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Bible Q

Is it OK to kill if it saves lives?

A Christian author once wrote the following, which may be useful to start this answer with:

The question is sometimes asked: “What would you do if you saw someone attacking a member of your family?”

A simple answer to this question is by no means easy. Shield the person attacked? Restrain the attacker, using as little force as possible? It is difficult to know what action one might take in these circumstances. But the Bible says very comfortingly: “God . . . will not let you be tempted beyond your strength.” (1 Corinthians 10: 13.)1

Currently, God has asked followers of his son to refrain from killing other people. The following passages directly refer to this, or necessarily imply it:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ {39} But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Mat. 5:38-39)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love, your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mat. 5:43-44)

…one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. {52} Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Mat. 26:51-52)
Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. (Rom. 12:18, NLT)

…the fruit of the Spirit is … gentleness (Gal. 5:22-23)

Pursue … gentleness (1Tim. 6:11)

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14)

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them… (Mat. 7:12)

There isn’t an allowance for killing people, even if it saves other people’s lives. The example in Mat. 26:51-52, from the Lord Jesus’ own life, is perhaps particularly instructive: here someone attempts to kill a violent person in order to protect another person, the Lord Jesus; Jesus stops this, though, and even heals the violent person (Luke 22:52).

We are asked to trust God in situations like this, knowing that he is wise and will do the right thing, whatever that might be (Mat. 26:53; Rom. 12:19; 1Cor. 10:13).



1. Peter Watkins, War and Politics: the Christian’s duty (pub: Christadelphian Bible Mission). Available to download here (.doc).

7 Replies to “Is it OK to kill if it saves lives?”

    • The cities of refuge and the avenger of blood spoken of in Joshua were part of the law of Moses. Our civil law does not charge the nearest relative to kill the person who killed someone, and so I don’t think there is any reason to break our civil law to follow the law of Moses which has been fulfilled by Christ.

  1. If there is not an allowance to kill people, why do God command his people to kill (Deuteronomy 7:1-2 just to mention a few)? If there is not an allowance to kill people, then God is breaking his own commandments. If you read the Bible more carefully and completely, God does allow killing another person in self defense, such as in a thief breaking into the house in darkness (Exodus 22:2-3), saying that the person have no blood guilt. And what about capital punishment during biblical times?

    As for the Bible verses you quoted, they are either speaking about revenge, love, Mat 26 Jesus was the one who told them to bring swords, peace, or gentleness, which is not the same as pacifism. What God was speaking against here is unjustified and uncontrolled anger. God’s commandments, “You shall not kill” should be more correctly read as “You shall not murder”. Whereas killing is taking other people’s life, murder means the unjustified act of killing.

    Let me give you two test cases.

    1. Say you are a police office with a gun, who’s witnessing a criminal with a rifle shooting at people, and it’s not possible to restrain him. Would you try to shield other people or talk him out of it, knowing that it wont stop him and you will most probably be just another victim and he continue killing other people? Or would you take out your gun, shoot the criminal, and stop the killing then and there?

    2. An evil ruler came to power and start invading other countries around it, massacring people (something like the Nazi Germany in WW2). Do you think it is sinful for people to take arms and join the army to try to stop the evil ruler’s army?

    • hello. i hope that in this attempt, i’ll be able to answer some, if not all, of your questions.

      true, there are texts in the bible that God did command the slaughtering of people. there are even texts that reveal God’s vengeance being delivered first-hand – by God Himself, and His angels. like the antedeluvian flood and the burning of sodom and gomorah for example. though God is strict to mark iniquity and to punish transgression, He takes no delight in vengeance. the work of destruction is a “strange work” to Him who is infinite in love.

      now one should understand that the israelites from the time of exodus towards their conquering and domineering canaan, they were lead in a theocratic government – led by God Himself – whose wills are usually let known to the people through moses, the high priest, and even the voice of God (exodus 19:9 & c.20). therefore having God rule – the God who is not only omnipotent (all powerful), but is also omniscient (alll of wisdom) and omnipresent (always present from beginning to end) – and pronounce the destruction of a person or a nation, must not have been done without Him thinking it thoroughly and without practicing foresight. so He mustn’t have done things such as killing rashly. that would be thoroughly opposite of His character which He names of Himself as a God of love.

      looking back at the beginning of sin, had God killed lucifer after he endangered the fidelity of the other angels in His government, God would have gained angels in His side not because they were true to Him, but because they were afraid of Him. if God killed adam and eve immediately after sinning, sin wouldn’t be seen as what it is – its wage is the wage of sin is suffering, mourning and death.

      and now notice that God, even though how omnipresent He is, He didn’t said immediately to Adam ‘thou have sinned’ but He asked, “where art thou?”, “who told thee that thou wast naked? hast thou eaten fo the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (genesis 3: 9,11) God was showing mercy by letting the first couple know what they have done, why they have sinned, and what should they have done that could have prevented them from sinning.

      im telling you that God did likewise to the other nations before pronouncing their extinction through prophecies and by the ancient israelites’ sword. sodom and gomorah as by what the ancient writings say, were a fruitful land. and so was the kingdom of tyre and egypt. they have plenty of things that they may find to reflect upon God and thank Him. they were prosperous under the Provider’s grace. but what did they do? they turned to their idols and defied God. thus they were destroyed.

      God called abraham from the city of ur – known to be also practicing idolatry. abraham, who only knows that he shouldn’t be bowing down to an idol but to Someone far greater than a graven image, has to be put away from the place where he and maybe the rest of his family may be eventually influenced. so is also the need for a nation such as israel to rid itself of neighbors who defy the Living God she worships. thus the divine edict of the “stiff-necked” nations – who are adamant of their religion.

      but when God after calling abraham out of the city of ur, made a covenant with him – that He’ll make his children as many as the stars in the heavens and as the sands of the sea (genesis 22:17) “and in thy seed shall ALL the nations of the earth be BLESSED; because THOU HAST OBEYED MY VOICE” genesis 22:18. in the theocratic government such as that of the ancient israelites at that time, God has blessed israel, and the other nations, seeing how much israel prospered especially in the good times of king david and solomon, were also blessed by God. many were converted into the ancient religion such as the hittites and the gittites to name a few (2 samuel) and they live peacefully with israel.

      so the “strange work” of God in inflicting death to people wouldn’t have been necessary had they been true in following His commandments.

      as for facing impossibilities like what you’ve put above – i have no idea how a mysterious God will solve that. but i know He will. the israelites WALKED around the IMPREGNABLE WALLS of jericho. did they cause it to fall? no. it was God in His mysterious ways.

      • Thank you for your answer. However, the point I am trying to raise is that the original article’s argument was invalid because most of the verses does not directly relate to killing, or was taken out of context to justify his argument that there is no allowance for killing other people. I am not for killing, I think it’s wrong, but I do find some verse that I think justify the taking of lives of others.

        1. That God himself, however hard it is just as you said, ordered the killing of other nations, that means in God’s eyes there are justifiable killings.

        2. God himself, even ordered the killing of Israelites when they turned against him
        3. Abraham himself gathered an army to rescue Lot, and God did not rebuke him.

        4. Exodus 22:2-3 justifies a person who killed a thief who broke into his house in the darkness

        5. Israel and Judah fought wars to defend themselves against incursions.

        I do not think that Christianity is a religion that teaches pacifism. There are justified killings, but it is not a decision that should be taken lightly.

        • i agree that Christianity is not a religion that teaches pacifism. otherwise, Christ wouldn’t have had himself crucified.

          but let me go back to the topic. the Bible does have many accounts that the taking of lives are justifiable. but we wouldn’t have had known it was justifiable until the Bible said that God allowed it or He had commanded it. we knew that what happened was okay because God assured us through the Spirit-inspired writers.

          i mentioned theocracy because God was deciding and acting first hand. israel didn’t march for war to jericho until God commanded them to. king david didn’t do battles or defended his kingdom until there was a go signal from God.

          but today’s different. the humanity of today is so debase that God couldn’t make a government like He did before on the ancient israelites. today, because of our increasing perverseness, what allowed us to hear from God’s will is only through His still small voice. it is just so dangerous on deciding upon ourselves if we should end a person’s life or not, especially when we’re sandwiched in a critical situation that also involves other people’s lives. the Bible says we are not our own. if we are not our own, so are the other people’s lives are not ours.

          we do not need to wait for such critical things to happen to us before we can decide on such matters as ending a life. the Bible says that we need to look up to Jesus and have faith that He can do everything for us. EVERYTHING. i heard of a sermon once that faith is seeing what God sees. and that is seeing what God sees in you, which you are a sinner and you just can’t do anything. that faith is seeing what God sees in other people, which just like babies and those who’ve gone mental, are helpless. and faith – seeing what God sees in the whole world as irredeemable that only through Jesus, everyone who chooses to be saved, could be saved.
          if there should be justified killings, then let God justify it on His own – let His own hand guide it. we know just a surface of what justice means. the rest will be known until God let’s it so. am saying that should we be put in such a situation, we still need to pray for His intervention – whatever form it should be – and that it will bless us. not to condemn us of guilt because we killed someone. not to exalt ourselves for saving our necks and other people’s lives. but that we have glorified God. for the Bible says that we should glorify God in whatever things we do, say, and think. and that’s it.

        • Surely every one of those examples are from the Old Testament, while every one of the passages cited in the answer are from the New Testament? That might suggest something…

          It is definitely true at a national level for Israel that killing was permitted in wars ordained by God or when commanded by God. However, the New Testament (and the commands cited in the answer) are more about individual actions and individual responses than national responses. God is working with individuals.

          I would agree that there are justifiable killings in the eyes of God, and particularly that Christians are to kill if ordered by God (and it certainly sounds like at the time of Christ’s return Christians will be involved in his army). However, I don’t see any particular directives in the New Testament suggesting self-defence is permissible. Acting to save others by killing sounds like a good idea, but again I’m not sure it is right or permitted by Jesus’ teachings. While it is true Jesus told his followers to carry swords at one particular time, he also rebuked them for using those swords to try and protect him.