Monday, January 23, 2012

Should Christians Vote for War or Capital Punishment?

As a Christian is there ever a time that we can justify going to war? War obviously involves taking lives, and aren’t we supposed to be against that? What about the death penalty: isn’t killing a killer still murder?

Some Christians are opposed to these concepts, and I want to be very clear here. I am not writing this to argue with you; I respect that stance, and I am not trying to start a war of words. This is just my personal belief after studying this topic. 

At the same time, I am not a hawk when it comes to war. I do not believe in going to war for selfish reasons, like gaining territory, resources, or money.

But I do believe the Bible teaches the concept of just wars, to wit, some wars are justifiable.

But aren’t we called to be peacemakers? Yes, in His famous sermon on the mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9).” But this sermon was given to teach how to conduct ourselves in our individual lives; national matters are a different story.

Jesus was teaching His followers to live at peace with each other, and not to take up vigilante justice.

Remember that this Man who taught about peace making was not afraid to make a whip and cleanse the temple.

For a person to become an anti-war activist from this one verse is to also ignore a very large part of the Bible, namely Old Testament passages that are just as important as the New Testament.

Consider the fact that Solomon said that there is a “time for war (Ecclesiastes 3:8).”

The first war recorded in the Bible takes place in Genesis 14 after Lot was kidnapped. Abraham, one of the heroes in the hall of faith, gathered an army and went to war to retrieve his nephew. Does being a peacemaker mean that he lets Lot remain in captivity for the rest of his life, or even allow him to lose his life at the hands of evil men?

After Abraham was returning from this just war he meets Melchizedek, whom many people believe to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus, or at the very least a picture of Jesus (He is the “king of Peace”). Melchizedek says, “Blessed be the Most High God, who has delivered thine enemies into thy hand.” The passage refers to the battle as a “slaughter.”

Why would Jesus or a man sent to typify Jesus praise God for military victory over an evil nation if God were opposed to war?

The Old Testament is full of commanded wars, especially in the book of Joshua. In that book God used Joshua and his army to bring about punishment in the form of war. These nations were extremely pagan, and in God’s sovereign patience, it was time for their removal, just like with the Great Flood.

When you read the Old Testament how many times do you see the command from God to not leave any survivors? God did not want to leave even a trace of these pagan nations, and He used war to accomplish it.

One of those times comes in I Samuel 15, where Saul is commanded to kill all the inhabitants of Amalek. Saul brings back one survivor, their king Agag. Because Saul didn’t kill this man when the Lord told him to, God rejected Saul as king, and the prophet Samuel killed Agag himself.

But isn’t one of the 10 Commandments “Thou shalt not kill?” Kind of. A better translation would be “Thou shalt not murder.” It is interesting to note that the Bible makes a distinction between killing and murder. This also applies to capital punishment.

If taking the life of a human were absolutely wrong 100% of the time, then why would God command His followers to institute a death penalty just one chapter after He gave the commandment not to kill? In Exodus 20 we have the 10 Commandments, then in Exodus 21 God lays out six instances where people should be put to death for certain crimes.

In the New Testament when Jesus is being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter pulls out his sword and takes a swing at Malchus; Jesus then rebuked Peter and affirmed capital punishment in the same breath. Jesus told Peter that those who take up the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52); in other words, if Peter killed Malchus, then Peter would also be put to death.

Aren’t we supposed to turn the other cheek? Yes, this also comes from the sermon on the mount. Jesus said that after He referenced the old “an eye for an eye” expression. The eye for an eye remark was God’s law as given to Moses, and it referred to how punishment would be meted out under their new system. These commands were carried out as part of the legal system.

Once again, the sermon on the mount was given for instruction on living an individual’s life, not for the legal system. In essence Jesus was telling the disciples not to take matters into their own hands, but to leave those things to the legal process.

I shouldn’t get to choose who lives and who dies! So are you more comfortable with the murderer making those decisions? It isn’t our choice to make when it comes to the death penalty; God commanded it.

But the death penalty doesn’t rehabilitate people! Prison will hopefully rehabilitate many people, but not everyone is in there just for rehabilitation. The death penalty is not about making someone a better citizen, it is about justice being served. The lake of fire will not rehabilitate either; people are there for justice.

Imagine for a moment what the world would look like if we abolish the death penalty and refuse necessary wars. Do the words mayhem or chaos come to mind?

Is it possible, then, that by having war or a death penalty we are being peacemakers?

If you want to vote for a peacemaker, fine. But please make sure that it is one who realizes that peace is made and maintained by bringing evil men to justice.

(Read Should Christians Vote here Part 2 here)
(Read Should Christians Vote for: Abortion and Stem Cell ResearchGay Rights)

1 comment:

Tommy Mann said...

Warren Wiersbe has written about the military victories in 2 Samuel 8 that "David's victories also meant peace and safety for the people of Israel so they could live normal lives and not be constantly threatened by their neighbors. Israel had a great work to perform on earth in bearing witness to the true and living God...(Be Restored, p. 53)." He is making the case that peace was brought about after the God-ordered conflict, and this allowed them to become a light for the true God.