How should we interpret Biblical passages that advocate violence?

Question: How should we interpret Biblical passages that advocate violence?


Rick Warren: Well I have no doubt in the Bible that the Bible tells us about places that there were violence. And I think many times it’s reporting it, not advocating it.

I do know that sometimes God told the Jewish nation to go to war. There’s no doubt about that. It’s very clear.

Now I respect people who disagree with me, but personally I don’t think the Bible teaches pacifism. I think the Bible teaches that there are some things worth dying for. I think to protect my wife and children, are worth dying for. I think the Bible teaches to protect freedom. Freedom of speech is worth dying for. And there are some things that you are to go to war for. So I’m not a pacifist.

I do respect those who believe that position based on what Christ said and what others have said. But to me there is the concept of the just war. And the Bible tells us that you cannot negotiate with evil; that evil has to be stopped. It has to be resisted. That you have to stop it.

Hitler was not going to stop until somebody stopped him. And so I do not believe the pacifist approach on an international level works. I do believe it works in interpersonal relationships. I think the Bible tells me between me and you, I’m to turn the other cheek. That’s a personal morality. But the Bible gives governments the right to administer justice.

If everybody just turned the other cheek, we wouldn’t need jails. We wouldn’t need police. A woman gets raped, she turns the other cheek. That’s not what that’s saying. That’s saying between you and me, I can make a choice to not retaliate, to not be hate filled. But it doesn’t mean that nations or cities don’t have the right to punish offenders. In fact they’re given that ordinance by God.


Question: What about passages that advocate the death sentence?


Rick Warren: Yeah. You know I don’t understand it.

I’ve got a whole lot of questions I’m going to ask when I get to heaven.

And as Mark Twain said, it’s not the parts that I don’t understand that bother me in the Bible. It’s the parts I do understand.

Because when God says, “Do everything without complaining,” well that’s a hard one. When the Bible says, “Do not worry,” well that’s a hard one. When the Bible says, “When you’re treated misfairly, bless the people who persecute you.” Well, I understand that and it’s hard.

So here’s the thing that I think is very important for people to understand. You don’t have to have all your doubts answered in order to become a believer. If somebody told me that I would have become a believer so much sooner. I wish I had now because of the benefits. But for a long time, I thought I got to figure out do I really believe that God created the world in six days, or 600 days, or six million days? Did this happen here?

In other words, trying to figure out every single question: Why did Jesus do that? Was this miracle; what’s the reason for that?

What I discovered is you don’t have to understand everything in order to enjoy it. I don’t understand internal combustion – really how it works. I don’t understand what makes a car drive. I could never repair a car, but it doesn’t stop me from driving a car. I don’t understand the chemistry of digestion. It doesn’t stop me from eating a steak. I’ve learned that I can enjoy something without understanding how it works. I don’t know how right now I can be talking; sitting in a room in New York City and somebody is going to be able to watch it in Beijing, China over a thing called the Internet. And they’re going to say, “I don’t understand how that happens.” And how that right now there are radio and television waves going through my mind and through my body, but I still turn on a TV and enjoy it.


Recorded on: December 11, 2007


The Bible teaches that there are some things worth dying for.

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