A Question I Was Asked:

'Is All Killing Murder?'

Should Britain and the USA Have 'Turned the Other Cheek' to Hitler?

The Actual Question in Full:

"In viewing some of the ('D Day' anniversary) news coverage today from France, the passage, "thou shalt not kill (murder)" came to me, and I instantly thought of all of the men and boys who fought and died in WWII (and all other wars for that matter). Technically they murdered, and many were then murdered. How does God view these actions if they did not repent? What really got me to thinking about all of this was the (recent) murder... of Dr. George Tiller, the late term abortionist. Christians over here are burning up the blogs with differing opinions as to whether he "got what he deserved," etc., essentially trying to justify his murder. However, if his killing is murder and will be punished by God even though he was doing a terrible wrong, won't all of our soldiers also be punished? Isn't all of it murder and against God's law? I admit that I am having a difficult time in thinking it was wrong to have tried to kill Hitler and his henchmen, and I confess that I am not sorry about "Dr. Tiller." If someone is attempting to kill my child, is it wrong for me to kill that person to protect my child? I want to think that it wouldn't be wrong, that our soldiers were doing the right thing, and that the man who killed the abortionist was justified. I believe my thinking on this subject is incorrect though, but how?

Also, please help me understand why then Jesus essentially said not to fight against the Romans, to "turn the other cheek," and that to live by the sword would mean to die by the sword, and why did Paul also teaches us not to fight (Rom.13). I know I must sound very unschooled in all of this, but why such a difference in teaching between the Old and New Testaments? Or am I misunderstanding completely these New Testament teachings? Every Pastor I have asked these questions have said that as Christians we are not to resist in these circumstances (war, evil regimes), but that's exactly what we did with Hitler and others, and I believe we were right to do it. But, I remain very confused about this. Any quidance in scripture will be appreciated."

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, first of all, you show an immediate awareness that 'thou shalt not kill' is best understood as 'thou shalt not murder,' but then you very quickly seem to confuse the two, but let me start off by dealing with Romans 13: in Romans 13, Paul is saying that, under all normal circumstances, Christians should obey the governing authorities of any land; no problem there, but in certain circumstances (such as Nazi Germany), this clearly would not entirely apply, for the bottom line is: we must obey God, rather than men (Acts 5:29).

Now, it was not murder for Israel to go to war against their sworn enemies. The Lord also clearly approved of the Israelites removing the inhabitants of the 'promised land' by force, and actually advocated the total destruction of those peoples! See Deuteronomy 7:1-2. Regarding this divine instruction to wipe out the inhabitants of the 'promised land,' we know that in the days of Abram the sins of these people had '...not yet reached full measure.' See Genesis 15:16. But they were heading for a major fall. By the time of Moses and Joshua, those people were apparently practising much evil including possibly child sacrifice on a major scale and also pagan temple prostitution. The Lord, in His perfect judgment (which is far above our human judgment) obviously considered it better - in order to avoid ingrained society-wide sinful behaviour passing to more and more generations - to simply wipe them out (actually, in most cases the Israelites did not wholly wipe out those peoples who later became a continual trouble to them).

In our day, it is not deemed 'murder,' as such, to go to war against a plainly evil adversary and that is what Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese clearly were around 1939-1945, but it was national armies which went to war - not specifically Christians. But we need to understand that the sixth Commandment of the Ten was specifically talking about murder - not killing. How do we know? Because the death penalty was in force (with God's full approval), for several major crimes in the Israel of Moses and Joshua, including murder, kidnapping and homosexual acts.

Yes, there is a difference between what Jesus said and what the Old Covenant had taught, and we should certainly expect it, for the New Covenant was effectively inaugurated with the sacrifice of Christ. Jesus certainly taught Christians a new approach, and that was to 'turn the other cheek' in all normal situations involving Christians and their persecutors, and he certainly did not want His people to think of fighting against the Romans who were fulfilling prophecy in what they were doing. Purely as Christians, we should not go to war against our enemies, however, if we join human armies of nations we should expect - at some point - to be sent to fight. So, in our human lives, we must represent our nations (if we are in the armed forces), but in our spiritual lives (as Christians), we must represent the Kingdom of God.

You state, "...Every Pastor I have asked these questions have said that as Christians we are not to resist in these circumstances (war, evil regimes), but that's exactly what we did with Hitler and others..." No, actually it was nations which decided to fight against people like Hitler - not Christians! I think it is entirely understandable that nations decided to do that. In the very best scenario, a Christian would not join an army or might join as long as he or she was assured a non-combat role. However, the 'very best scenario' has not been an option for some.

Jesus stated that Christians should not have any thoughts of fighting to make the Kingdom of God a reality, but He did not suggest pacifism as a general principle (John 18:36), and the returning Christ will certainly make war on any peoples or nations which oppose Him! Carefully consult 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.

Now, regarding the murder of this abortionist, though I totally agree with the sentiments of those who killed this man, they should not have done so and this was clearly murder (even though, as a late abortionist, he was certainly a murderer himself). We must remember that the Scripture says, 'Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.' See Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:18-20. As Christians, we should obey the governing authorities in all normal circumstances, therefore killing another person can never be an option.
Robin A. Brace. June 14th 2009.