Biblical and Early Church Thoughts on War, Violence, Peace and Love

The Old Testament is full of the message that God wants to see a world full of peace and justice. The Old Testament prophets often see the future Kingdom of God as a kingdom of peace.

Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 34v14

The Prophet Isaiah said that the Messiah would bring peace and justice to the world. Isaiah calls him “The Prince of Peace”:

“And he will be called a Wonderful Counsellor, mighty God, everlasting father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.”

Isaiah 9:6-7

The Prophet Micah looks forward to a time when God’s rule is established. God’s kingdom will be one of peace.

“They will beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more.”

Micah 4:3

“You shall not murder.”

Exodus 10:13

Christians could use these verses to show that violence is never acceptable. Peace is a feature of the Kingdom of God, and God wants all people to live in peace and justice.

The teaching and example of Jesus

Jesus taught that the right response to aggression is love, not hate.

“Do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Matthew 5:39

“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

Matthew 5:44

“Blessed are the peacemakers”

Matthew 5:9

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.”

John 14v27

When Jesus was arrested, he would not let his disciples use violence to prevent his arrest:

“Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who live by the sword will die by the sword.’ Enough of this, stop it!”

Luke 22:49-51

Christians who try to follow Jesus’ example might say that because Jesus would not allow people to use violence to defend him, then violence is wrong, and that peaceful methods should be used.

Other New Testament writers followed Jesus’ teaching

Saint Paul

“ If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge, instead let God’s anger do it. If your enemies are hungry, feed them. Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good.”

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts."

Colossians 3:15

Do not overcome evil by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12v21

Saint Peter

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing….”

1 Peter 3:9

AGAPE should be shown unconditionally to everyone - family, friends, strangers or enemies. Jesus taught love, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation. He said love and forgiveness was the way to overcome hatred. For many Christians, how can loving someone include killing them in the war?

The sanctity of life - All people are made in the image of God, and loved by God (Genesis 1). This suggests that war is wrong, because it involves taking away a life that has been planned, made, and loved by God.


More Verses:

"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart...

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.Gen 5:5,6,11

"...they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him (Jesus). And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village." From Luke 9.

Marcellus, ?-298 A.D. 

“I threw down my arms for it was not seemly that a Christian man, who renders military service to the Lord Christ, should render it by earthly injuries.” “It is not lawful for a Christian to bear arms for any earthly consideration.” 

Ignatius of Antioch, approx. 35-110 A.D.

“Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, both in heaven and earth, is brought to an end.”

Irenaeus, approx. 180 A.D.

“Christians have changed their swords and their lances into instruments of peace, and they know not now how to fight.” 

Tertullian, 155-230 A.D.

“But now inquiry is being made concerning these issues. First, can any believer enlist in the military? Second, can any soldier, even those of the rank and file or lesser grades who neither engage in pagan sacrifices nor capital punishment, be admitted into the church? No on both counts—for there is no agreement between the divine sacrament and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot serve two masters—God and Caesar…But how will a Christian engage in war—indeed, how will a Christian even engage in military service during peacetime—without the sword, which the Lord has taken away? For although soldiers had approached John to receive instructions and a centurion believed, this does not change the fact that afterward, the Lord, by disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.”  

“Under no circumstances should a true Christian draw the sword.” 

Origen of Alexandria, 185-254 A.D.

“We have come in accordance with the counsel of Jesus to cut down our arrogant swords of argument into plowshares, and we convert into sickles the spears we formerly used in fighting. For we no longer take swords against a nation, nor do we learn anymore to make war, having become sons of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our Lord.” 

Hippolytus, 170-236 A.D.

“A soldier, being inferior in rank to God, must not kill anyone. If ordered to, he must not carry out the order, nor may he take an oath (sacramentum) to do so. If he does not accept this, let him be dismissed from the church. Anyone bearing the power of the sword, or any city magistrate, who wears purple, let him cease from wearing it at once or be dismissed from the church. Any catechumen or believer who wishes to become a soldier must be dismissed from the church because they have despised God.”

“A person who has accepted the power of killing, or a soldier, may never be received [into the church] at all.” 

Cyprian, approx. 250 A.D.

“[Christians] are not allowed to kill, but they must be ready to be put to death themselves… it is not permitted the guiltless to put even the guilty to death.” “God wished iron to be used for the cultivation of the earth, and therefore it should not be used to take human life.”

Ambrose, 338-397 A.D.

“The soldiers of Christ require neither arms nor spears of iron.” “The servants of God do not rely for their protection on material defenses but on the divine Providence.” 

Theophilus of Antioch, approx. 412 A.D.

Say to those that hate and curse you, you are our brothers! 

Tatian, 2nd Century A.D.

I do not wish to be a ruler. I do not strive for wealth. I refuse offices of military command. 

Articles on Christian Non-resistance

Audio Books

More to follow...

George Fox Sayings

Organisations Working for Peace

More Thoughts on Peace

"War and Violence: It was the belief of the early Christians, and also the testimony of the Society of Friends, that war and fighting are forbidden to the subjects of Christ's peaceable reign. We too reject participation in war, whether offensive or defensive, along with activities that contribute to war, such as the making of weapons, and membership in or trading with military organizations. In the light of Christ's commandment to love our neighbors, including our enemies, we are to show respect for the life and well-being of all people and to refrain from doing violence to anyone, with or without the sanction of civil government. If wronged we should not indulge the desire for retaliation, since Christ teaches us to return good for evil." 

(Friends of Truth / Glenside Friends Meeting, Christian Conduct).



The devil is the author of all war

The Crimes of our rulers...

The Love of Peace