Although the Bible commands us not to kill (Exodus 20:13), it also gives at least three exceptions to this command, or you might say three situations where the taking of another's life is not killing in the biblical sense.
- A murderer is to have his life taken. God told Noah, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man" (Genesis 9:6). Capital punishment is God's plan in this case.
- An exception is made for self-protection. Exodus 22:2 states, "If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him." If you took a life to protect your own life or the lives of others, God accepts that as a proper cause.
- War is the final exception. About the same time that God was giving the commandment to not kill, He was also numbering "all that are able to go forth to war in Israel" (Numbers 1:3). The Bible allows for the killing of enemy soldiers in war. Even Jesus spoke of going to war as a natural condition on this earth (Luke 14:31). Paul speaks of a ruler as "a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" (Romans 13:4). This would include going to war.
However, even though God allows for war and even though Christians are not told that they cannot go to war, that does not mean that Christians have to blindly follow every war without consideration. Peter said, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). This shows us that there are times when the laws of man go against the law of God. If a Christian knows that a war goes against God, he has the right to refuse to fight it in obedience to a higher power. However, he should be extremely careful in his decision and realize that he will have to pay the consequences no matter what they are. It is not a matter of whether or not we agree with the war. It must go much deeper than that. The war must go against another clear command of God. Only then do we have a right to refuse to fight.