Study 11: Life in Christ
Introduction | Holiness | The Use of Force | Politics | Worldly Pleasures | Bible Study | Prayer | Preaching | Ecclesial Life | The Breaking of Bread | Marriage | Fellowship | Questions
11.2.1 The Use of Force
We are living in a world dominated by sin. We saw in Section 6.1 that human governments can be called 'the devil' because they are organized around the desires of the flesh, the Biblical 'devil'.
The repeated message of the Bible is that, in the short term, sin and the seed of the serpent will appear to triumph, whilst after temporary suffering in various ways, the seed of the woman will ultimately be justified. For this reason the believer is continually commanded to "Resist not evil" (Matt. 5:39; Rom. 12:17; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9).
We have seen that evil is ultimately allowed and brought about by God (Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6 cp. Study 6.1). To actively resist evil is therefore to fight against God. For this reason Jesus commanded us not to physically resist the forces of evil: "But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also" (Matt. 5:39,40). Christ is the example in this: "I gave my back to the smiters..." (Isa. 50:6).
Christ's words associate suing at law with the activities of a world which is opposed to the believer. Doing this is a prime example of resisting evil, and will not be done by anyone who has a firm faith in God's promise that "vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom. 12:19). "Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee" (Prov. 20:22 cp. Deut. 32:35). For this reason Paul roundly rebuked the Corinthians for taking others to law (1 Cor. 6:1-7).
In view of the greatness of our Hope, we should not be so concerned with the injustices of the present life: "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law...Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" (1 Cor. 6:1,2). Taking others to law, whether it be over a land dispute or in divorce proceedings, should therefore be unthinkable for the true believer.
In order to suppress the forces of evil, as well as (in some cases) to keep evil men in power, military and police forces are used by human governments. These are institutionalized forms of resisting evil, and therefore the true believer should have no part in them. "All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matt. 26:52). This is repeating a very early Divine principle: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood (purposefully), by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man" (Gen. 9:6). Any wilful violence against our fellow man is therefore violence against God, unless He has sanctioned it.
Under the Christian dispensation, we have been told, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you" (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27). The armed forces and police forces operate in direct contradiction to these principles and therefore the true believer will shun all association with them. Even if not directly involved in committing violence, working within these organizations or involvement in employment connected with them, is evidently inadvisable; indeed, any employment which involves taking an oath of allegiance to such an authority, robs us of our freedom of conscience to obey God's commands. True believers have therefore always been conscientious objectors to military and police service in whatever form, although always willing to take up alternative employment in times of national crisis which will materially benefit their fellow man.