Bible says “Do not kill”, and yet God instructed
the Israelites to kill many people. In this chapter, we look
at a believer’s attitude to war. We shall also consider
how we should view politics and jury service.
20 and Matthew 5:38–48
1. Why did God want Israel to destroy all the people who
lived in the promised land? Was it fair for children to be
2. Was it right for God to allow Israel to take women and
children as “plunder” for themselves when they
3. Why did God protect fruit trees in war?
4. God had specifically instructed Israel to destroy the
nations in the promised land. Yet Jesus tells us to love our
enemies and “do not resist an evil person”. How
do you reconcile these two contradictory instructions?
5. Suppose your country was threatened by an invading army
with a reputation for cruelty and oppression. What should
your response be? Would your response change if your family
was directly threatened?
God told Israel to fight and destroy the Canaanites—the
people who occupied the promised land. These people worshipped
idols, and they practised many pagan and sinful rituals which
Israel had to avoid. God wanted his people to be holy and
faithful, and he knew that the pagan practices of the Canaanites
would lead them astray.
Israel fought many wars against the nations around them. God
helped them to protect their lives and their boundaries against
invading and threatening armies. It was God’s land and
were God’s people.
Killing is not always wrong in God’s sight. As we have
the Israelites were sometimes commanded to kill. Also, the
law of Moses required the death penalty for some sins. The
command “Do not murder” meant that the Israelites
must never kill someone unless
God had instructed them to do so. Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17
We are citizens of God’s kingdom
Jesus opened the way for Gentiles (non-Jews) to come to God,
and so today God’s people are scattered throughout the
world. Our relationship with the country in which we live
is quite different from that of an Israelite in Old Testament
times. Unless we are a Jew living in Israel, we have not been
given our land by God.
In fact, we are told not to think of ourselves as citizens
of any country. Instead, we are to think of ourselves as citizens
of God’s kingdom. See also 1 Peter 2:11
. . . you are
no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with
God’s people and members of God’s household. (Ephesians
It was much the same for God’s people before Israel
was a nation.
. . . they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who
say such things show that they are looking for a country of
their own. . . they were longing for a better country—a
heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their
God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13–16)
Consequently, we have no need to fight for our country. To
do so would be wrong because it would involve killing people
when God has not commanded us to do so. Furthermore, because
there are believers in many different countries, if we went
to war we would end up fighting against fellow believers!
Love your enemies
Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who
persecute us and not to resist evil people. Is it acceptable to defend yourself if attacked?
Paul wrote to
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse . .
. Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . Do not take revenge,
my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is
written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay”,
says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry,
feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In
doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans
Do not kill
|Exodus 20:13; Leviticus 24:21; Numbers 35:16–34; Deuteronomy 5:17; 19:11–13; Matthew 5:21–22; 26:52; 1 John 3:15.
Love your enemies
|Exodus 23:4–5; Psalm 35:11–17; Proverbs 25:21–22; Matthew 5:43–44; Luke 6:27–35; 23:34; Acts 7:60; Romans 12:14; 1 Peter 3:9.
Do not resist evil people
|1 Samuel 24:10–12; Proverbs 20:22; 24:29; Matthew 5:38–42; Luke 6:29; Romans 12:17–21; 1 Corinthians 6:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:15.
Governments are appointed by God
|Jeremiah 27:4–6; Daniel 2:20–21; 4:17; Rom 13:1–2.
Submit to rulers
|Romans 13:1–7; Titus 3:1–2; 1 Peter 2:13–14.
We are citizens of God’s kingdom
|Psalm 39:12; Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13–16; 1 Peter 1:17; 2:11.
Do not swear
|Matthew 5:34–37; 23:16–22; James 5:12.
That makes it impossible for a believer to be in the armed
In many countries it is compulsory for some people (usually
young men) to enter the armed forces for a period of time,
especially when the country is at war. In such cases, believers
must choose whatever alternative they can. In the past, that
has sometimes led believers to be imprisoned or even executed.
Involvement in politics
When Jesus was on earth, he lived under the power of the Roman
Empire. The Romans dominated everything, taxing the people
heavily and limiting the ability of the Jews to govern their
own nation. There were Jewish terrorists who fought to overthrow the Roman rule. But Jesus did not
comment on the politics of his land,
and did not seek to make any changes to
it. Instead, he encouraged the people
to cooperate with the Romans (Mark 12:14–17).
The Zealots were one group of terrorists who were violently opposed to the Romans. Simon the Zealot became one
of Jesus’ apostles.
There are no biblical instructions
telling us how to put the world right, or even that we should
be trying to do so. Instead, our duty is to live a godly life
in whatever conditions we find ourselves.
Every government, no matter how evil, is appointed by God.
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities,
for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established
by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority
is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who
do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Therefore, a believer should not get involved in a protest
movement, or a political campaign. Instead, we wait for God’s
kingdom when all the world’s problems will be put right.
Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or
earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes,
and your “No”, no, or you will be condemned. (James 5:12)
See also Matthew 5:34–37
So if we are asked to swear an oath on the Bible, we should
not do so. Both James and Jesus tell us that a simple agreement
is sufficient. In circumstances where we might be requested
to swear an oath, it is always possible to take an “affirmation” instead.
An “affirmation” is a legal declaration stating you will tell the truth.
From time to time, a person might be selected for jury service.
A jury is a group of people who determine whether someone
is guilty in a criminal trial. This raises many difficulties
for believers. For example, Paul wrote
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?
Are you not to judge those inside? (1 Corinthians 5:12)
1. Suppose you were called to fight for your country, and
refused to do so. Would you agree to join the army medical
corps instead? What difficulties might be involved in this
type of work?
2. Many faithful people in the Old Testament swore oaths,
including Abraham, Joseph and David. Even God himself swears
oaths and required the Israelites to do so in some circumstances.
Why, then, did Jesus command us not to swear oaths (Matthew
Genesis 21:23–24; 22:16; 47:31; Exodus 22:10–11; 1 Samuel 24:21–22; Jeremiah 44:26; 49:13.
3. Read Luke 22:35–38. Why did Jesus tell his disciples
to obtain a sword? Was he being ironic?
4. Is it acceptable for a believer to take self-defence
lessons? What would be the point of such lessons?
5. In some countries (such as Australia), voting is compulsory.
Should we vote in such circumstances? If we choose not to
vote, what reason should we give the electoral authorities?
1. Paul sometimes used his Roman citizenship to avoid punishment,
but at other times he did not mention his citizenship and
suffered punishment when he could have avoided it. Using a
concordance, find the passages in Acts where Paul refers to
his Roman citizenship. Why do you think he sometimes allowed
himself to suffer?
2. We have seen that it would be wrong for a believer to
join the armed forces. Would it also be wrong for a believer
to join the police force? If he or she did, what difficulties
would this involve? What about being a private detective,
or a security guard?
• The Christadelphians: what they believe and preach
by Harry Tennant (published by The Christadelphian, 1986).
Chapter 23 “The disciple and the world”, 14 pages.
• The Christian and war by J.B. Norris (published by
The Christadelphian, 1954). 30 pages.
• The Gospel and strife by A.D. Norris (published by
The Christadelphian, 1981). 45 pages.
• Freedom in Christ by H.A. Twelves (published by the
Christadelphian, 1968). Chapter 11: Politics. 8 pages.
• Christ and protest by Harry Tennant (published by
The Christadelphian). 16 pages.
• The disciple and jury service by H.A. Twelves (published
by The Christadelphian Military Service Committee, 1987).
Forgiving one another
34. The sermon on the mount
55. The law of love
62. Careers and employment