The Christian and War

Can a good Christian participate in the waging of war?

I think the answer to this is pretty obviously no.

As Christians we are commanded to love God and our neighbor, even including our enemy.

It is not a matter of a Bible verse here or there, it is fundamental to our faith.

You might as well ask if it is okay to worship Satan.

A few Bible verses on loving one's enemy

"But I [Jesus] say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ; so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even the tax collectors do as much? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Do not even the gentiles do as much? You must therefore set no bounds to your love, just as your heavenly Father sets none to his." Matthew 5:44-48

"Bless your persecutors; never curse them, bless them... Never try to get revenge: leave that, my dear friend to the Retribution. As scripture says: Vengeance is mine - I will pay them back, the Lord promises. And more: If you enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink . By this, you will be heaping red-hot coals on his head. Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good ." Romans 12:14,19-21

What about war in the Old Testament?

The whole point of the New Testament is that Jesus calls Christians to go beyond the Ten Commandments and the Law, beyond "You shall not kill" Ex 20:13 to "Love your enemies, ..." Luke 6:26.

The new standard is higher than the old.

What about "Just War Theory"?

I believe that the so called "Just War Theory" is a bunch of philosophical nonsense aimed at trying to turn black into white.

It originated with Augustine in the fifth century.

None of the early church Fathers supported anything like it.

Nothing in the New Testament supports anything like it.

Origen of Alexandria (185-232 AD)

Origen wrote that it was through their prayers, which "conquer all daimones which stir up war and ... disturb the peace ... " that Christians fight. That "although we do not believe in being fellow soldiers with him, we do fight on behalf of the emperor". Origen, Contra Celsum 8.73

The first Christian known to have been a soldier

St. Martin of Tours (c. 316-397 AD). At 15 he joined the Roman army and at about 17 became a Christian. He became what we would call today a Conscientious Objector , refused to fight and resigned from the military.

"I am the soldier of Christ: it is not lawful for me to fight."

"If this conduct of mine is ascribed to cowardice, and not to faith, I will take my stand unarmed before the line of battle tomorrow, and in the name of the Lord Jesus, protected by the sign of the cross, and not by shield or helmet, I will safely penetrate the ranks of the enemy". He is ordered, therefore, to be thrust back into prison, determined on proving his words true by exposing himself unarmed to the barbarians. But, on the following day, the enemy sent ambassadors to treat about peace and surrendered both themselves and all their possessions." Severus, Life of St. Martin Chapter IV.

St. Martin eventually went on to become the Bishop of Tours and is the patron saint of soldiers.

What about self defense?

Jesus did not claim self defense for himself, nor did the early Christians during periods of persecution. There is no history of any early Christian group taking up arms in self defense during any of the early persecutions.

"[Jesus said] Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell." Matthew 10:28

What about patriotism?

As Christians we are citizens of the Kingdom of God first and foremost.

But Jesus answered him [the devil], "Scripture says: 'You must do homage to the Lord your God, him alone must you serve.'" Luke 4:8 (Dt 6:13)

Jesus replied [to Pilate], "Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews". John 18:36

Aren't Christians called to be good citizens?

[St. Paul writing to Titus about his congregation] "Remind them to be obedient to the officials in authority; to be ready to do good at every opportunity; not to go slandering other people but to be peaceable and gentle, and always polite to people of all kinds." Titus 3:1

This is true but not if the officials order immoral actions. Many early Christians were persecuted merely for not eating meat offered to idols or not worshiping the emperor as a god.

The Romans certainly weren't persecuting the early Christians because they were fine upstanding citizens.


I have listed a few Bible verses here for discussion, but like I said the problem of war really attacks the very fundamentals of our faith.

I cannot believe that the God who created the universe from the largest of galaxies down to the smallest of sub-atomic particles and holds them all together in the palm of his hand needs you or I to pack a gun and go off and kill people to make things "right" in the world.

It is a profound denial of God's power.

To feel that one has this right to decide who is to live and who is to die, who's life is important and who's is not, is to me the ultimate sin of pride.

It is ridiculous to advocate that one can love ones enemy and kill them, endanger them or destroy their property.

I believe that to advocate such a position is anti-Christian.

Jesus Christ is Lord!

Email me at

Return to Bible Studies Page

Return to Home Page

(c) 2002 Thomas F. Swezey All rights reserved.