Some people would say, it is our duty to fight for what is right. This view has been put forward by several leaders like George Bush, Tony Blair, and David Cameron; all of whom profess to be Christians in some form.
But firstly, the idea of what is right varies from person to person, and anyone can justify something close to their heart. In many wars, Christians have fought against Christians – can this be right? What does the Bible teach on this subject?
Jesus gives us plenty of guidance. He says for a start that we should not defend ourselves by force: “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,” (Matthew 5v39-40). This is a very clear indication of how we are to treat others, even when they abuse us. On another occasion, he rebukes Peter for taking up a sword with the words: “All who take the sword will perish by the sword,” (Matthew 26v52). Yet Peter was merely trying to stop Jesus being arrested and executed! If ever there was a just cause for which we could fight, it’s this one! And yet Jesus still condemns the use of force and weapons. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but can we really argue with what the Lord says we must do?
Jesus also never gave the Jews any encouragement to rebel against the occupying Roman forces, insisting instead that they pay their taxes: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” (Matthew 22v21). Again, if he was setting himself up as a Jewish hero leader, you would expect him to encourage rebellion and dissent. But this does not happen.
The Apostle Paul supports these statements in his letters. He describes what our attitude towards our enemies should be: “Bless those who persecute you… Live in harmony with one another… Repay no one evil for evil.. live peaceably with all… never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.” (Romans 12v14-19). How can we join an army if we are to always act peaceably?
Another aspect of the Christian stance should be that we must obey governments in charge, even if we don’t like them. Paul says “There is no authority except from God… therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed,” (Romans 13v1), backing up a much earlier statement by Daniel: “The Most High rules the kingdom of men, and gives it to whom He will,” (Daniel 4v32). If we believe that God is in control, and that He has put rulers and governments in place, then who are we to try and overthrow them?
Just before he was crucified, Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight,” (John 18v36). It is not for the Christian to get involved in the affairs of this world, where God is in control anyway. Instead, true followers of Jesus are to see themselves as part of a future kingdom where Christ is the leader. With this attitude, it is clear that we should not fight in the wars that take place today, for if we did, we could never fulfil these commands of Christ.