Thursday, February 19, 2015

Is it ok to want a terrorist killed? How should a Christian view ISIS? Is war the answer? What about killing in “self-defense”?

Sadly, because of so many acts of terror taking place, many are asking questions they never had to ask before. Questions about war, justice and vengeance, are always difficult. The fact is, there is not an easy answer to all of these thoughts. This post, however, seeks to present some Biblical principles to help the believer navigate through these difficult times.

God hates murder!
The first principle we need to consider is that the Bible clearly condemns murder. In the 10 commandments it reads “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). God says that He hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17). In the book of Revelation we are told that “murderers” will be cast into the “lake of fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8). When a person is murdered, whether by he hands of an Islamic Terrorist in the name of religion or a gang member doing a drive-by, sin has taken place, and God HATES it. 

What about killing in self-defense?
There are several facets to the original question that must be contemplated. What about killing in “self-defense”? There is not a verse that clearly condemns violence in self-defense or even in the protection of another. We need to remember there is a difference between defense, and vengeance! It is not our place to enact vengeance on another. Remember the teaching of (Romans 12:19) “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”. 

When to use force?” (especially lethal force) against another, is a difficult question without an easy answer. Love needs to motivate all that we do (Matthew 22:39). One might be able to make a case that love for one’s neighbor may entail using lethal force against our neighbor’s murderous attacker. This same case may be made for collective military force against a group who seeks to do harm on the innocent. Choices like these are increasingly difficult. The early Christians were never told to use force against the Romans who were violently persecuting them, and although the literalness of Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” statement is up for debate, its principles need to be considered.

What about war?
In his letter to the Roman church, the Apostle Paul discusses the authority that governments possess. 
 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for she 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. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV).
The idea that governments are allowed to “bear the sword”  is most likely in reference to capital punishment, however, war may be included in this teaching too. God allows governments to exist, enact laws and even lead soldiers into battle.

Christians should not want war to happen. We should desire “peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14). I would encourage all to exercise caution and not be quick to make a statement like “we should bomb them!”. Instead we should desire that they “repent”.  
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 
Although, it may not be inherently wrong for one country to go to war with another, we should always “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11). 

Can I be happy when a terrorist is shot or a murderer is put to death? What emotions should I have had when Osama Bin Laden was killed?
Controlling our emotions is difficult. It is even more difficult to determine what emotions are godly and which ones are not. One thought we need to keep in mind is that although God desires all to be saved, He is also a God of Justice. 

God created us with a desire for justice (even justice in this life). It would be permissible for us to find satisfaction when an evil person is punished. When you read through the Psalms you find several instances where God’s people yearned for, and prayed for justice to be served (Psalm 109). In (Revelation 6:9-11) the souls under the alter are crying out to God for justice. 
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)
It is not our duty to enact vengeance or to force the hand of justice, however, when the wicked are punished for their deeds, it is ok to find satisfaction in that justice has been served. This would even include feeling a sense of satisfaction in the death of another (such as Osama Bin Laden).

We should desire salvation more than punishment.
Although we might thirst for and find satisfaction in the punishment of the wicked, we should have a greater desire that all repent, and follow Christ. God created all people in his image. This would include the most vile terrorist. When a person dies before they repent, we should be saddened by the fact that a person born in the image of God, chose a life of sin, that cost them their eternal soul. We can be glad that justice is served when one is punished in this life, and yet, at the same time be saddened a person is lost. 

By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from ESV and NASB. Image curtesy of