War is, and always has been, a nasty business. Now the Bible is not anti-war, not in the least. In fact, God himself is described in Exodus 15:3 as “a man of war.” Lest we think of Jesus only as “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” we’re told that when he returns, he will come as a warrior with his own “robe dipped in blood” (Revelation 19).
There are, according to the Bible, wars that are unjust but others that are entirely just.
Jesus’ command that we are to “turn the other cheek” was given to individuals, not to the state. In fact, the state has precisely the opposite responsibility in the face of evil: it’s job is most decidedly not to turn the other cheek but to strike the cheek of the offender in punishment.
That’s what keeps our society from degenerating into the chaos of vigilante justice: we can choose not to take matters into our own hands, believing that God has promised to take vengeance on our behalf through the state and has delegated his authority to it for exactly that purpose (Romans 12-13).
The Bible understands that things are permitted in a time of war that are not permitted in a time of peace. David was wroth with Joab because he killed Abner in a time of peace as retribution for Abner’s killing Joab’s younger brother in a time of war (1 Kings 2:5). Blood spilled in a time of war is different than blood spilled in a time of peace.
Much criticism has been directed at our intelligence community in recent days over the issue of enhanced interrogation techniques, even though they are not life-threatening. The techniques used would make any ordinary human being squirm. In a time of peace they would be criminal acts. But when such techniques are used to protect innocent lives in a time of war, they are entirely justified.
We know for a fact that every technique used was carefully reviewed by the Department of Justice and all were deemed to be permissible under American law. And we know that congressional leaders - including some who are today’s loudest critics - were fully briefed on these methods and registered nary a complaint.
We know from the testimony of former CIA directors that these techniques were not only legal, they were effective. They led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, for instance, and to the apprehension of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks.
Students of Scripture are well aware of some of the grisly things done by God’s warriors in the heat of battle. Ehud, for instance, arranged a private meeting with the king of Moab and ran him through the gut with a sword until the king’s fat folded over the hilt of the sword, which Ehud left as a calling card (Judges 3). He was both an assassin and a war hero at the same time.
And the hero of the war against Sisera was Jael, who lured the commander of Sisera’s charioteers into her tent where she hammered a tent peg all the way through his skull into the ground while he napped. She is not vilified in Scripture for her brutality, she is lionized as a heroine and immortalized in song (Judges 4-5).
The left, if they had enough familiarity with the Bible to even know these stories, likely would be aghast at such behavior and be inclined to throw Ehud and Jael into Gitmo along with throat-cutting Muslims.
War indeed is a nasty business. But the Scripture says that the state “does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4). One of the purposes for which God has authorized the state to use force is to keep us safe in a time of war.
Perhaps this is all we need to know about today’s left: they likely would drag the Bible’s heroes before the courts at Nuremberg and charge them with crimes against humanity. Maybe the American left needs a values adjustment more than the CIA.