Are War and Killing Worthy of Praise?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, June 28, 2016 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
    I, even I, will sing to the Lord;
    I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.” ~Judges 5:2

The Song of Deborah and Barak can either be seen as a marvelous work of art, or a bizarre song praising brutal acts of bloodshed. Our culture is definitely squeamish when it comes to the idea of war. A famous commentator puts it the best, “War is about breaking things and killing people.” When you get down to it, that’s about right. But the idea that killing is praiseworthy just sounds so strange to our 21st century Christian ears. Would the Song of Deborah be condemned by the New Testament Church?

When we turn to the words of Jesus, it sounds clear that we should not condone the act of killing anyone. He said not to resist evil, but if someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other (Matthew 5:39). When the soldiers were going to take Jesus into custody, he told his disciples to stand down and that if it was his desire he could have called down 12 legions of angels to kill his attackers (Matthew 26:53). He didn’t do that. What’s more, he did not even lash out in anger when he was hanged on the cross; instead he pleaded for the forgiveness of those who did it to him (Luke 23:34). The Gospel message sounds 100% anti-violence. But what do we do with the instruction from John the Baptist when he was asked by soldiers what conduct they ought to practice? John told them to serve honestly. He did not tell them to depart from his service as a soldier (Luke 3:14).

This is because there are two dimensions in terms of the violence/non-violence discussion as the Bible details it. The first of which is on the personal level. The personal level is what Jesus is most clearly referring to. If you pay close attention to his teachings, he is not addressing matters of war. Rather, he is addressing personal relationships. War is a political matter.

The political dimension is the second dimension, and I believe the Bible makes it clear that war is condoned as a matter of national security and sometimes expansion. When we look at all of the war that happened in the Old Testament, we have to acknowledge the reality that Israel had become a political power and, although they were achieving God’s will, the national identity of any nation is rooted in politics. Even though the government of Old Testament Israel was not the same government system that the New Testament Church had to deal with, one thing it did share in common with the Roman government was that it was set in place by God. When Peter commented on the role of the state in relation to people’s lives, he stated that the government is appointed to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right (1 Peter 2:14). God has granted government the authority to judge between right and wrong and to punish those who act in an ungodly manner.

In terms of war, as I mentioned earlier, it serves for two purposes: national security and expansion. National security is the type of war we feel most comfortable with because it does not step on anyone’s toes and it is merely beating back oppressive forces. However, expansion has served its purposes in the past, particularly for the nation of Israel. I’m going to avoid elaborating on that for now, because there is an underlying aspect of these two purposes that only God knows of: judgment. War is so often used as a judgment, and when Barak and Deborah marched out onto the battlefield, God was casting judgment upon the other nations by using Israel as his instrument. The same thing has happened to Israel by the hand of the Babylonians. War is a very complicated thing!

Should we praise warriors and bloodshed? Maybe to simplify my answer, let me rephrase this: Can people do noble things through war? Yes! I think of the soldiers in the United States military. The more time that passes, the more respect I have for them. They have chosen to sacrifice years out of their lives to serve our country and to preserve the freedoms that we get to enjoy. That in itself is a very noble deed. It is only right that we honor them through holidays like Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July. The Song of Deborah and Barak might sound strange to our ears, but back then it may have sounded much like the Stars and Stripes Forever to them.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.