A Rational Faith Section 7.10 God Working Through Government
Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. (Genesis 9:6)
With these words, God established an important principle. Before this time, God has not established an “eye for an eye” principle in order to restrain human evil. Since he was forced to destroy human beings in the flood, however, God is now making a few changes. He already decreased human lifespans that human evil would not increase without bound (Genesis 6:3). In this verse, he empowers man to use evil in order to restrain evil.
God’s purpose in giving human beings this authority against those who practice violence is clear. Among the fornicators, liars, rapists, thieves and other assorted sinners that populate the earth, there are some whose evil is truly outstanding in the statistical sense of that term. Because of their evil hearts, these men would be quite capable of killing every man, woman and child on the earth without remorse. In order to preserve the human race from wanton and unrestrained violence, God empowers human beings through government to use evil in order to restrain rampant evil. Taking human life, therefore, is never “good” or “righteous” before God. Taking human life is an evil act that God authorizes in order to avoid the widespread murder and violence that would occur otherwise.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus taught tremendous principles of personal pacifism in the face of persecution. Many people believe that the teachings of Jesus on this subject supplant God’s earlier authorization to use evil to restrain evil. Believing this, these people argue that Christians cannot support war or the use of violence. While Jesus’ teachings clearly demonstrate God’s view of violence, the case for pacifism on the national scale is not as clear cut.
When Paul was persecuted unlawfully in various cities within the Roman empire, he appeals to the civil authority instead of submitting to death (Acts 25:11). He also warns Christian believers to be afraid of those who bear the sword because they are agents “of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer”. (NIV Romans 13:4) These verses and many others suggest that God wants Christian believers to practice personal pacifism while relying on and supporting the agents of the state that are authorized to use violence in order to restrain human evil.