26. Military and Police
The Lord Jesus never raised a finger to hurt any
human being, however great the provocation. The provocations he received would
have led a lesser man to fight back, but it was not so with Jesus. When
Samaritans denied him hospitality, his disciples spoke of
“Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to
come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did? But he turned, and
rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son
of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke
Again, when the officers of the High Priest, led
by a traitorous disciple, came to arrest him, the Lord could reveal his power
and still refuse to take advantage of it:
“Judas then, having received the band of
soldiers, and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came thither
with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all the things
that were coming upon him, went forth, and saith unto them, Whom seek ye? They
answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith to them, I am he... They went
backward, and fell to the ground” (John 18:3-6).
He allowed his enemies to rise from the ground
and arrest him. When Peter sought to defend him with his courageous but
misguided use of a sword that he should not even have been carrying, the Lord
resisted that temptation also and rebuked his disciple:
“Put up thy sword into the sheath: the
cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (v.
“All they that take the sword shall
perish with the sword” (Matt. 26:52).
Long before, he had withstood the temptation to
accept kingship from the multitudes (John 6:15). Now, at his trial before
Pilate, he declares his resistance in principle to the thought:
“My kingdom is not of this world: if my
kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be
delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John
It was at the very time when they were crucifying
him that the Lord Jesus revealed how deep and sincere was his desire that no one
should needlessly be made to suffer on his account, for in his terrible agony he
could cry out:
“Father, forgive them; for they know not
what they do” (Luke 23:34).
This was a prayer which certainly extended beyond
the Roman soldiers who were merely doing their duty, to embrace the Jews who had
conspired to bring about his crucifixion. In fact Peter puts before us for our
imitation the entire manner of life displayed by the Lord Jesus during the
period before his death:
“This is acceptable, if for conscience
toward God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it,
if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, ye shall take it patiently? But if,
when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is
acceptable with God. For to this were ye called: because Christ also suffered
for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow in his steps: who did no
sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not
again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that
judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:19-23).
The Lord’s Teaching
The very things that Jesus did in his own life,
he commends to his disciples in theirs. In the Sermon on the Mount, for example,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit.... they
that mourn.... the meek.... the merciful.... the peacemakers.... they that are
persecuted for righteousness’ sake.... when men shall revile you, and
persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my
sake” (Matt. 5:3-12).
He took the commandment “Thou shalt not
kill” and extended it to cover even hard words and unwarranted rage (vv.
21-26). He also taught:
“Resist not him that is evil: but
whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if
any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy
cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him
two” (vv. 39-41).
“Love your enemies, and bless them that
curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully
use you, and persecute you: that ye may be the children of your Father which is
in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and
sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (vv.
The apostles certainly took the Lord’s
words to heart, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they recalled for the
instruction of the ecclesias what the Lord had said to them (1 Pet. 3:14; 4:14;
Rom. 12:14-22). Nowhere is this more plainly taught than in Paul’s
“The Lord’s servant must not
strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness
correcting them that oppose themselves; if perhaps God may give them repentance
unto the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24,25).
There is much more evidence of the same kind in
the writings of the Apostles. The Lord’s sufferings, his restraint, his
teaching of his disciples, and their own counsel to one another, all create an
atmosphere in which anything pertaining to war or bloodshed has no place. If we
summarize the impression created by the evidence, it is that, on grounds of
principle, the believer is forbidden to participate in war and other acts of
violence against others.