Whenever this question is asked, the implication seems to be that war in the name of Christ is contrary to His mandate to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39).
Otherwise, why would anyone argue with the right to fight a religious war? To understand the “big picture,” we must first understand that the “turn the other cheek” passage is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Its messages pertain to individual believers. His famous sermon shows how believers should respond to temptation, injustice, and the everyday trials of life. It says nothing about warfare.
For some instruction regarding this, we must go to Romans 13, which discusses some of the purposes of government as well as the proper relationship between believers and government:
“… F or it [government] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4)
God has given the state the power of life and death over its subjects in order to maintain order. Government also has the right to protect its people from evil by wielding the same “sword” in warfare. Some will argue that God has commanded, “Thou shall not kill.”
Therefore Christians cannot engage in warfare. Actually, God’s command was against murder, not killing. Nowhere does the Bible say that believers should not join the military and thus, should not participate in defending their country. Numbers 25:8-13 is one of many Biblical accounts where killing was required to eradicate sin. However, the bottom line is that while the God of the Bible is a righteous judge, He is also a God of love and mercy Who detests the shedding of innocent human blood.
Having laid this background, let’s look at what I believe is at the heart of the question—the atrocities committed in the name of Christianity—the Crusades, the Pogroms, the Holocaust, and the Inquisitions. While one could justify the Crusades as a response to the Muslim invasion of the Holy Land, there is no justification for the wholesale slaughter of Jews, or for the killing of “Christian brothers” along the way because their attire and customs were “different.”
Defending innocent lives or even a holy site is justifiable. However, campaigns to eradicate an enemy or a race (the Jews) are indefensible. Those alive today whose families have been affected by any of these tragedies don’t really care if the perpetrators (or bystanders) were truly Christians. The simple truth is that Christians today need to ask forgiveness for all the blood shed in the name of Christianity.
When it comes to violence in the name of religion, Christianity is often compared to Islam. One could conclude that they are both equally guilty when it comes to bloodshed. Here’s the difference. All of the events listed above are an embarrassment to Christianity. Everything that happened was in direct violation to the teachings of the Bible. In contrast, every battle fought by believers in Allah, however brutal and bloody, was done with the blessing of the Koran. Followers of Allah must kill the infidels (unbelievers) in order to go to heaven. Followers of Jesus are commanded to love their enemies because they (Jesus’ followers) are assured of a place in heaven, and God wants even His enemies to be there, too.
Do You Want a Relationship with God?
If you want this kind of relationship with God, pray this prayer right now:
Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that you took the pain of the cross to give me new life. I ask you to come into my life and to give me your peace and joy. I confess that I am a sinner — that I have gone my own way and have done wrong. Please forgive me for my sins. I receive you now as my Lord and Savior. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to follow you and to serve you all my life. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer, you are now a child of God. The things of your old life have passed away and He has made all things new.