Should Christians kill? By Elmar Nass for The Christian Post
The current war in Ukraine reignites the debate over whether Christians should be pacificists or if they have a responsibility to fight and therefore defend themselves. Christian pacifists consider fighting a betrayal of the message of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which is deeply rooted in our social morality and remains the ultimate reference of Christian moral judgment. On the other hand, responsibility ethics dictate that the use of force is justified when used in self-defense.
Pacifism versus responsibility – who can rightly refer to Jesus and who is wrong? This question falls short. Paradoxical as it may sound: We need both.
From the perspective of Christian pacificism, God is peace. Since every human being bears the dignity of being created in God’s image, the violent killing of a human being is always a violation of dignity. War is always evil. Christian pacifists are therefore convinced: No violence can be legitimized, not even when we or our families are attacked. Jesus preached peace, not war. The mandate to love our enemies even suggests that we break the spiral of violence by a love of overcoming enmity, following the example of Martin Luther King, Jr.
However, others possess a different perspective. Their view is de-escalation and overcoming enmity only work if the other person does not kill me first. The Sermon on the Mount cannot be the ultimate standard of peace when facing death. From this follows the Christian tradition of just or justified war: the use of force as the last means of defense, which is also legitimate under international law.
In the end, it seems to me that the responsibility position is more plausible. If a Ukrainian soldier kills a Russian soldier, that may not be morally acceptable according to the Sermon on the Mount, but it can be an excusable evil from the point of view of responsibility ethics.