In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day, slapping someone in the face was more of a degrading insult than an act of harm-intending physical aggression. By teaching His disciples to turn the other cheek, Jesus is not saying “let people physically harm you and kill you.” Jesus is saying, “let people think badly about you and even insult you if they wish; you do not need their approval; live to please God instead.”
Even some who do interpret “turning the other cheek” as being a proper response to harm-intending physical aggression are quick to note that the principle of turning the other cheek can serve legitimate purposes in a physical confrontation. In situations where immediate physical retaliation is not necessary, it can be beneficial to “offer the other cheek” to test and confirm the intentions of the aggressor, so that one can judge how to most appropriately respond. Whether you are in a verbal argument or a military confrontation, it is always unbecoming to shoot a cannon at a rabbit! Also, it is rightly observed that Jesus did not elaborate on what to do if, after turning one cheek, a person’s second cheek is slapped as well. One only has two cheeks – unless they intend on inviting an aggressor to visit their lower cheeks – but if they are slapped as well, they may really have a problem on their hands!
I will grant that many a pacifist is genuinely confused, but his confusion will not wipe the blood off of his hands if he lets his family or nation be slaughtered by a company of evil men. Every conscience bears witness to the fact that defending and saving lives is a noble necessity when it is in one’s power to do so. To deem all use of physical force sin is to call good evil; and to deem passivity righteous is to call evil good.
Assuming a pacifist position, I suppose that David sinned when He killed Goliath! Was God endorsing evil when he instituted capital punishment in Genesis Chapter 9? I suppose that those who “through faith” became “valiant in battle and put foreign armies to flight,” referenced in Hebrews Chapter 11, were actually among history’s greatest sinners! Was Jesus endorsing sin when he told his disciples to buy swords, apparently for the purpose of self-defense, in Luke Chapter 22? I suppose that Jehu was sinning when he, anointed by God, destroyed the house of Ahab and tore down the temple of Baal. Should God have refrained from endorsing lethal self-defense in Exodus Chapter 22? I suppose that instead of moral government “bearing the sword” for the purpose of executing God’s wrath on evildoers, they are actually committing sin by enforcing capital punishment! In Proverbs 24:11, we are told to “deliver those who are drawn towards death and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter,” should we do this only by prayer and refrain from using our physical capacities to save lives?
Ecclesiastes 3:8 says that there is “a time for war.”
Would a pacifist accuse God of wrongdoing when His Spirit came upon Othniel and lead him out to war? How about when His Spirit came upon Samson and he slew a thousand men? Or when His Spirit came upon Gideon and led him out to war?
Should Jael not have killed Sisera, the wicked king, when he came into her tent? She was called “the most blessed of women” because she was used by God to bring safety and deliverance to those who were crying out to Heaven for salvation from their enemies.
There is a time for war. There is a time for appropriate and controlled use of physical force in self and national defense.
Not every “time” is a “time for war”; as Jesus told Peter when he drew his sword, “Put your sword in its place. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” The sword – instruments of lethal force – must be kept in their proper place and used only at appropriate times in controlled and appropriate ways for the purpose of defending and saving lives. If you live by the sword, reaching for the sword to solve every problem, you will quickly find yourself dead by the sword. But, in this fallen world, where conflicting wills manifest in personal and national conflict, there is at times an appropriate occasion for war – there is a time for war. There is a time when in good conscience you must engage in appropriate use of physical force for the purpose of protecting and saving lives. A true pacifist denies this; they say that it is righteous to let yourself and your family be slaughtered. They would rather let their nation be annihilated than take up arms and defend the blessings that God has bestowed upon them. They say that it is sinful to defend the sacred precious lives, private property, and natural rights that God Himself has given them. They believe that law enforcement and military personnel who daily risk their lives for us are participating in sinful behavior by using physical force to defend and save lives.
I think that the testimony of scripture, conscience, and natural law clearly attest that, while resorting to the use of physical force in self and national defense is a last resort, it is at times, the only valid and virtuous resort.
I believe that virtuous warriors have a special place in God’s heart; David said that God personally trained his hands for war and his fingers for battle. Some of the first known followers of John the Baptist were soldiers. Jesus Himself marveled at the Roman centurion and said, “Truly, I say to you that I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.” And the god-fearing Roman centurion named Cornelius was one of the very first Gentile Christians – if not the first.
Jesus Christ Himself, in His second advent, is coming not as a baby in a manger, but as a mighty warrior and king with fire in His eyes.
Exodus 15:3 says that “The Lord is a warrior.”
Psalm 24:8 says that the Lord is “mighty in battle.”
Many have made the mistake of understanding Jesus to be a passive man. And therefore they think that we ought to be passive as well. Perceiving Jesus as a limp-wristed pathetic man may fit with what is portrayed in some of the traditional artistic renderings of Jesus, but it does not fit with the testimony of scripture. Jesus was most gentle and kind when a situation called for it, such as sitting with and blessing the little children, or graciously forgiving even the worst of sinners when they came to him humbly in repentance. But not every situation calls for kindness. Jesus constantly, fiercely, and openly rebuked and opposed the hypocritical religious leadership of his day. Jesus made a whip of cords, entered into the temple court that the religious people of the day basically turned into a business (sound familiar?), and with his whip, cleared what was likely a crowd of several hundred people and several hundred animals. One of the most prominent aspects of Jesus’ ministry was that of casting out demons. Jesus didn’t humbly ask demons to leave the people that they were tormenting, He commanded them to leave.
The very reality of the Incarnation, God becoming man in Jesus Christ, suggests that God is the furthest thing from passive. When the time is right, God intervenes. His actions are often forceful and always intentional. Humanity is not in need of castration; humanity is in need of consecration: consecrated strength and skill, submitted to God to be used for good purposes. The world needs virtuous warriors who will sacrificially employ their strength in the cause of good.
What if a time were to come when every sleeper agent in America was activated – in media, in conservative media, in churches of all kinds, in schools, in all sorts of government positions – and every enemy of America from within and without was commanded to destroy this last best hope of man on earth, would you defend her?
God forbid it ever happens, but as Washington said, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” And I feel that we ought, with an awareness of the sacred severity of the subject, be mentally prepared for the possibility of defending our families and nation.
Many who are animated by an antichrist spirit would love nothing more than to see America and all that she stands for utterly destroyed. The intention of Hell is that America would come to be subject to the will of wicked God-hating men, but I believe that the will of God is that America shall be saved from the hand of her enemies, and that she shall shine with the righteous light of truth again for an allotted time before the coming of the Lord Jesus. If we turn to the Lord with repentant and prayerful hearts in this crucible moment, He will save us, He will revive us, and He will establish us once more as a beacon of light and truth to the world.
The beauty of America, unparalleled in time!
From sea to sea her excellency was and shall be sublime.
I see a nation not yet finished: her glory is restored!
Her light is not diminished; Her wellspring is her Lord!
A light to every nation, she shall remain to be:
A most clear demonstration of what it means to be free.
So wake up rise and save her, you sons of liberty;
Ring the freedom bells O daughters from sea to shining sea!
There comes a time when the wisdom of man fails and the necessity of appealing to the Supreme Judge of the earth is felt.
I believe, that with God’s help, America will once again prove to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, where freedom reigns, self-government prevails, and where our trust is in and our allegiance is to Almighty God. In these days of potential hardship, what if Americans appealed, as our fathers did, to the Supreme Judge of all the earth, beseeching His favor, and seeking His blessing? Would anything be impossible for us?
If, God forbid, a future time would arise when war was the state of our homeland, in your unwavering perseverance, never forget that with God’s intervention, He is able to birth a nation in a day, and make short work of what would otherwise be impossible without his aid.
Gabriel, your aunt and I love you very much and are confident that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
You are always in our hearts.
P.S. I’d like to leave you with this verse, Joshua 3:5: “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”