It is not always easy to relate to or defend God in the Old Testament who constantly seems to sanction wars and encourage warlike behaviors. On the other hand those who hear it said that God in the New Testament is more of a pacifist, as supposedly evidenced by the life of Jesus, question how a God can ask one to not protect their family or their country. I don’t understand how anyone can be a true pacifist when their children are being attacked. We will look at a few biblical passages since the Bible is often used in answering this question.
Israel, chosen to reveal God to other nations, participated in numerous wars which involved hundreds of thousands of deaths including innocent women and children. I don’t think the Bible suggests God approved of wars simply because other nations refused to believe in the God of Israel. Many biblical texts suggest God wished for Israel to live in peace with surrounding nations, but not all nations are willing to respect and abide by certain inalienable rights of their own people much less the people of other nations.
Terrorist activities today may give us some perspective on OT times.
War may sometimes be necessary. Terrorists threaten even their own with beheadings, rape, and other atrocities. Is it always wrong for a nation to wage war against evil leadership of other nations for the sake of those under the dictatorship? Despite the loss of innocent lives, future generations may look back on the 21st century and accept nations invading lands inhabited by evildoers who seek power only to destroy their own and people of other countries. War isn’t always avoidable and innocent lives cannot always be spared.
Jesus did not teach or live out pacifism always.
Jesus wasn’t implying that we should never respond to physical violence toward us when he said “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:39). Jesus was illustrating how we might respond to insult. Jesus’ didn’t turn the other check when throwing the moneychangers out of the temple (Jn. 2:15). Jesus questioned an official’s right to slap Him rather than turning the other cheek (Jn. 18:22-23). A wife shouldn’t keep turning the other check if being abused. We mustn’t turn the other way when a father is sexually abusing his daughter.
The New Testament doesn’t encourage violence but sometimes self or government protection is necessary.
The disciples were told to buy a sword than cloak for protection (Lk. 22:36). God-followers are encouraged to submit to government’s authority to either protect or bring justice to the wrongdoer (Rm. 13:1-5). Jesus didn’t condemn a Roman solider for serving his nation but praised him for this faith (Lk.7:1-9). The Apostle Paul who wrote much of the NT, when in danger of being killed, appropriately appealed for government protection (Acts 23).
The OT is no different than the NT in encouraging us to love our enemies (Prov. 25:21-22).
One can still love their enemies while also loving the innocent by protecting them from harm. Non-violence is sometimes the best way to respond to violence in hopes of deterring further violence. Sometimes, individuals must protect themselves or their families. Governments must often act to protect and bring justice for victims.