Christianity is not pacifism. There are several reasons for this.

  1. When a Roman centurion came to Jesus to receive healing for his sick servant, Jesus praised his faith. He did not require him to stop being a soldier. This centurion recognized that he was under authority and he was recognized as a good man by the elders of Capernaum. It was enough that he used his authority legitimately and not capriciously or for personal gain (Luke 7:1-10).

  2. Jesus' command to turn the other cheek applies to personal relations. He says that we should not resist an evil person. This thought is expanded by Paul in Romans 12:9-21. We should hate evil, but we should not repay anyone evil for evil. Instead, we should bless those who do evil with good. Jesus lived out this principle when he died upon the cross. However almost as if he thought someone would ask if this teaching applied to the civil authorities, Paul went on in Romans 13 to explain that governing authorities are not required to bless those who do evil, as individuals are required to do. As God's servant, the civil authority is permitted to use force to defend the nation against evil.

  3. Pacifism tends to be naive about evil. The Bible recognizes the reality of sin and evil. God ordained civil authority (not the modern state) to place a restraint on evil. Civil authority cannot totally eliminate evil; conversion is necessary for that. However, the right form of justice can restrain evil. Pure pacifism would allow evil to proliferate.

Personal Note

I hate war, but I am not a pacifist.

If I come home from work and find my daughter being beaten up, I will not tell her to turn the other cheek.

If she is being attacked by one person, I will use force to try and set her free. Force is justified when protecting a person in harm.

If she was being attacked by ten men, my response might be different. Trying to force them to stop would probably be a waste of time. I would do three things.

  1. I would challenge them and warn them that what they are doing is wrong. That works in some situations.

  2. I could offer myself as a victim in her place. This is probably the Christian thing to do, but I doubt that I have enough courage for that one.

  3. I would quickly invite the Holy Spirit to intervene. This is the most important thing to do.

  4. I would call some of my neighbours to help. Once several of us had gathered, then force might be sufficient to prevent the attack.

If my neighbourhood was being attacked by thugs, I would join with other people from my community to force them out and prevent them from returning.

If the southern island of New Zealand was being invaded by an army from overseas, I might join others to try and stop the invasion, but I would only do this if I thought there was a reasonable possibility of success without too great a cost in human lives. (I might be among the cowards who get sent home).

If the defence of the island was futile, I would not fight. I know that my freedom comes from God, so no invader can steal my freedom to serve him. They could steal my property, which would not be nice, but they cannot take away my salvation. They could take my life, but that would just speed me on my way to heaven, which is not the worst thing that could happen.

I find it ironic that people who say their home is in heaven are often those who would advocate the death of other people to protect their own life on earth.

The invaders might attempt to suppress the gospel, but I am not sure how bad that would be. The gospel is not doing very well under our democratic, materialistic freedom, and there is considerable evidence that the gospel does better when it is opposed.

I would join together with several other groups in a fourth-generation defence of our land. I would not join with a tanks and bombs defence that would do more harm than good.

I would not fight to defend New Zealand, because it is not an entity that God cares about. There are many good things about our system of government, but it is not the same as the Kingdom of God.

Return to Law and Government

Return to Defence and War.