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Month 8:10, Week 2:2 (Shanee/Matzah), Year:Day 5940:216 AM
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 9 November 2016
A Clear Conscience
Issues of War and Self-Defence

    The Priest

    Yesterday evening here in Sweden, while the election was in full swing in the USA, I watched the very moving Russian movie called The Priest (in Russian, Поп) directed by Vladimir Khotinenko.

    The Plot

    The film begins in June 1941 in the backwater village of Tikhoe in Latvia. Orthodox Priest Alexander carries out the duties of his ministry, helped by his wife, Alevtina. Two days later the Nazi invaders enter the village who are keen to reopen the Orthodox churches closed by the Soviet power. Alexander is offered a mission to Pskov (Pleskau) oblast. An orthodox church building, confiscated and turned into a hall for Soviet film showings and the like, is restored to its former use and the church bell rescued from the lake. However life under the Nazis is ambiguous and the priest must walk a tightrope between faithful Christian service and loyalty to his country and people. A poignant scene is the Easter service, celebrated along with POWs surrounded by German guards. Alexander and Alevtina also harbour Jewish orphans. Alevtina falls ill from contact with the POWs and puts the children first by losing herself in a snowstorm lest she infect the orphans. The plot concludes with the Soviet authorities back in power and the priest imprisoned by the NKVD. The epilogue shows the priest decades later, visited by the orphans he saved many years before. [1]

    Moral Dilemmas

    It was an intensely moving film with the kind of depth you expect of Russian productions. I highly recommend it. The reason I feel led to mention it is because of the moral dilemmas that can be caused when a believer finds him- or herself in a life-and-death situation. It highlights the tensions between our obligations as servants of Messiah, who is no respector of persons, and such loyalties to the state that may be expected of us. Priest Alexander is caught between two tyrannies, just as his homeland is, and has to decide where his true duty lies.

    An Old Tract and the Conscientious Objectors

    Years ago - it must be at least 30 years - I found an old tract in a fleamarket in England, printed at the beginning of the Second World War, that had been issued by an Anglican clergyman, who represented the government position that every Christian was duty-bound to obey the state and serve his country. At the time it made a lot of sense to me. Now, in the light of much more knowledge of what was going on back then, not to mention the duty of a believer, I am not so sure. The lines between right and wrong can sometimes be very, very hazy indeed. Many Britons, Christians as well as non-Christians, took the position that it was wrong to kill others and became conscientious objectors. Some were locked up in prison, some served in non-combattant rôles in the Red Cross and others were sent to do heavy agricultural labour in the countryside.

    Military Service and a Matter of Conscience

    As believers about to enter a national crisis and possibly be called to take up arms on behalf of a wicked goverment in a world war or civil war, similar kinds of questions will have to be asked, and the conscience made to struggle, as to what to do and not to do. It has always been the position of this ministry that it is up to ones personal conscience and revelation from Yahweh whether one engages in military service or not, particularly in a situation where one's own nation may likely be involved in unrighteous wars. We have had both servicemen as well as pacifists in our membership over the years.

    As a Last Restort

    It is my personal belief that a man is only justified in taking up arms is in self-defence and as a last resort whether for his family or his country. The former I discussed briefly recently. The latter is much more complicated because in order to answer the question as to whether it is right to join the Armed Forces of ones country one needs to know something about the war one is being called to fight. That means we have to be informed as well as hear the very clear message of the Ruach (Spirit) as to what we are to do.


    I have been a military man myself though I praise Yah I have never had to fire a shot in anger, wound or kill anyone. None of my immediate ancestors were professional soldiers though my paternal grandfather was a conscript in the First World War and fought as a cavalryman in what is modern-day Iraq, then a part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. I have a huge respect for veterans who fought conscientiously for what they believed in even if I think they are sometimes politically misguided. I respect anyone willing to selflessly lay down his life for his country or comrades in arms and I will never disparage him for that. I think I understand something of what the Germans call Kameradschaft or Comradeship. I can relate to it. That is one level. My problem with the military and warfare is on another level.

    Righteous and Unrighteous Wars

    This is a very, very hard subject and even today I struggle with it. I personally believe in professional armies, not conscript ones. I believe if I am to fight it should be by own choice whether to enlist or not. I will not become a blind killing machine for a government whose purpose in waging war is not clear to me. With the exception of the Falklands War, when a British sovereign territory, against the wishes of its inhabitants, was invaded by the Agentinian dictator Galtieri in 1982, I am not convinced that many - if any - of the wars we have fought since then have been justified. The interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria were - and are - clearly acts of unwarranted aggression and I would have refused to participate in them. Had I been a Syrian, I might very well have taken up arms in defence of my homeland and elected government, though there are moral issues there to be sure.

    A Ten Year-Long Civil War?

    An article I read yesterday suggests that America - and quite possibly Europe too - may find itself involved in civil warfare which may last up to a decade to finally resolve. It's certainly possible. I would absolutely not want to serve in the armed forces of my country it they were controlled by a totalitarian, tyrannical government. My calling on this planet is first and foremost to serve Yahweh my Elohim (God) in my capacity as a witness and minister and take care of, and provide for, my family, and that will always be my first priority.

    Women Soldiers

    One of the American presidential candidates has said that if she wins, she will include women along with men in any draft. That I do not agree with. Flat out I would tell women to refuse to serve in active combat. It is not Yahweh's calling to them. This is not to say that some women cannot make good soldiers for we know they can - I take my hat off to the Kurdish women defending their homeland against terrorists in Syria and Iraq. But would I countenance a woman taking up a weapon in defence of her family? Absolutely. And I fancy that the women in my family could give a good accounting of themselves in a desperate situation if they needed to.

    How to Avoid Moral and Ethical Dilemmas About Involvement in Warfare

    Moral and ethical dilemmas of the sorts I have just raised (and there are many more) are best avoided by being in right relationship with Yahweh and being obedient to Him as far as your location and occupation are concerned. There is a good case in the New Covenant to be opposed to involvement of any kind of warfare and Matthew 26:52, Revelation 13:10 and Romans 12:19-21 are perhaps the scriptures that best support this position. The weapons of our warfare are supposed to be spiritual, not carnal (2 Cor.10:3-5; Eph.6:11-18). Mennonites, Quakers, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Churches of God all take a strictly pacifist position based on these scriptures. These and others groups would probably reject any idea of self-defence too.

    Applying Biblical Principles

    Torah takes no such position but does lay down very strict rules for the conduct of war. However, this revelation is addressed to a theocratic nation which does not exist today, and none has been around for over 2,000 years. How much the instructions given to Israel can be transferred to believers serving in non-theocratic national armies is open to debate. Here we need to tread very carefully. The Roman Centurion who became a believer during the days of Yah'shua (Jesus) does not seem to have resigned his commission, were such an option even open to him (probably not, and at pain of death). However, can we derive a rule from this? I don't think so. Even soldiers need witnesses and Yahweh whill use whomsoever He will, whether though chaplains or enlisted men.

    The Self-Defence Passage

    A case can be made for self-defence from a passage Luke 22 where the talmidim (disciples) serving on missions should arm themselves or not:

      "'Master, look, here are two swords'. {Yah'shua/Jesus] replied, 'It is enough'" (Lk.22:38, NRSV).


    Up until this moment the missionaries have not needed to be armed (Lk.9:2-3; 10:3-4). In the past talmidim (disciples) could anticipate hospitality, but, Yah'shua (Jesus) says, in the times to come they cannot. So He permits them to be minimally armed. To claim that the two "swords" here are simply a metaphor for animosity (as in Lk.12:51-53) does not, in my view, fit the context. When He told them to sheathe their swords at the time of His arrest (Lk.22:49-51) it was not a statement rejecting the right to self-defence but a warning not to interfere with Yahweh's plans, as this was His time to be arrested and taken into custody to then be executed. This was the time when Peter struck off Malchus' ear and Yah'shua (Jesus) restored it.

    Two Views

    I admit this is a tough subject to accurately interpret in Scripture. Yah'shua's (Jesus') remark, "It is enough" has variously been interpreted to either mean, 'two swords is enough' ("They are sufficient" - AENT) or 'enough of this nonsense about swords!'. These would, in any case, probably not have been military swords but short, dagger-like instruments which would have been usual to carry around at that time, and would have had other uses apart from violence. Here in Sweden in the country is it quite normal to carry such knives around for practical, handyman purposes. Even so, it is evident the talmidim (disciples) did carry around regular swords, as Peter must have done to have cut off Malchus' ear. To be armed was normal. Indeed Peter first asks the Saviour, "Master, shall we strike with the sword?" (Lk.22:48b, ESV). If Yah'shua (Jesus) had insisted on strict Quaker-like pacifism, do you not think He would have forbidden His talmidim (disciples) to carry lethal weapons around with them? Indeed, after the Malchus incident, Yah'shua (Jesus) said, "No more of this!" ("That's enough!", AENT) (v.51, ESV, NRSV).

    Forced to Use Your Conscience

    What I find interesting is how there is sufficient ambiguity in respect of certain issues to force the talmid (disiciple) to find out for himself. I respect those who refuse to defend themselves, and if that is what their conscience tells them to do - in the absence of a clear scriptural injunction - then it would be a sin for them to go against their conscience. There are lots of scriptural teachings on the exercise of conscience that should be consulted. Equally we must respect those whose conscience tells them it is permissible to use violence in self-defence and as a last resort. That certainly is my position though my prayer is I will never have to make that choice. But if forced, I will not hesitate. I have already made up my mind and satisfied my conscience.

    Obeying Wicked Governments

    Similar issues such as whether or not to obey an unrighteous government injunction must also be urgently addressed, about which I have previously spoken. If you have not carefully worked through these questions and arrived at a certain conclusion, now is most certainly the time to do so because "the days are evil" (Eph.5:16, NIV) and you may soon find yourself in a situation that demands instant reaction, not allowing time for serious contemplation. If a murderer or rapist enters your house clearly intend on harming someone, you won't have time to debate with yourself. So get these matters resolved. Your life, and the lives of your family, may depend on your knowing what you will do. They too will need to know how to react and what you expect of them. I am certainly using my military training to good use in case I should ever need it. And if you insist on staying in the cities, there is no way you can realistically avoid these questions, for then you will absolutely have to be armed and be prepared to kill or be killed. Better by far not to box yourself into that corner, don't you think?


    Consider this, in conclusion. 84 per cent of the American public, from both the right (Tea Party) and the left (Occupy Movement), believe that the élites live by a different set of rules and laws than ordinary people. The statistical positibility of an armed revolt, should the voters be cheated by ballot manipulation (which we know is going on) is therefore very, very high, if the legitimate winner is denied his laurels. So think these things over prayerfully and come to a determined resolution.


    [1] Wikipedia, The Priest (1994)

    Comments From Readers

    [1] "Lev's commentary on this was very well balanced and well thought out. Thanks" (RH, USA, 10 November 2016)

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