Thursday, February 5, 2015

Could You Ever Kill? Would You Ever Kill?

I've never been a fan of killing.

The Ten Commandments make it clear that murder is wrong. Jesus tells us to love our enemies. The epistles are full of exhortations to look out for the good of our neighbors. One general theme throughout all scripture is that the taking of another life is not good.

Despite the above, I've previously held to two exceptions when it comes to killing. I believed it was acceptable to kill if it was part of a war I deemed just or if someone was attacking my family or friends.

I've been pondering this issue quite a bit for the past couple of years. It has been a challenging process. I've arrived at the following conclusion: I could no longer and would no longer kill another human being for any reason. No exceptions.

Now, if someone was attacking my family I would certainly defend them. However, killing is no longer part of the equation. As for warfare, count me out. I would never take up arms as part of a national military.

My two questions for you mirror the title of this post: Could you ever kill? Would you ever kill? Why or why not?

I'd love to hear your reasoning. If you differ from me I will not respond with any sort of attack. I may question you further, but I won't let the discussion turn ugly. Thanks for responding.


Arthur Sido said...

As I have mentioned on my blog, this topic gets many people more riled up and outright hostile than anything else I have written. If for nothing else it is an interesting topic to study for the reaction it gets.

Eric said...

How ironic it is that this topic makes people angry. Or maybe it's not ironic. Maybe it makes sense.

Goblin said...

Hi Eric
How do you interpret the following verse in Luke 3
Luke 3:14 '14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” (ESV).
Jesus did not tell the soldiers that they could never kill in the performance of their duty as soldiers. My conclusion is that when serving in the Armed Forces of a civil state, the Christian is bound to 'render to Caesar what is Caesar's' - even in the case of killing another person. Similarly an executioner performing his duty when conducting capital punishment. The Christian still has the opportunity (usually) to become a conscientious objector and not serve in the Armed Forces or Justice system if they believe they mat be asked to do something contrary to their faith.
As far as personal violence goes, I would agree with you that we do not have the right to kill another person, except in the absolute extreme of circumstances - perhaps to save another life.

Norm M. said...


Two questions come to mind...
1. Do you think that Jesus' teachings abolish the death penalty?
2. Is killing the worst thing one human being can do to another?

Eric said...


Thanks for commenting. I'm familiar with the argument from Luke 3. However, I believe it is an argument from silence more than anything else. I find it difficult to see how someone can kill while serving in the armed forces but at the same time love his enemy. How do you reconcile the two? I'm not trying to win an argument. Rather, I'd really like to know what you think. Thanks.

Eric said...


Thanks for responding.

Regarding the death penalty, civil states will do whatever they will do. I believe Christ's teachings are much more aimed at his church than at the secular state.

Killing is the worst thing because it terminates that person's life. That's it; it's over.

I believe the Creator is the only one who has the right to extinguish the lives he has made.

Under what circumstancs, if any, would and/or could you take a life?

Arthur Sido said...


You wrote:

Jesus did not tell the soldiers that they could never kill in the performance of their duty as soldiers. My conclusion is that when serving in the Armed Forces of a civil state, the Christian is bound to 'render to Caesar what is Caesar's' - even in the case of killing another person.

If that is the case would't it hold true that this would apply for a Christian who served in the armies of the Third Reich or under the Red Army of Stalin? It seems to me that our command to not kill is something that falls under the "Render unto God" rather than "Render unto Caesar" category.

Norm M. said...


I believe that violence is a tragic last resort. I would kill to save a life, if all other means of defense were exhausted.

I'm familiar with the line of reasoning that Christians should have absolutely nothing to do with government, but I think that's a stretch. We live in a civil society that is still ostensibly, a democracy of sorts ;). As part of our society, we have the ability to influence its governance through voting. If the death penalty is wrong for Christians, then it is wrong, period. It is a severe enough penalty that it should not be ignored or taken lightly. If taking a life is wrong in self-defense, then taking a life for retribution is also wrong. In my mind, we can't conveniently separate the two issues. If we allow that God still permits the death penalty, then it casts doubt on the "self-defense is not allowed" argument. If neither is allowed, we should take both issues equally seriously.

Eric said...


I don't believe God has the same expectations for secular governements as he does for his people. The governement exists to restrain evil. Whether or not the death penalty is acceptable to God is, I believe, up for debate. I for one do not support it.

As for the church, Christ's teachings again and again show non-retaliation, turning the cheek, not resisting the evil doer, and loving enemies. In order to support killing, it seems that these verses must be interpreted to contain numerous loopholes. I just don't see those.

Goblin said...

Hi Eric / Arthur
I agree with what Eric has commented. I believe the teachings of Jesus are intended for Christians (the church) to follow as obedient disciples. I do not believe they are intended to be followed by pagan civil authorities who I do believe are instituted by God to restrain evil. However, I do believe this includes the use of the death penalty and taking up arms against another power if absolutely necessary. If Christians do choose to serve in the Armed Forces then I believe they must 'render to Caesar what is Caesars', which may end up in them taking another's life in the service of the state. That is why I believe Jesus did not tell the soldiers in Luke 3 to leave the army or to never kill or use violence. If individual Christians cannot do this with a clear conscience then they should not join the Armed Forces or, in times of war, become conscientious objectors or serve in the Medical Corps instead.

Eric said...


Thanks again for taking part in this discussion.

I'm currently reading the book, "Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence." Author Preston Sprinkle addresses the Luke 3 passage and writes something I have never thought about (I want to give Sprinkle credit for this idea since I just read it yesterday).

Sprinkle points out that Roman soldiers were required to take part in pagan rituals/sacrifices before and sometimes after battles. This would have applied to the soldiers in Luke chapter 3. However, John did not tell them to stop this type of pagan worship. Certainly John (and more importantly God) would not have approved of the soldiers sacrificing to Roman false gods. So what is happening here?

Sprinkle's conclusion, as well as mine, is simply that John is not addressing all issues when talking to these soldiers. As John is silent about pagan worship he is also silent on whether or not it is acceptable to kill other human beings.

The argument that says John gives approval to killing as "rendering unto Cesar what is Cesar's" assumes that John covers everything that is important with these soldiers. If John's silence about killing means that killing is acceptable, then John's silence on pagan worship must mean that pagan worship is also acceptable. However, we know this cannot be the case.

I believe John addresses one small issue with the soldiers. To say this gives approval to killing is, in my estimation, reading much more into the passage than is actually there.

Goblin said...

HI Eric
Hmmmm. Interesting, but I'm still not convinced. In the 10 commandments God clearly said to all individuals 'Thou shalt not kill' but God then also instructed the Isrealites to kill the Canaanites in battle and to execute lawbreakers. Similarly I believe Jesus told individuals never to use violence in their personal dealings with others and to leave matters of vengeance with God. However, I think there is enough evidence from the NT that God uses instituted pagan civil authorities to govern world affairs, including lethal justice and war. The question is only whether a Christian can be a part of these authorities with a clear conscience. I don't think it was possible to be a Roman soldier without the likelihood of having to kill someone or use violence against someone. Its the very nature of being a soldier. Therefore I cannot see any way that Jesus would not have mentioned this in his answer.
We may have to agree to differ on this one! Peacefully and non-violently as brothers!

Kevin said...

If I may add something to the Luke 3:14 discussion: these were soldiers obviously attached to an occupying force and not likely to see combat. Rome's main concern was extracting tribute from occupied lands with as little trouble as possible, but there was little incentive for tax collectors and their soldier enforcers to refrain from charging more and keeping the surplus.

Eric said...

So, is it acceptable for Roman soldiers, who claim the name of Christ, to take part in pagan sacrifices prior to and/or after battles?

Randi Jo :) said...

Hard issues .. I don't know. I personally could say right now I would never kill somebody..... but then I actually put myself in the heat of a rare possible moment...if I saw a person terrorizing a child and I tried to defend and couldn't and his gun/weapon dropped and it was right there.. I would i am sure in the heat of the moment do whatever it took to get him back/off.... as many times necessary until he stopped.

but I just don't have a solid answer for theology questions about war. killing etc. I'm ok w that. I don't feel like it's necessary for how God wants to use me to know exactly the answers and my conviction on these....but!! I do believe God has convicted others strongly for a particular reason....I actually have talked to people that from my discernment I can tell are full of Hi Spirit and are following Him...and that are very convicted in their role to defend/help in military. talking to friends like that - it makes me believe that some have been put on earth to help protect the weak oppressed and helpless. And I do believe sadly that war can be the way to protect and defend the oppressed. It's not Gods perfect ideal or will ... But He always has been willing to work with very imperfect beings and therefore situations .... For a time ... Until our perfect eternity will be fully revealed and we will be with only loving perfected people and all things will be made right .... The hardest part I think is knowing true motives of war .. I don't trust the media nor politicians in general ... But I do sort of trust our system of checks and balances as a whole and I trust that these "leaders" in our country have a Lot lot lot lot more info than I do that they can't give the public for justifications of war ...., I do believe the truth is in middle of all extremes.

Goblin said...

Hi Eric
No I do not think it would be acceptable for Christian soldiers to take part in pagan sacrifices before or after battles. They would have to decline and accept the consequences.
The logical outcome of what you are arguing is that no Christian can ever serve in the military forces. Or as a frontline police Officer (except perhaps in the UK where the standard Police officers remain unarmed, although even they have to use violence to contain/apprehend offenders).
I still maintain that the Christian should be a pacifist in his own affairs, but may take up arms and use lethal force if required to by their civil authority occupation.

Arthur Sido said...

Goblin, that is exactly what I would argue. Just as I would not work in an abortionists office even if I were not performing abortions I would also not serve in the military or as a police officer where fulfilling my duties to Caesar would require me to violate the commands of God. You can't separate your life out by saying I am a pacifist when not on duty but I suddenly am willing to kill at Caesar's command when I am in uniform. Taken a step further you get into why the Anabaptists would not serve as civil authorities because doing so would require them to send others to kill.

Keith Giles said...

Goblin, et al. - Just for the sake of clarity, the passage you quoted above is not from the lips of Jesus, but it's what John the Baptist said to his own disciples.

If we look at what Jesus said to His own disciples we get a much different set of statements like "Do not resist an evil person but if someone slaps you on the left cheek, turn to him the other one also..." and "If you love those who love you in return what credit is that to you? But I tell you, love your enemies and bless those who curse you for then you will be like your Father in Heaven...", etc.

I would also point out that when the prostitute came into the pharisee's house and began to wash his feet with her hair and tears, Jesus did not tell her to stop being a prostitute. Does that mean Jesus is totally ok with His disciples working as prostitutes?

Those Roman soldiers were not disciples of Jesus. What he said to those who were following him is much more instructive and binding upon those who are His disciples.

Goblin said...

Hi Keith
You are of course entirely correct about who is speaking in Luke 3. Many thanks for pointing this out.
As for the case of the prostitute she was already crying in repentance over her sins and Jesus indicated that he sins were forgiven. He did not need to tell her not to continue as a prostitute as she already knew and was repenting of her previous life.
I guess this is an issue every Christian has to make up their own minds about. Personally I would never choose to be in the Armed Forces and face this issue. However, I would not adversely judge other Christians who come to a different conclusion.

Dustin Segers said...

Great stuff guys (and gal :-).

I had a guy blow up my private messenger on FB today on this issue. He asked stuff like:

"What if you're having dinner at a restaurant and a drug-crazed big guy with a gun comes in waving it carelessly? He comes over to your family, verbally threatens you but has the gun pointing at the ground by his side. You have a steak knife in your hand. You'd be a coward if you didn't defend your family..."

"What if a guy breaks into your house and attempts to rape your wife, are you gonna let him do it and say, 'I'm praying for you babe'"?

Of course, the above scenarios are always the worst situations possible and these guys act as if pacifists have never faced these things or written extensively about them.