Q: We're Commanded Not to Kill, So Why Did God Instruct His People to Do So?
Selected from our Questions and Answers program

A: The Scripture says, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13). That has to do, of course, with a personal feud, an expression of our personal feelings, and that sort of thing. But when God told a nation to destroy another, it was not because they had any personal feeling about it at all but because they were acting as judges. In other words, they were carrying out the judgment of God in the matter. And if you'll notice, it's always upon a godless nation or people — those who have had ample opportunity to turn to God. God gave a nation or a people an opportunity to hear about Him (and it was generally very sinful people like the Canaanites, Amorites, and Edomites — all of those living in awful unspeakable sin), they had an opportunity to turn to God, they refused it, and they were judged, you see. And the nation Israel executed that judgment. Now may I say, that throws a great deal of light on the question of service in the military. When I was a pastor in Pasadena during World War II, a woman and her son came to me. The boy had been drafted and their question was should he go or should he take the position — which they were reluctant to do — that he would not fight? Their thought was that it was contrary to the Bible for him to go out and kill men that he hadn't even seen and did not hate personally at all. I said, "That's the whole point!" If he hated them personally and went out and did it then he'd be dead wrong, because that would be murder indeed. But he needed to take the position as I see it: That war was forced on our nation, we had to enter, and it was upon (we felt) a godless people. That is, our cause was just and theirs was not, and we were executing judgment. I personally do not go along with this false patriotism that says "My country either right or wrong." Well, I say no! The position should be: My country, may she always be right. That's the important thing. So if you feel like a war is a just war, one that's been forced upon us, that we're not carrying on an aggressive war but actually a defensive war, we've been attacked and we're attempting to bring justice into the world and peace into the world — if you feel that is true, then you can enter it and it will not be non-Christian and certainly will not be un-biblical.