Objection: Christians Say They Believe in Peace but the Old Testament is Full of Violence
Nail Mark Ministries
In our last post we discussed that Christianity is fundamentally a peaceful religion. This is not to say that all Christians are pacifists in the strict sense of that term, nor that the Bible necessarily teaches pacifism (Christians disagree on this), but only that the teaching of Jesus and his apostles are clear that Christians are not to physically wage war against people for the sake of advancing the gospel or “kingdom of God” (Ephesians 6:12). The Bible does not encourage Christians to force their faith upon others by threat of harm. The gospel is to be shared in love with all people and we are to plead with them to come to Christ and be reconciled to God, but never are we to force conversions (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Indeed by the biblical definition of conversion, a forced conversion is no conversion at all because salvation comes by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 1:13-13; 2:8-9) not through compulsion.
All of this said, it is clear that the New Testament doesn’t lend itself to the idea of waging physical wars (at least not for Christian causes), but what about the Old Testament? In the Old Testament there are undeniably many physical wars that are against other human beings and many of those wars were directly commanded by God. So clearly Christianity isn’t a religion that is only about peace but also one that believes in making war against God’s enemies, right?
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Well, not so fast. There are some things here that many who haven’t studied the Bible seriously are probably unaware of. For instance the relationship that the people of Israel had with God was unique and the church does not have that exact kind of relationship. What I mean to say is that Israel was instituted by God as a nation set apart for himself. Furthermore, Israel was a theocratic nation which had God as its king (until they foolishly insisted on being given a human king). As such God manifested his presence among Israel in a way that no other nation has ever had the privilege of experiencing; he literally dwelled among them in the tabernacle.
The church, although also a covenant people of God, is not the same as Israel. The church holds to the Lordship (kingship) of Jesus but his kingdom is not of this world. The church exists and reaches beyond national borders and is truly a global entity, not merely constituted of a single nation. The church looks forward to the day when we will dwell with God and he with us for eternity (indeed in a way far more personal than even Israel experienced), but for now he is not among us in the same way he was with Israel…