Is Killing a Sin?
Are Christians justified in killing? Should Christians be pacifists? What about Christians serving in the military or in law enforcement?
These are all great questions that deserve careful considerations. As a former soldier, war veteran, and Christian missionary I devoted great amounts of careful study to the subject, consulting theologians, commentaries, and of course, the Scripture first and foremost. Here is what I found:
Thou Shalt not Kill
- Both from the Hebrew rendering, and contextual comparisons, the rendering of this command is unquestionably ‘thou shalt not kill [wrongly]’, ie., murder. This command is found in Exodus 20:13, and as contextual support, consider in Exodus 15:3, God calls himself a warrior, in Exodus chapters 14 and 17, God endorses open war, and in Exodus 21:23, God gives sets up capital punishment for the courts to use on murderers.
- God has killed people and will kill more people. Deuteronomy 1:30; Judges 7:22; Luke 12:5
- King Solomon (king of Israel c. 1000 BC) tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:3, and 3:8b that “there is a time to kill, and a time to heal…a time for war, and a time for peace”. How do you think Solomon would answer the question, “is killing a sin?”
God is a defender & warrior and we are called to be like Him
God is a good father who wants to protect his kids (just like some of you). Jesus is God’s only son, and when Jesus volunteered for the mission to rescue the world, God sent Him behind enemy lines on a rescue mission.
Jesus’ death and resurrection broke the power of death and paid the consequence of our sin, and in so doing, God was able to adopt a world-full of kids. And He loves His kids. And He protects His kids.
- Exodus 15:3 : “The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.”
- Jeremiah 20:11: “for God is with me as a dread warrior”
- Judges 3:1-2: God intentionally left enemies in Israel so the nation would not lose the art of war.
- 2 Samuel 22:23: God “trains my hands for war”
2 Samuel 23: God’s army and what I refer to as the birth of special operations (fun read)
- Revelation 17:14: “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.
- Revelation 19:11-16 : “Then I saw heaven open, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
War stuff was just an Old Testament thing
- Paul warns us in Romans 13:4, that the ruler 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.” Understand then, that the New Testament validates killing at least in the capacities of a soldier and/or police officer.
- Jesus, Paul, Luke, etc. never disagree with the calling of the soldier or police officer, they just don’t want them to be corrupt soldiers and cops, and in some cases these fighters are highly praised by them. Consider: Acts 10; Luke 3:14; Matthew 8:5-13; 2 Timothy 2:3; 1 Corinthians 9:7
- In Revelation 19:11-16, we see Jesus transfigured and super awesome/scary. Jesus did not come to the earth to judge, but He is coming back to judge. When He comes back, it is with a sword to do terrible violence.
Turn the other cheek!
God calls us to defend the weak, to love our enemies, to uphold justice (ex: enforce laws with penalties), etc. So understand that you can pick one of these, ignore the others, and come out very confused because your theological framework was overly simplistic and therefore not capable of sorting out more difficult questions.
Jesus turns the other cheek when appropriate, and then flips over tables and uses an improvised weapon in another. Jesus is hugging children one moment, and then transfigured into a scary visage that shined like the sun. Jesus is forgiving the prostitute, and then rebuking and provoking the religious leaders of the day until they want to murder Him.
In Revelation 5, we see Jesus appears as both a lamb and a lion at the same time. He is gentle and loving, and He is dangerous and ferocious. We should be the same way; the trick is knowing when to turn the other cheek (as a sacrificial lamb), and when to fight (as a furious lion).
When we are told to ‘turn the other cheek’ I believe Jesus is telling us to be ready to suffer insult and shame for His kingdom.
For example: Let’s say you are my brother, but you decided you didn’t like my face, and because of your disdain you think, ‘hey, I’m going to blacken up John’s eyes because I hate him’ – then we may have a fight. Now, if I am strong, I may beat you and that would demonstrate my strength. However, if I was even stronger, I may waive my right to self-defense (as Jesus did) and allow you to beat the daylights out of me because I love you too much to do the same to you.
Imagine beating someone up while they kept saying ‘I forgive you’ with ever stroke. You may beat me, but I dare say you would never forget what happened. Such love might even win your soul; it worked for Jesus.
Even if they were threatening my life, it may be appropriate (if God has called you to be a martyr), to turn the other cheek unto death. If they threaten my family though…or the weak, then Protector John will ‘flip his switch’ and it is ‘game on’ fighting time. I am dealing with this quickly and in very general principles, so please do not apply what I am saying to your exact situation without serious care and the consultation of a minister.
But what about the crusades…?!
The Crusades were a bloody mess (quite literally, regrettably). When I think of the crusades, I believe there were 2 sides with 2 bad guys: the Christians and the Muslims (and the Muslims were the worse of the two).
The first crusade started out as a rescue mission because Muslim invasion of Christian lands (which had been happening steadily and violently for over 5 centuries at this point) had reached a new height in its severity. What transpired was a violent take back of Jerusalem, with an unjustifiable overkill slaughter of Muslims and Jews.
Lots of passion, but ill-advised.
The good news is, I am not a follower of the Monastic Knights and don’t care to justify their individual and varied motives/actions, rather, I am a follower of Jesus. You need not fear me bursting into any warmongering fits of violence.
I’m going to attempt to live as peacefully as Jesus did.