Christian Ethics, Free Course, Lesson 3


Read: James 4:1-3; Mt. 24:6-7; 5:9.

We live in a world of unceasing war. Our greatest investments of wealth, ingenuity and energy are concentrated, not on the relief of sickness and famine, but on a programme of ‘how to kill your neighbour more effectively than he can kill you!’

International arms deals total nearly £20 billion a year. An estimated twenty million people have died in wars since World War Two – nearly all of them in third world countries. The two super-powers (U.S.A. and Russia) still have enough warheads between them to destroy the world several times over.

Many other nations such as Israel, Iran? India, China and others now have nuclear war potential. In our madness we have now developed the capacity for total self – annihilation. The grim spectre of the nuclear mushroom-cloud haunts us all, even in spite of the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Add to that the escalation of conventional wars, the rise of international terrorism and the increase in crimes of violence on our streets, and we have a situation where people’s hearts fail them for fear.



War and violence are a fruit of the Fall. The poisonous root of Adam and Eve’s disobedience soon began to produce bitter fruit in their offspring: See Gen. 4:8.


Violence is in the heart of men and women. Jesus said: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder . . . . . . .” (Mt. 15:19). See also James 4:1-2.

(iii) GREED

Covetousness (or greed) is the major sin that initiates war. Cain wanted Abel’s blessing; John the Baptist was executed because Herod wanted to continue in an unlawful marriage.

Nations go to war because they become greedy for power, land, natural resources, or even religious domination. Greed devours its victims. Countless people have been driven reluctantly to defend their homes, loved ones and their lands because of the rapacity of others.

Who can compute the grief of the millions bereaved in the battle for liberty? A weeping world cries out for peace.

Only the gospel brings true and lasting peace because it alone tackles the root issues and brings us under the reign of the Prince of Peace. This should make the Church of Jesus Christ the greatest peace movement in the world but, sadly, this has not always been the case.


Sometimes the church has made alliances with the State and the name of Jesus has been invoked to justify mass slaughter. Support for such actions has sometimes been drawn from the Old Testament – but there is no justification for this.


The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.” (Gen. 6:6).

Why was this so? Read Gen. 6:11-13. What was the earth filled with? There is no suggestion here of a war-mongering God delighting in violence. What we do encounter in the Old Testament however, is a holy God who is the righteous Judge of all the earth.


The Canaanites were particularly vile sinners – not only were they sexually very immoral but they also sacrificed live children to the god Molech. Such sins, if allowed to continue unabated, would sooner or later have polluted the whole world. So God’s people, Israel, were commanded to perform a clean-up operation on His behalf.

Read Lev. 18:24-28. What was not to be defiled? What would happen if God’s people defiled it?

Read Dt. 7:1-6. Note particularly verse 5 and jot down the things the people were to do. Notice that these actions were all inspired by their faith. God’s people were not to be motivated by covetousness for land but by jealousy for the Name of the Lord. (See also 1Pet. 2:9; 2Pet. 2:4-9 for the N.T. counterpart)


Fighting was never compulsory for the Israelites. They were not to be a warlike nation.

What are the four reasons given for a man to be excused fighting? See Dt. 20:5-9.


God’s people were instructed to look to Him for their defence rather than trusting in the weapons of their day. The notion of spiritual protection is clear in the Old Testament. See especially Isa. 31:1; 2 Kings 6:8-23; Isa. 37:14-2O; 33-37. Also Zech. 9:9-10 gives us a tremendous promise associated with the coming of the Messiah. What is it?

To summarise, the O1d Testament nowhere advances a power philosophy to justify imperialist expansion. When violence is advocated, it is always for the purification of God’s earth.

His people were not to seek advantage in sophisticated weaponry but were rather to trust their cause to Him.

[NB. It is important to realise that the warfare in the O1d Testament which was approved by God was radically different from all other types of warfare in that it involved both complete dependence on God and genocide. The other form of warfare in the O1d Testament fought by kings and their armies is actually condemned by O1d Testament writers and the prophets. See e.g.: 1 Sam. Ch. 8. See Alan Kreider’s book ‘Journey towards Holiness’ for an excellent and balanced treatment of this whole issue.]


1. Read the following and ponder the questions raised:

During the first two centuries of church history God’s people held to a non-violent stance. The pagan philosopher, Cicero, wanting to control the awful excesses of warfare, came up with the theory of ‘a just war’ – as distinct from an unjust war. When the Church became allied with the state, under Augustine’s influence it adopted this as the Christian position. This has largely been the position in the Western world ever since. Briefly, the just war theory states that:

*Only defensive war is legitimate:

*The intention must be to obtain peac

*It must be the last resort:

*There must be a formal declaration:

*It must be fought with limited objectives and weaponry:

*Non-participants must be immune from attack.

The just war theory has failed because of its initial commitment to violence. It has a history of ‘brakes failure.’ Nuclear weapons in any case render the just war theory null and void. Most Christians are agreed that the use of nuclear weapons is immoral.

But should they be retained as a deterrent? Granted that a nation should not attack another nation for unworthy motives, is it right to seek to liberate another nation from tyranny? Is it right for a nation operating on Christian principles to defend itself against tyranny?

The late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed that the last war, i.e., World War Two, was truly a ‘just war.’

Do you agree or disagree? Give reasons for your answers.


1. Pray for international peace every day for a week and then build this into your prayer life on a regular basis.

2. Deliberately check in your heart that you have forgiven everyone you can remember who has harmed you.

[NB. lf you have difficulty here then seek counsel from a mature and trusted Christian friend or pastor.]

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