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Is Killing in War a sin?

            Today's Question. I am joining the army, and I recently came to the Lord, and was thinking if I ever had to fight and kill someone, I am not sure if that is a sin. Is killing in war a sin?

            Bible Answer: This is a popular question I get, and someone at church recently asked me this. It got quiet during our Tuesday Bible Study as I quoted the scripture in 1 John 3:15: "You know that no murderer has eternal life in him." A tall man asked, "I was in the Vietnam War and I did lots of killing. Is this murder?"

            This Vietnam veteran asked a question that many are asking today. El Paso is home to Fort Bliss and with many people serving our country, soldiers need to have this question answered: Is killing in war breaking the sixth Commandment of 'Thou shalt not kill"?

            The  word  "kill" literally means "murder" in the Hebrew language. It should be translated, "Thou shall do no murder." Killing is not always murder.

            There is no logical way that people could interpret the commandment against killing to refer to killing in war, since the same God, commanded Israel to fight for their land. On top of this, the Bible even describes people celebrating the military exploits of their heroes, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands" (1 Samuel 18:7).

            Instead of celebrating our soldiers for their military accomplishments, there are some Americans who criticize great soldiers like Chris Kyle. The movie, American Sniper, tells his story of one of the lethal snipers in American History. Even though his actions saved many lives, there are biblically illiterate politicians such as Howard Dean, making blanket statements like, "The people who go see this movie are people who are very angry." Mr Dean, maybe people see the movie because they love to see true heroes.

            Then there are Hollywood elites, like Michael Moore, saying, "Snipers aren't heroes." He sarcastically tweeted, "Tomorrow's Sunday School (1) What Would Jesus Do? Oh, I know what he'd do--hide on top of a roof and shoot people in the back!”

            People like Howard Dean and Michael Moore simply reveal a real lack of biblical and theological understanding of war. While everyone would agree that war is awful, it is unfortunately necessary, so long as there are warmongers and those bent on destroying people's lives.

            So I answered the tall veteran explaining the difference between murder and killing. Even the law demands that a murderer, in order to be convicted, must have a motive. The motive must be selfish, such as killing for money, revenge, anger, hatred or some other ignoble motive. The motive of most solders is to protect and defend their country. This is  a noble reason for killing in combat.

            This goes also for the police. A police officer should not have to apologize for killing if it involves self defense or the defense of others.

            Some argue that the New Testament did away with justifiable killing and that killing is never justifiable, even in self defense. They often quote Jesus, Who said,  "Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:39). Jesus was not giving instruction to government but to individuals as to how they should act in their daily conduct toward others 

            Jesus, on the other hand, never denied people the right for self defense, for He said to His disciples to make sure they had swords to defend themselves, "If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one" (Luke 22:36). Jesus affirmed the right to bear arms provided it was in defense of oneself or others.

            The Apostle Paul affirmed the right for a nation to defend itself, either in war or in policing their country: "If you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Romans 13:4). It is quite clear that the New Testament did not do away with the rights of nations to defend themselves.

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