So, where did we get to with this? RIGHT! We finished last time by saying how God opens our imaginations to see a response other than violence to the injustice of the world. Let’s move on from the story of Cain and look at a couple of other examples from the Old Testament (OT).
One of the reasons that I’m going through the OT like this is because often when people want to break down the position of a Christian who doesn’t condone violence, they go straight to the OT and point out all of the genocide that happened there, and they say, “Look! God said we can kill, because he made these people kill, so killing is okay!” (That is a very simplified, and satirical portrayal of their argument, but you get the idea.)
Let’s jump ahead from Genesis to the time of Isaac:
We see in Genesis 26 Isaac has opened some wells that his father Abraham had dug, and these were rightfully his as a part of his inheritance. What happens though, is that the Philistines in the land argue with his herdsmen and so he gives two of the wells to them and then goes and digs a third. This is in order to keep peace, and DESPITE the fact that he is stronger than the people to whom he is giving the wells. He COULD have fought and won, the Philistine king says to him,
“You are much mightier than we are.”
But he chose the way of peacemaking and grace, once again.
Even when we get to those troubling passages after the Exodus we see that Israel’s military policy, compared to the nations around them, was extremely weak. No standing army, no horses or chariots, no guerrilla warfare, no preemptive strikes. In fact, when they went out to make war against a city they HAD to offer peace terms first.
How was Israel to make war?
“When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. And when the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the livestock, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourselves. And you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the LORD your God has given you.
To put it into a modern context, one author has said:
If America, for instance, used the Bible to shape its warfare policy, that policy would look like this. Enlistment would be by volunteer only (which it is), and the military would not be funded by taxation. America would not stockpile superior weapons—no tanks, drones, F-22s, and of course no nuclear weapons—and it would make sure its victories were determined by God’s miraculous intervention, not by military might. Rather than outnumbering the enemy, America would deliberately fight outmanned and under-gunned. Perhaps soldiers would use muskets, or maybe just swords. There would be no training, no boot camp, no preparation other than fasting, praying, and singing worship songs.
In the next post we are going to jump forward to Jesus and see what he had to say on the issue of war and violence in general, so hang in there!