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DOES THE BIBLE TEACH PACIFISM?†
Should Christians use violent force to protect themselves at church or elsewhere?
The Sermon on the Mount provides the clearest and most relevant text on this subject in Matthew 5:38 to 48, when Jesus preaches to the gathered crowd. Although the entire section wonít be reproduced here, some key parts should still be quoted: "But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil, but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. . . . But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Therefore, if we take this literally and straightforwardly, Christians shouldnít counter-attack criminals who are attacking them, at church or elsewhere.
So then, the main issue concerning pacifism concerns how to interpret and apply Jesus' statements in Matt. 5:38-48. Admittedly, this is an extremely difficult passage to obey. If it were up to me, and I had the power to remove it from the Bible, I would do so in my foolish, limited human knowledge. But God knows what He is doing, and we shouldn't second-guess Him in this regard. For what is a mark of a true Christian? One way to sort out true churches from false churches concerns using certain distinctive doctrines that most of them donít obey but which are crucial to salvation. The Bible commands people to rest literally on the seventh day of the week (Friday night to Saturday night), but very few Christians do that (Ex. 20:8-11). Most want to rest on another day or they want to abolish it altogether. Likewise, God commands people to obey the annual Holy Days listed in Leviticus 23, such as the Passover, Pentecost, and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), but almost all Christians today celebrate Christmas and Easter instead, which arenít even mentioned in the Bible. Then comes the principle of pacifism: Since so few churches tell their members to not go to war, most churches are wrong on this subject. After using these three doctrines to evaluate professing Christian churches, itís necessary to conclude almost no Christian churches in the world obey the Bible literally in crucial areas.
So how are Christians supposed to apply the words of Jesus in Matt. 5:38-48? If we come up with rationalizing explanations under which we never have to obey the teachings in Matt. 5:38-48, then weíve got a problem. Christ wouldn't have spoken these words if they didn't have some kind of practical application. I basically don't see how someone can love his enemy, but kill him when his enemy still wishes to live also. (That is, it isn't a case of mercy killing or euthanasia, ala Dr. Kevorkian). It just requires way too many mental somersaults and gymnastics for that to be persuasive. If we have to follow the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12) on the battlefield also, we can't kill our enemy if we wish to live also. I don't see how someone can turn the cheek, yet kill someone else, whether it be a burglar, a would-be murderer, or an enemy soldier.
Now, simply put, this text is our basic problem: Can we honestly evade the literal application of these verses? I really don't think we can. The founder of the Quakers, George Fox (1624-1691), realized that Christians couldn't. But it's easy to denounce this doctrine as impractical, as impossible to practice since other nations would then want to attack us, such as the Nazis and Communists in the past. Likewise, strict pacifism would require our police forces to be disarmed against criminals. True, Romans 13:1-7 shows that God uses unbelievers to maintain law and order. But these verses wouldn't authorize Christians to join the police or to wage war. Since the vast majority arenít called to be true Christians during their first lives on earth (John 6:44, 65; cf. Eze. 37:1-14), we shouldnít assume those nominally upholding the Christian faith today who control our governments are truly converted Christians. It is a point of faith, but people who really believed in God's ways can and will receive protection from God, and the same would go for nations as well. In three or four cases, ancient Israel let God wage war for them instead of going onto the battlefield to kill. For since we have more knowledge of the truth than they did, we shouldn't assume that what Joshua was allowed to do would be what we are allowed to do, especially when he had explicit orders from God to take the Holy Land, unlike the case for modern wars, where God hasn't told anybody to attack anybody else.
Can someone who follows the Prince of Peace wage war? Can we kill our enemies, yet still say we love them, especially when they would say they don't want to die? That's a straightforward application of the Golden Rule (cf. Matt. 7:12). There's the insight that A.A. Milne had (as I recall; he is famous for being the author of the Winnie the Pooh stories) in favor of pacifism, or at least avoiding participation in war: He reasoned that why should we, as individuals, be willing to kill other individuals, total strangers we first meet on the battlefield, when still other strangers, our political rulers in our respective capitals, say we should go kill those other people? Could Christians go out and kill other Christians, their brothers in Christ, even members of the same church, merely because (often) unbelievers with power say they should do so?
When on trial before Pilate, Jesus said He was a king, but that "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm" (John 18:36). Here Jesus denied that His followers should fight for Him against others. Furthermore, if Jesus' kingdom is not derived from this world, which is the main meaning of the Greek, then Christians should not tie themselves to this world's affairs so closely, such as by voting. This is especially the case if God is doing the choosing of the human political leaders anyway, no matter how bad they may be (see Daniel 2:21;4:17), or at least allows the worst ones to take office. Our citizenship is in heaven, not here (Phil. 2:20). So we are to be like the patriarchs who were in the Promised Land, but didn't inherit the Promised Land during their human lifetimes (Heb. 11:13-16, 39-40). They placed their priority on the next life, not the present life. That is also a matter of faith, and very difficult to do, I fully admit. It's a position that unbelievers can easily ridicule (such as Karl Marx did, calling religion the opiate of the people).
But if the Bible is true, and the Second Coming will abolish all human governments (Dan. 2:40, 44), why should be spend our efforts trying to prop up the old dying system by voting that (I suspect) may be soon replaced? It's enormously difficult to overcome Satan's controlling influence of the world's governments (cf. Matt. 4:9; this offer Satan couldn't have made if he didn't control them), the weight of evil human nature in us all, and the weight of the surrounding civilization's past way of doing things. The examples of communism and socialism in the past century are particularly important; their idealists soon ran up against human nature itself, which made their systems unworkable and their revolutions failures. If society ultimately is really like Golding's "Lord of the Flies," we shouldn't pin our hopes on some politician or political party or political movement to really solve the world's problems.
Is war always immoral? Should Christians be pacifists? How should true Christians deal with ISIS and other aggressive Muslim terrorist groups? How should they have dealt with the Communists and Nazis in the past? In order to take a swipe at his libertarian anti-interventionist opponents, the Wall Street Journalís writer Bret Stephens set up his swing by dismissing pacifismís seeming naivety: "George Orwell once observed that pacifism is a doctrine that can only be preached behind the protective cover of the Royal Navy. Similarly, libertarianism can only be seriously espoused under the protective cover of Leviathan." But is this how Christians should look at the world? Should Christians mainly live for this world or for the next? If the Bible, correctly interpreted, teaches pacifism, how would Christians be protected against common criminals from the streets or invading armies from other countries? But since the Bible commands Christians to be pacifists, we should have faith in God that he would protect us
Now, why did God in the Old Testament order Israel to wage war? Does that allow Christians to wage war today? Because God doesn't reveal all His laws and His overall will all at once, the Bible is a book that records God's progressive revelation to humanity. God doesn't reveal everything all at once, or people would reject it as too overwhelming, i.e., be "blinded by the light." The famous German philosopher Immanuel Kant once said something like, "If the truth shall kill them, let them die." Fortunately, God normally doesn't operate that way, at least prior to the Second Coming (Rev. 1:5-7) or all of us would already be dead!
The principle of progressive revelation plainly appears in
Jesus' debate with the Pharisees over the Old Testament's easy divorce law in
Matt. 19:3, 6-9: "And Pharisees came up to him [to Jesus] and tested
him by asking, 'Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?' . . . What
therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.' They said to
him [Jesus], 'Why then did Jesus command one to give a certificate of divorce,
and to put her away?' [See Deut. 24:1-4 for the text the Pharisees were
citing]. He said to them, "For the hardness of heart Moses allowed
you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I
say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries
another, commits adultery." Now, this Old Testament passage should
not be cited to justify easy divorce procedures as a New Testament
Christian. That law has been superseded. It wasn't originally
intended as a permanent revelation of God's will, but it served as temporary
"training wheels," so to speak, until such time as a mass of people
(i.e., the Church after Pentecost) would have the Holy Spirit, and thus be
enabled to keep the law spiritually by God's help.
By contrast, ancient Israel as a whole didn't have the Holy Spirit,
and so correspondingly they didn't get the full revelation of God.
Now we have a Scriptural record in which God allowed, even
told, Israel to wage war, but then centuries later, through the Sermon on the
Mount, God told people to love their enemies and to turn the cheek, which
simply aren't compatible with waging war. (See Matthew 5:38-48). So
here the issue is how to reconcile pacifism as commanded by Jesus in the New
Testament with the record of Israel's wars in the Old Testament.
In three or four cases, God waged war for Israel, and Israel just had to stand and wait in faith. One of the most spectacular cases was after King Hezekiah prayed for deliverance from the Assyrian army led by Sennacherib by having an angel kill the Assyrian army's warriors (see II Chron. 32:19-22). Another case was when Israel was delivered from Pharaoh's army by the Red Sea's parting and then rejoining, which delivered Israel but destroyed the Egyptian army (see Exodus 14:10-31). Notice that in verses 13,-14 Moses told Israel, "Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord . . . The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent." Likewise, when Gideonís tiny ďarmyĒ of 300 defeated the vast Midianite and Amalekite army, they had only trumpets and torches in their hands (Judges 7:20). When they blew their trumpets, Jehovah ďset the sword of one against the another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as . . .Ē (verse 22) The next verse mentions men of Israel being summoned to pursue Midian, but plainly God gave this victory to Gideon without his company of 300 having to kill anyone themselves. King Asa of Judah got a great victory over the Ethopians by asking for Godís help (although Israel probably did kill the Ethopians themselves in this case) (II Chron. 14:11-13). But he later relied on buying an alliance with the king of Aram in order to cause the Baasha, the King of Israel, to withdraw his army from threatening Judah. In response, a prophet told him (II Chron. 16:7-9), ďBecause you have relied on the kin of Aram and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now one you will surely have wars.Ē Modern ruling ďChristians,Ē by rejecting Godís help and relying on their own power to kill others by the sword, are similarly condemned.
Although Israel also waged war, God's overall intention from the beginning was different. Notice that God wouldn't let King David, who had fought in many wars, build the Temple of Jehovah. Why? "You have shed much blood, and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed blood on the earth before Me" ( I Chron. 22:8). The New Testament also has an Old Testament text showing how someone loves should love his or her enemy. (Romans 12:20 cites from Proverbs 25:21-22). Even though God allowed Israel and even told Israel to wage war, it would have been different if Israel had had more faith originally. But God was working with an (often) disobedient nation that was supposed to be His model for the world, so He didn't impose His full truth on them at that time, including concerning waging war.
True, a number of texts could be cited from the Old Testament that contradict pacifism (such as Deut. 20:12-19). God's truth for humanity was revealed progressively. The New Testament is a more complete revelation of God's will than the Old Testament. That isn't to say we should throw out the Old Testament when it comes to matters of guiding Christian conduct. The Ten Commandments are plainly still binding principles for guiding how Christians should live their lives today (see James 2:9-12; Romans 7:7; Matt. 19:17-19). Jesus didnít come to abolish the teachings of the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17-19). And Jesus didnít obey the letter and spirit of such moral laws as the law against murder and adultery so that we donít have to obey those laws today!
Nevertheless, thereís still solid truth in the notion that the New Testament is a more complete and lasting revelation of God's will in the matters it touches on than the Old Testament. For example, a nineteenth-century Mormon could easily assemble a long list of examples from the Old Testament that men could have more than one wife. He could also have noted that the noted polygamists of the Old Testament included great men of faith, such as Abraham, Jacob, and David. But do we today believe that polygamy is allowed by the New Testament when it tells the leadership of the church to only have one wife (I Tim. 3:2, 12)? Do we really think the laity should be any different? Are there any prominent New Testament Christians, Jew or gentile, who had more than one wife? Therefore, we can safely conclude that God allowed polygamy for a time, but it wasn't supposed to be permanent. We're now, as New Testament Christians, called to a higher level of righteousness than what Abraham, Jacob, and David maintained.
Why did God order Saul to kill all the Amalekites, including babies, in I Samuel 15:3?: "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." God mentioned in the prior verse why He wanted to inflict this utterly severe collective punishment: "I will punish what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way, when they came up out of Egypt."
So then, why did God, in general, want the Canaanites to be exterminated at the hand of Saul and (in a prior generation) Joshua? One key principle is the need for to keep the Canaanite's system of pagan idolatry and its corresponding sexual immorality from contaminating Israel's pure worship of Jehovah. By totally eliminating the Canaanites at God's command, the Israelites would help to preserve their moral and spiritual purity. Even before Israel entered the Promised Land, God knew very well that His Chosen People would chronically want to copy the religious practices of the people they were supposed to conquer and displace. In Deut. 12:29-31, God warned Israel, "When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?' You shall not behave thus toward the Lord your God, for every abominable act which the Lord hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their son and daughters in the fire to their gods." But, of course, so often Israel did fall away, and worship the false gods of the Canaanites, suc
general after Adam and Eve ate of tree of knowledge of good and evil. By totally eliminating the Canaanites at God's command, the Israelites would help to preserve their moral and spiritual purity. Even before Israel entered the Promised Land, God knew very well that His Chosen People would chronically want to copy the religious practices of the people they were supposed to conquer and displace. In Deut. 12:29-31, God warned Israel, "When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?' You shall not behave thus toward the Lord your God, for every abominable act which the Lord hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods." But, of course, so often Israel did fall away, and worship the false gods of the Canaanites, such as Baal, Molech, and the Asherim poles. After slaying thousands of Israelites who fell into idolatry with Midian (Num. 25:1-9), God in turn had those Midianites slain en masse (Num. 31:1-18) who seduced His people into worshipping false gods using idols while committing fornication.
From a 21st century liberal humanitarian perspective, why was God so seemingly harsh? Here we have to reckon with how utterly holy and pure God is, and how He wants His people to believe and live the same way, to be as perfect as He is (Matt. 5:48). In order to drive this point home emotionally to us humans, in Scripture God let Himself be repeatedly portrayed as the betrayed husband of an adulterous wife (Ezekiel 16:1-43; 23:1-49; Jer. 3:6-11). If we ponder the emotions of that comparison carefully, we'll then understand much better why God would command even the babies of the Canaanites to be killed, since when they would otherwise grow up, they would deceive His people into betraying Him. So long as the Canaanites lived as a separate, competing civilization with their own gods, the people of Israel routinely fell into apostasy and would worship the false gods of the Canaanites. Although he was wrong, a bitter, disillusioned Elijah felt he was the only one left worshipping Jehovah out of all of Israel (I Kings 19: 10, 14, 17) during the time Ahab was king and the Sidonitess Jezebel was his queen.
But, of course, there are other major collective punishments that God inflicted on the human race. God had Gomorrah and Sodom totally destroyed for their sins (Genesis 18:20; 19:13, 24-25). And even more completely and utterly, God drowned every human being and land animal in the world during the great Deluge, except for Noah's family (only 8 people!) and the animals with him in the ark (I Peter 3:20). So now, is God evil for executing people for violating His law? Well, God tells us through Paul that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sinners have no right to live in God's sight: He has the right at any time to execute someone for their sins before time of natural death comes. Fortunately, God normally doesn't exercise that option! And most mysteriously, He had His Son, who also was God, take on the pain and sin of the world, and die on its behalf despite He was innocent! Jesus' great sacrifice allowed God to reconcile mercy and justice together: For our sins make us worthy of death, but by having Jesus pay such a great price in our stead, that death penalty is lifted off us, but not because of our merit from obeying His law (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-10; 7:25).
But why would God's order to Saul include the execution of young children, even the babies of the Canaanites? Weren't they innocent of sin? But this leads to another problem: If they were allowed to live and be raised by their parents, they would grow up and then believe and practice the same sins as their parents (i.e., idolatry, paganism, religiously-motivated fornication, etc.) That's why God wanted Israel to make a clean sweap of all the Canaanites in almost all cases (excepting Rahab and her family in Jericoh, which was one notable exception).
Besides punishing the Canaanites for their sins, God inflicted other collective punishments on the human race. Jehovah had Gomorrah and Sodom totally destroyed for their sins (Genesis 18:20; 19:13, 24-25). And even more completely and utterly, God drowned every human being and land animal in the world during the great Deluge, except for Noah's family (only 8 people!) and the animals with him in the ark (I Peter 3:20). So now, is God evil for executing people for violating His law? Well, God tells us through Paul that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sinners have no right to live in God's sight: He has the right at any time to execute someone for their sins before time of natural death comes. Fortunately, God normally doesn't exercise that option! And most mysteriously, He had His Son, who also was God, take on the pain and sin of the world, and die on its behalf despite He was innocent! Jesus' great sacrifice allowed God to reconcile mercy and justice together: For our sins make us worthy of death, but by having Jesus pay such a great price in our stead, that death penalty is lifted off us, but not because of our merit from obeying His law (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-10; 7:25).
God still believes in and practices capital punishment, unlike the western Europeans. As the Creator of life, He may also take it. But unlike men, He can resurrect and bring to life again the people He executes. For example, God chose to execute all the people on earth outside of Noah's family by sending the great flood because of humanity's general wickedness (Genesis 6:5-7): "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, 'I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.'" Notice that Jesus predicted that many would be killed again when He returns like it was in the days of Noah (Matt. 24:36-39).
Clearly, nobody is truly "innocent" or "good" separate from God. God always has the option of imposing the death penalty on us at any time, but normally He doesn't, since His mercy triumphs over His justice, thanks to Christ's sacrifice. Furthermore, since He can resurrect the dead, He can give them their lives back. This helps to explain why He would (say) have Sodom destroyed when not even ten righteous people could be found living there (see Genesis 18:22-33; 19:24-25). These people were living such a sinful and personally harmful way of life that it was better for them to be put to death rather than still living that way. Hence, it's hard to look upon the people in Sodom and Gomorrah, the people drowned in the great flood (Genesis 6:11-13) that Noah lived through, and the Canaanites that God had killed by Joshua's army as "righteous" or "innocent," due to their crimes of violence, idolatry, etc. When He resurrects them at the end of the millennium (see Ezekiel 37:1-14; Rev. 20:11-15), the thousand years of the earth being ruled by Jesus, they will receive a chance to be saved then.
Therefore, since God is the Creator of human life, we humans are in no position to judge Him for being inconsistent when He takes the life of those who break His law. He made human life for particular purposes of His own. If we don't fulfill those goals, He has the right to terminate our lives at His discretion. We have to respect the utter sovereignty of God, as Job ultimately learned, although that isn't a fashionable idea in the world today. God is in charge, whether we like it or not, so we humans just have to get used to it and get with the program. For we're all going to die, whether we like it or not. If God provides us a way out, a way to get eternal life, we should accept it and the conditions involved, especially if they are for our ultimate best good.
In the New Testament, there are no cases of Christians waging war or enforcing the law against criminals. Furthermore, the general tradition of even the Sunday-keeping church was pacifist before the time of Constantine and the proclamation of the Edict of Milan (313 A.D.) Therefore, Christ's words should be literally applied to Christians, and therefore shouldn't participate in military conflicts or in law enforcement.
Presumably, critics of pacifism would say itís totally impractical, that that this teaching requires a lot of faith. I agree. The world agrees with them, whether they believe in the Bible or not. But many of God's ways aren't "practical" in this world either: How many people lose their jobs over the Sabbath and Holy Days? In countries with standard six-day workweeks or other hostile workweek traditions, many of the brethren end up being in sales or self-employed because they wouldn't be able to support themselves otherwise. Similarly, consider the case of Daniel's three friends being ordered by Nebuchadnezzar to worship an idol, or otherwise be executed. It wasn't "practical" for them to resist, but they did so, and God delivered them. Similarly, we may be tested on this law of loving our enemy just as they were concerning not worshiping idols. Would we be willing to give our lives to avoid worshiping idols, like Daniel's three friends, but not to if we're ordered (or choose) to kill others on the battlefield? I've heard more than one "strange" story under which God has protected a pacifist Christian or after they took one punch, the attacker, being astonished at the lack of resistance, walked away. One friend of mine, Phil Davisson, for example, has a story like this. So then, do we have the faith to obey Christ's words literally? Didn't Daniel's three friends have such faith to defy Nebuchadnezzar's orders about worshiping idols?
Letís lay out some systematic principles by which we believe some Old Testament laws are done away with and others aren't. I used the example of polygamy in the Old Testament above to illustrate the general principle of progressive revelation in the Bible: I wouldn't accept a 19th-century Mormon's case that "plural marriage" was allowed for New Testament Christians despite all the cases in the Old Testament that he could cite in his favor. Similarly, we know the New Testament teaches that Christians need no longer do the animal sacrifices (Hebrews 9:8-10; 10:8-10) and circumcision (Galatians 5:2-3, 11-12). On the other hand, I can cite cases in which the Ten Commandments are quoted as evidence the Decalogue is still in force (James 2:8-12; Romans 7:7-12). Are the laws governing warfare in the Old Testament now like the law concerning circumcision (i.e., abolished), or like the law concerning adultery (i.e., not changed)? Furthermore, somewhat separately, what evidence is there that killing on the battlefield for Christians is like polygamy, and thus prohibited now when it wasn't for God's people before Jesus' first coming? We shouldnít arbitrarily "pick and choose" which Old Testament laws to obey and which ones to ignore.
The interpretation of Matt. 5:38-42 that strictly limits it to restricting vengeance/justice to the legal system's jurisdiction reads a desired narrow meaning into the passage. It isn't only about that, or else it wouldn't discuss giving to those who beg or borrow from us. In the case of "the second mile," this particularly refers to a Roman procedure under which its soldiers would suddenly "draft" people to carry their equipment.
In the general context, Jesus throughout Matthew 5 was contrasting some narrower, often literal, application of the Old Testament law with its broader meaning and application. Hence, lusting after a woman also violates the law against adultery (v. 27-28). Should we similarly narrow the application of verses 38-39 to a courtroom/legal proceedings when so much becomes so broad spiritually elsewhere in this same section of Scripture? After all, it does say "any one" in verse 39, doesn't it? Where does the text say it is limited to courtroom proceedings as opposed to taking revenge in general elsewhere? After all, under the Old Testament law, people were still allowed to kill those who accidentally killed others, not merely intentionally. That's why the cities of refuge were set up, to keep give protection to those guilty of (in today's legal terminology) involuntary manslaughter (Numbers 35:9-28). (Of course, that leads to the question about whether this system should be allowed for Christians today). And during trials, under the ancient Jewish legal system, someone wasn't supposed to strike the defendant anyway, as Paul observed after he was hit in his mouth at the order of the high priest (Acts 23:1-3). But Paul didn't drop defending himself legally (i.e., with his words) after this illegal act occurred (i.e., "turn the cheek" in the courtroom setting). So the application concerns the use of force in retaliation (whether "self defense" or not) after someone else strikes us, in whatever situation in life, not just the courtroom. To narrow Christ's meaning to a slap only and not other uses of force would be like saying the law against adultery doesn't also apply to fornication. We should seek the broad spiritual application of the law in the Sermon of the Mount to general conditions in life, not a narrow, Talmudic kind of application that allows us to escape from God's law if we work hard enough at it.
An interesting issue comes up concerning Jesus' citation of the Old Testament in Matt. 5:43: Where does the statement, "hate your enemy" actually appear in the Old Testament? Well, we're told to not hate our brothers and to love our neighbors (Leviticus 19:17-18), of course. So what was Jesus' quoting or actually alluding to? Well, Israel was told to hate their national enemies, weren't they? Look at Deut. 23:5-6; 25:17-19. So then Jesus was dealing directly with not hating one's national enemies, which means the battlefield in particular. If God gives rain to both the just and unjust (which gives an interesting insight on the whole problem of evil and Job's predicament), and we're supposed to be perfect like God is, we should extend love and mercy to those who don't deserve it similarly.
Consider this scenario: In the Church of God, we have members who are citizens of different countries. Suppose two or more of these nations went to war with each other. And this has happened in recent history, such as Argentina versus Britain over the Falklands. If church members were in the military of these nations, they would be obligated to kill each other, wouldn't they? How can one follow I John 5:20-21 literally then, let alone with average people in the world: "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar, for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love is brother also." And this principle I wouldn't restrict to just those in the Church of God: It should apply to our relationships with family members, co-workers, neighbors, and random strangers of the general public. And should we run into these random strangers on the battlefield, we shouldn't kill them since they would wish to live also, just like us.
Itís correct that "Thou shalt not kill" is much better translated as "You must not murder." But changing how this word is translated doesn't refute at all the explanation given above. After all, the killing of people on the battlefield is totally deliberate and planned, much like a serial killer goes about his business in committing first degree murders randomly. To be consistent, capital punishment shouldnít be enforced by true Christians today. However, capital punishment (in principle, not when it may be mistakenly applied to the innocent, etc.) shouldnít be condemned when done by our national or state governments. Consider Paul's perspective in Romans 13:1-7. It's obvious that when he refers to the civil government using the sword (verse 4), he is referring to its power to execute people for crimes in particular. But he had absolutely no idea that ultimately "Christians" of some kind would make up nearly the entire population of many nations in the Medieval period in the centuries to come. He was plainly picturing the Roman gentile pagans doing the work of maintaining law and order, or perhaps secondarily various local native ruling bodies like the Sanhedrin. He certainly wasn't telling (true) Christians to enforce the law against wrong doers, but instead telling Christians to expect to be punished if they did disobey their governments. So I believe the same procedure should apply today: Let the police and the courts of the world arrest, imprison, and execute the criminals, but it isn't the job of true Christians to assist in this process when it involves the use of force, directly or indirectly. So besides avoiding military service, Christians shouldn't be guards at prisons, police officers, judges, or prosecuting attorneys.
Fundamentally, an administrative shift occurred after the death and resurrection of Jesus concerning God's people and the civil law. Before that time, especially when the kings of Israel and Judah reigned, there was a human government on earth in which God's leaders were expected to enforce the law of God on the people of God, whether they liked it or not. But since that time, there is no government in the world that's especially a tool of God's government on earth. Today, there truly is a separation of church and state, in God's eyes, unlike the case for Old Testament Israel. America, the modern state of Israel, nor any other country, use the Torah as the fundamental principle of their legal system. Therefore, although the civil law may be a useful guide to Christian conduct today in many cases, it shouldn't been seen as something it's our duty to enforce on (uncalled, unsaved) people. Unlike God's truly called and saved Christians today, Old Testament Israel wasn't called or saved mostly. Hence, God didn't hold physical Israel to the same standards, for they didn't have the Holy Spirit. We truly called Christians today are held to a higher standard, just as we are concerning divorce and remarriage, than Old Testament Israel was (Matt. 19:3-9), since we know more than them. Therefore, just as polygamy and easy divorce and remarriage are prohibited for Christians, despite being allowed under the Old Testament law, the same goes for deliberately killing random strangers on the battlefield merely because some people in Washington (or elsewhere) choose to us permission (or order us) to engage in this activity.
In Matthew 5, notice that when Jesus made the statement, "You have heard that . . . " in verses 21, 27, 31, 38, 43, it each involved a quote from the Old Testament. These weren't merely teachings made up by the Pharisees or the traditional Jewish establishment of the time. The formula "it is written," need not introduce all Old Testament citations. So then, when verse 38 reads, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,'" the quotation within the quotation is directly from the Old Testament, from Ex. 21:24, Deut. 19:21, and Leviticus 24:20. Two of these citations, of course, you do mention below. The general point in this chapter was that obeying the Old Testament's letter wasn't the total of man's duty to God and/or his neighbor, but that the spirit of the law needed to be obeyed also. It wasn't about correcting teachings the Pharisees or their predecessors had made up, like the oral law's Sabbath observance restrictions, in these verses (v. 21, 27, 31, 38, 43). Rather, it was about how they didn't teach the underlying spiritual principle of the written law as guiding human conduct also. In the case of what follows verse 38, it's obvious it isn't only about judicial proceedings or people taking revenge/restitution against those who killed family members, but deals with general morality in any situation. Consider verse 42: "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away." That's obviously not about judicial proceedings. Even consider verse 39 more closely: "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." First of all, don't people in the Church of God often file lawsuits to advance their rights against the government or private individuals for any number of reasons. What about against employers who have discriminated against them (concerning the observance of the Sabbath and Holy Days)? Are we "turning the cheek" then, when we sue others for any reason in the world? We don't always settle out of court (see Luke 12:58-59), do we? But, of course, we don't interpret verse 38+ to have this meaning at all. It's about how to deal with personal violence, not a command saying to never exercise one's legal rights under man's present governmental systems (such as Paul was willing to do, Acts 25:11).
Let's now focus on Matt. 5:43 in particular: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'" We know that the first part of this quotation comes from Leviticus 19:18; it wasn't something merely made up as part of the the Jewish oral law. Notice the formula "it is written" is missing; it simply isn't always necessary for introducing an Old Testament quotation. Now, who are the enemies we're supposed to love in this passage? Martin Luther's solution said it concerned personal enemies, not national ones. But can we construe the following two verses passage this way? "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Well, if the national enemies get sunshine and have rain fall on them, we'd have to love them too, right? Can we kill them yet love them? That requires too many mental somersaults to be believable, if they want to live as much we do. Love isn't just a word or a nice sentiment; it includes active, outgoing concern and parctical kindness, such as what's commanded in Romans 12:17-21; Prov. 24:17, 29; 20:22; Ex. 23:4, 5. These texts show it wasn't allowed to hate personal enemies, and the Jewish oral law doesn't contradict this. Robert Clark, in "Does the Bible Teach Pacifism?," develops a convincing case that the Jews in their writings, such as what appears in the Talmud (which records the oral law and their learned commentary on it) that "hate your enemy" wasn't a teaching of the oral law. Rather, Jesus was referring to what the Jewish teachers of his time said about the national enemy: The Jews considered it fine to hate the idolatrous pagan, gentile Romans! The same went for hating their agents, the tax collectors, who collaborated with the occupying army's civil administration. They could have cited texts favoring their position, such as Deut. 23:6 (you would argue that would be out of context); Deut. 25:17-19; Ps. 139:21-22; 137:8-9. Indeed, David's Psalms often ask God to punish His enemies, i.e., he prays against His enemies, not for them, which is what Jesus said to do instead in Matt. 5:44. So although Jesus here just summarized what's taught in these verses rather than providing an exact quote, it can't be seen as something not taught in the Old Testament concerning national enemies. But as Jesus explained, this wasn't God's (permanent) will for His true believers; Christians are called to a higher standard than Old Testament Israel was. David wasn't allowed to build the temple precisely because he had killed many men in war (I Chron. 22:8).
My general perspective is that hatred or resentment does not need many seconds to develop, but a flash of anger during a struggle to kill someone is plenty enough to fall into the category of what is condemned in I John 1:9, 11; 3:14-15. This is true for self-defense in civilian life, not merely killing the enemy on the battlefield, which is normally planned for in principle many days, weeks, months, or even years in advance. Keep in mind the whole purpose of wartime propaganda (for either side) is to generally dehumanize the enemy while justifying the actions or beliefs of one's own side. Their goal is to teach hate, not love. The military, while training people for combat (i.e., front line infantry duty), doesn't want men to think, just react and obey. Terry Robison's way of putting it was that they wanted the men to act and react like animals, and to stay in this mode while on tour. This keeps them in an unthinking mode about the higher purposes of life, or even long-term materialistic goals. None of these general purposes can be deemed to fit in with God's higher purposes of reconciling all of humanity with each other. We as true Christians are called to live for these higher purposes and thus develop holy righteous character in the process. Participation in war is no aid in that process.
But suppose someone in combat doesn't even see the enemy in combat, such as when dropping bombs from airplanes on cities or firing battleship guns at a target 15 miles away? They may regard the enemy impersonally them. But the lack of active hatred doesn't change the reality that the enemy is being killed. That is, just because someone doesn't work themselves into a fury of hatred doesn't excuse their conduct when it violates the Golden Rule and the Second of the Two Great Commandments. What matters also is when people who want to live are being killed, not merely how much hatred is felt at the moment bombs are dropped or missiles fired at unseen, unknown enemies. Herbert W. Armstrong, the televangelist, defined love as having outgoing concern for someone else, i.e., practical actions are involved, not just nice sentiments. Blowing someone up doesn't show outgoing concern for him or her, even if one didn't feel burning fury or hatred for the enemy when flipping a switch.
There are many Old Testament laws that can be cited to support institutions and practices that today even people in the world would generally condemn, such as slavery and executing witches/mediums. In the case of slavery, I can't see how this institution would be restored during the World Tomorrow, if we applied the Golden rule to evaluating the practice. (That is, "Would you want to become and stay a slave?Ē So then, would you want to hold others as slaves, such as debtors who couldn't pay their debts?) Rather, God accepted the continuation of this human institution, but regulated it, much like the case with war and easy divorce and remarriage, but didn't see it as something that was a permanent moral law (Matt. 19:7-8). We know as Christians, from the cases of the abolition of the animal sacrifices and circumcision, that we can't cite the Old Testament merely, and then say that proves the given law is still in force. In the case of polygamy, the church in Africa has routinely made men with multiple wives divorce all the ones added after the first one (still living). Presumably, in a country such as Ghana, there would have been men informed enough who would have cited the examples of the Old Testament's kings to him when counseling, but to no avail. And we know what the kings did, such as Solomon, surely reached the level of violating what God's law commanded in Deut. 17:17, which condemned them from multiplying wives to themselves. That is, we can't cite practice of someone's personal example as proof it was allowed according to God's will.
More to the point, would be (again) there are no cases of Christians in the New Testament or in early church history (Sunday-keeping or not) who were properly allowed to have more than one wife. The early tradition of the church (the false also, not just the true) was also against participation in warfare before the time of Constantine. Maxmilian, later made a saint by the Catholic Church, was martyred (in 295) for refusing to join the Roman army. In the "Harvard Theological Review" in 1946, R.H. Bainton writes: "All the outstanding writers of the East and West repudiated participation in warfare for Christians." (See Robert Clark, "Does the Bible Teach Pacifism?," p. 83. We shouldn't brush this aside as not mattering, that this records what the early Catholics taught. Isn't one principle of COG efforts in writing church history looking for true teachings still taught in its early centuries by what became the Catholic church? A priori, it strikes me as hard to believe the earliest (true) Christians would have promoted joining the army, but then the Sunday-keepers made a turn to becoming more separate from the world than the true Sabbath-keepers. The main error of the Sunday-keeping church after the time of Constantine especially was to compromise with the surrounding pagan culture.
Letís examine the implications of the easy divorce and remarriage law concerning whether God dealt with war in the Old Testament in the same way. He allowed it, even ordered people who were going to go to war anyway to do so, but it wasn't His permanent, desired will for humanity. It's much like Christ's telling Judas, "What you are going to do, do quickly" (John 13:27). This was a command to do evil, right? Robert Clark explains in "Does the Bible Teach Pacifism" (p. 56) the principle that God "may sometimes tell them [men] to do things which, though better than what they would otherwise have done, are far from being in accordance with the true will of God." The examples he gives concern Israel's demand for a king (I Sam. 8), Elisha's telling men to not search for Elijah, but later bending (2 Kings 2:16-18), and Balaam's being told not to go with Balak initially (Num. 22). Under this dispensation, God allowed for things or ordered things to be done, such as the animal sacrifices and circumcision, that weren't His permanent moral law for mankind. Therefore, as God's will becomes more clear over the centuries in the Bible, from the Old Testament into the New, various institutions or laws that weren't part of His permanent moral law were set aside.
What the Two Witnesses do (Rev. 11:5) shortly before Jesus' return can't be equated with any and all human governments ordering their citizens to go to war. The Two Witnesses are special prophets of God given special miraculous powers by God. This is also shortly before Jesus returns, and is part of the process of the events that lead to God's kingdom's arrival and the punishment of His enemies (II Thess. 1:7-9). Since God is the Creator of life, He has the lawful power to take it also. He can resurrect who He kills; we can't. We as Christians, unless we're prophets reliably given such commands, can't go out and kill people, in self-defense or otherwise.
Consider the general principle, "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay" (Romans 12:19). We as Christians can't take revenge, but God can. So we can't cite what God does, and then say we humans can do it also, especially when we don't have God telling us by special revelation (e.g., prophetic dreams and visions) to do it. Jesus told Peter after striking off the ear of the high priest's slave, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matt. 26:52). Notice that Jesus' objection wasn't phrased in some narrow way with an application to the immediate situation, such as referring to His need to die as the Lamb of God. Instead, we get a general condemnation of resorting to violence without any qualifications. When on trial before Pilate, a similar issue comes up when Jesus said (John 20:36): "My kingdom is not of [i.e., derived from] this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered onto the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." So, since the Kingdom of God isn't from men in the world, but is from God in heaven, Jesus said His disciples weren't supposed to fight even to keep Him from being killed. Again, He didn't put the response in narrow terms, by saying (in so many words, suitably adjusted for a pagan ruler's possible understanding) He had a special one-time, historic, prophetic mission to die for the sins of the world, but referred to where His authority as king came from. Since it came from heaven and not from earth, His servants weren't supposed to fight even to protect Him from death.
A key example of "progressive revelation" in the Bible is the law of divorce, which was looser in the Old Testament than for the New Testament as Jesus explained it (Matt. 19:3-9). However, there are some foreshadowings of the New Testament teaching about pacifism in one key regard: David wasn't allowed to build the temple because he was a "bloody man" who had killed many men in battle. He would have served as a poor spiritual type personally for what the temple symbolically represented (i.e., God's dwelling in unity with mankind on earth). There are also three or four cases in which God fought battles for Israel, and Israel didn't have to use the sword themselves. But by themselves, without using the New Testament, it is true, these cases can't prove pacifism is a Biblical teaching based on the Old Testament alone.
Itís dubious to use the life of David, the personal example of Saul, or even the sketchy, extremely limited information we have on (say) Cornelius and other New Testament converts to Christianity after they were saved, to override a plain interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount. Was (say) Publius told to give up using statues of false gods in worship? Scripture is silent about that also. And silence about what happened after these men accepted Christ doesn't prove anything against such clear commands as "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). David practiced polygamy also, not just war; does that mean Joseph Smith was right, that Christians may practice "plural marriage" also? There is a certain level of truth to the concept of progressive revelation, even dispensationalism, so long as it isn't pushed too far (as the WCG did in 1994-95). Consider Jesus' dispute with the Pharisees about the (relatively) easy divorce and remarriage law of the Old Testament. The Old Testament law, in this regard, was not meant to stand forever as the permanent moral will of God for the human race (Matt. 19:8): "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." Likewise, war was not God's will for Israel to engage in either, but He allowed it, even commanded it, but plainly wasn't pleased with it intrinsically. The WCG long ago cited the four (three might be more accurate, however) cases in the OT in which God fought for Israel, that they didn't have to actually kill their enemies themselves. Because David was a man of war, he wasn't allowed to build the first temple: "You have shed much blood, and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed so much blood on the earth before Me" (I Chron. 22:10).
But the fuller revelation of the New Testament commands pacifism, which even the general witness of the Catholic Church before the time of Constantine. So we now know Christians should not bear the sword in warfare for worldly governments even when the Old Testament standing by itself could easily be interpreted otherwise. For what it is worth, a useful book if brief surveying the Biblical case for pacifism is Robert Clark, "Does the Bible Teach Pacifism?" His arguments were helpful to me when I wrestled with this teachings years ago when I first being called. (Yes, I appreciate the irony of recommending a book by a Sunday-keeper that teaches a doctrine that most Sunday-keepers reject, but a majority of COG Sabbath-keepers accept!)
Letís consider a hypothetical cruise ship example of stranded pacifists who are preyed upon by one or more criminals. Itís best to respond like the philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand did when "lifeboat" examples were thrown at her, as a defender of (in a non-Christian form) moral absolutism. I live in a real world, not a hypothetical one. So I concern myself with daily, routine, likely and near-likely situations. I'm not worried about (say) how to select the people to eliminate from an overloaded lifeboat. That makes for good movies, but it's a lousy thing to seriously worry about as a Christian, that we might end up in a state-less society somehow by accident. I'm not worried about (using one philosopher's actual example) whether someone should lie to Nazis inspecting fishing boats looking for refugee Jews on board that were being smuggling out of occupied Europe. (This was his way of proving there are no moral absolutes, or at least that no moral code that has more than one absolute command could exist). God will not tempt us beyond our strength. We can invent all sorts of worrisome hypothetical examples to "prove" or "deny" this or that ethical or moral principle. But I live in a real world, not a desert island after being shipwrecked off some huge ship the authorities (in this world with GPS systems and other highly technical nautical and detection equipment, such as infrared night vision) aren't apt to miss for long when there are survivors. (Maybe we could switch to a crashed "airplane" example instead; think of the situation of the human cannibals of the dead in "Survive!" stuck up in the Andes).
Letís not with such unlikely hypotheticals beyond a pacifistís likely experience, when the real issues are (say): Should we serve on a police force, in which we may have to gun someone down on a moment's notice with incomplete information? We should join an army that can at any time be ordered to wage a sinful war, even according to what is by a Catholic "just war" doctrine analysis. I don't see how I can kill an enemy, who wishes to live himself, so I myself may continue to survive, and yet call that "love." Dr. Kevorkian's victims, at least, wanted to die, so he has more "love" than the police have for a (truly guilty) criminal they shoot down on the streets. It isn't like corporal punishment, in which the punished child learns from the correction administered in the future, if done properly, since death is final. I consider pacifism one of the main ways to eliminate most Sunday-keepers as true Christians, for very few of them (there are admirable exceptions, as noted above) will ever take the Sermon on the Mount literally enough to obey its letter.
Also, when I consider this hypothetical cruise ship example, I have an equally good "hypothetical" solution: Suppose after the prayers and fastings of the would-be COG people involved, God either strikes the criminal(s) dead or makes them repent. I can invent reasonably likely hypothetical solutions to resolve absurdly unlikely hypothetical situations myself. And I remember when one pacifist taught the church's traditional teaching against self-defense and war, and some left for another church as at least as a partial result in part for his doing so, his using one or more actual cases of people in the COG being protected by God when criminals threatened to attack them. So then, do we have faith or not? Will we be like Daniel's three friends, and choose to die rather than violate God's law when it comes to pacifism instead, not idolatry? Is God asking more of us than He did of them, should it come down to a martyrdom situation? (See Daniel 3:16-18, which did address the hypothetical situation that God might let them burn).
What I did find interesting to discover, years ago in a general business law class at MSU, was that under English common law the life of the thief (burglar) was worth more than what he was stealing. That is, the householder couldn't kill the thief merely for stealing his stuff, but he would have to threaten the life of the householder before deadly force could be used against the thief. This stuck out in my mind precisely because I was a pacifist, but also that (somehow) the teachings of the New Testament may have helped to influence the law a little in this regard.
Consider now the parallel text to Matthew in Luke 6:27-30, which has no "legal court proceeding" context: "But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give of everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back." The last injunction I think particularly applies to the awful situation you were in when being robbed. I've investigated the Greek of this text in the past, and it means "demand" back (i.e., ask with insistence). God really wants to test us in this regard, that even when it comes to what we've earned, and we're being robbed, we shouldn't insist on hanging onto our property. Here's where we have to give up material values for spiritual ones, as a special kind of test. Because this passage, in particular, lacks the "court proceeding" context, I don't believe Jesus' injunctions here can be limited to merely not pursuing revenge after a fleeing criminal, but also concerns letting ourselves be injured if we can't escape (cf. Matt. 10:23).
Strange things sometimes happen when pacifists take stands, for people may react strangely under the influence of God's spirit or providence. For example, one man in the local church stopped on the side of the road, got out of his car, and got punched by another driver for some reason (likely a traffic offense) I can't remember now. When the COG member just stood there, perhaps saying something non-abusive, the other driver apologized, got in his car, and drove off! There also have been stories about personal protection being given by angels in these situations as well in the Church. We shouldn't think that we have no protection from God. Of course, just as God let many of his faithful prophets suffer injury or even be killed, we shouldn't think that couldn't happen to us also. (That whole issue leads to the problem of evil, obviously, another BIG can of worms). One COG member in the local church, a Vietnam vet, compared taking a pacifist stance and the possible loss of one's life with the test Daniel's three friends received when told to worship a graven image. If we're willing to give up our lives to not worship an idol, are we willing to act the same way concerning not defending ourselves if God requires that of us as a test? Do we put this life and its material goods as more important than the next life? Here's yet another way God can test us.
I think good evidence for Christians using the services of the state to protect themselves and/or to assert their rights can be found in the life of Paul as described in Acts. For example, after Paul got arrested in Jerusalem, he pointed out to the Roman soldiers standing by that he was a legally uncondemned Roman citizen, so why should they bind him to be scourged (Acts 22:24-29). Paul also used his political rights to be let go from prison in Philippi from the front of the prison publicly, not the back privately (Acts 16:35-40). When the Jews hauled Paul before Gallio in Corinth, he dismissed the case before Paul said anything in his defense as lacking standing (see Acts 18:12-17). We also have the cases Paul, Stephen, and Peter and John testifying before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:5-22; 5:22-42; 6-7, 22:30-23:10). They defended themselves, unlike the case of Jesus, who was as silent before His accusers as He could be in order to help assure His execution and fulfill prophecy. We also have Paul's defenses before Felix and Festus, and appealing to Caesar to escape the clutches of the Jews and being put on trial in Jerusalem. Hence, I can't see it as a sin for Christians to use the services of the state that God has put in place to maintain law and order, as per Romans 13. For God at this time wants to veil His power: He doesn't want to use angels or His own power directly to protect innocent people, whether they be true believers or not, from the evil elements of society, so he lets all the uncalled people who deem pacifism to be unrealistic to protect us from the bad guys. They eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, hence, human society's governments have a mixture of good and evil. Satan controls them (Matt. 4:8-9), yet God uses them as well.
I do believe that what Jesus discussed also means we should attempt to settle out of court whenever possible (Matt. 5:25-26) and not insist on paying only the minimum (Matt. 5:40) to the plaintiff who wins.
Pacifism is a very hard teaching to obey. I believe it's one of the signs of who are true Christians and who aren't, much like the Old Testament signs of the Sabbath, Holy Days, etc. But I still believe we should obey it. You can't kill the burglar or thief, and still claim to love him, any more than I could claim I love the random stranger my government's human leaders told me to kill on the battlefield some place hundreds of miles away from home.
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