The Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) often ask Christians why they are involved in the politics of this
world.  Many times JWs will point this out as “proof” that they are the only true Christians on
earth.  Of particular interest to the JWs is the fact that at times Catholics on one side of a war
have killed Catholics on the opposite side of a war.  For example, they write the following in
their Watchtower magazine:

"For example, Jesus said of his followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of
the world.” (John 17:14) However, many professed Christians are deeply involved in the
political affairs of this world, even being involved in bloody wars. Rather than conform to Bible
standards, many people would wish the Bible to conform to their own standards." - December
15, 1996 Watchtower page 7

Does true Christianity require that one refrain from participating in just wars?

The JWs will maintain that the wars of the Israelites are all just wars because God was guiding
them.  This is consistent with what Christians also believe.  What is interesting is a certain civil
war that Jehovah Himself approved of even though it resulted in Israelites killing other
Israelites.  In Judges Chapter 19-21, is the story of a concubine that was raped and murdered by
a group of men who belonged to the tribe of Benjamin.  The leaders of the tribe of Benjamin
would not give these men over to the people of Israel for justice.  This resulted in a civil war that
almost destroyed the tribe of Benjamin.  Each time the people of Israel asked Jehovah if they
should fight their Israelite brothers of the tribe of Benjamin, the answer was yes.  Obviously the
issue of bringing these men to justice was so important to Jehovah that he approved of this
civil war where Israelites fought Israelites.

The JWs response to this may be that since the time of Christ, Christians are forbidden from
participating in wars.  However, the New Testament scriptures are silent on this issue.  In fact,
John the Baptist states the following to those Roman Soldiers that approached him:

“Also, those in military service would ask him: “What shall we also do?” And he said to them:
“Do not harass anybody or accuse anybody falsely, but be satisfied with YOUR provisions.”-
Luke 3:14 New World Translation

In addition, the JWs will not allow individuals who are involved in military service from
becoming a member of their religious organization.  Now, the JWs claim to be the reestablished
true Christian organization on earth patterned after the Church of the Apostles.  If the JWs are
patterned after the Church of the Apostles, the question becomes did the Apostles require
soldiers who wanted to become Christians to leave their military assignments before becoming
Christian?  Here is the answer from the JWs’ own Bible:

“Now in Caes•a•re'a there was a certain man named Cornelius, an army officer of the Italian
band, as it was called, a devout man and one fearing God together with all his household, and
he made many gifts of mercy to the people and made supplication to God continually. Just
about the ninth hour of the day he saw plainly in a vision an angel of God come in to him and
say to him: “Cornelius!” The man gazed at him and, becoming frightened, said: “What is it,
Lord?” He said to him: “Your prayers and gifts of mercy have ascended as a remembrance
before God. So now send men to Jop'pa and summon a certain Simon who is surnamed Peter.
This man is being entertained by a certain Simon, a tanner, who has a house by the sea.” As
soon as the angel that spoke to him had left, he called two of his house servants and a devout
soldier from among those who were in constant attendance upon him, and he related
everything to them and dispatched them to Jop'pa.” Acts 10:1-8

Notice that Cornelius is an army officer.  When Peter arrives does Peter ever make an issue of
Cornelius being in the army?  Notice the following:

“On the day after that he entered into Caes•a•re'a. Cornelius, of course, was expecting them
and had called together his relatives and intimate friends. As Peter entered, Cornelius met him,
fell down at his feet and did obeisance to him. But Peter lifted him up, saying: “Rise; I myself am
also a man.”  And as he conversed with him he went in and found many people assembled, and
he said to them: “YOU well know how unlawful it is for a Jew to join himself to or approach a
man of another race; and yet God has shown me I should call no man defiled or unclean. Hence
I came, really without objection, when I was sent for. Therefore I inquire the reason that YOU
have sent for me.” Accordingly Cornelius said: “Four days ago counting from this hour I was
praying in my house at the ninth hour, when, look! a man in bright raiment stood before me and
said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been favorably heard and your gifts of mercy have been
remembered before God. Send, therefore, to Jop'pa and call for Simon, who is surnamed Peter.
This man is being entertained in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ Therefore I at once
sent to you, and you did well in coming here. And so at this time we are all present before God
to hear all the things you have been commanded by Jehovah to say.”   At this Peter opened his
mouth and said: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man
that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him. He sent out the word to the sons
of Israel to declare to them the good news of peace through Jesus Christ: this One is Lord of all
[others]. YOU know the subject that was talked about throughout the whole of Ju•de'a, starting
from Gal'i•lee after the baptism that John preached, namely, Jesus who was from Naz'a•reth,
how God anointed him with holy spirit and power, and he went through the land doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the Devil; because God was with him. And we are witnesses
of all the things he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem; but they also did away
with him by hanging him on a stake. God raised this One up on the third day and granted him to
become manifest, not to all the people, but to witnesses appointed beforehand by God, to us,
who ate and drank with him after his rising from the dead. Also, he ordered us to preach to the
people and to give a thorough witness that this is the One decreed by God to be judge of the
living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone putting faith in him gets
forgiveness of sins through his name.”  While Peter was yet speaking about these matters the
holy spirit fell upon all those hearing the word.  And the faithful ones that had come with Peter
who were of those circumcised were amazed, because the free gift of the holy spirit was being
poured out also upon people of the nations.  For they heard them speaking with tongues and
magnifying God. Then Peter responded: “Can anyone forbid water so that these might not be
baptized who have received the holy spirit even as we have?” With that he commanded them to
be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they requested him to remain for some days.-
Acts 10:24-48

Notice that Peter NEVER makes an issue of Cornelius being an army officer.  In fact, Cornelius
receives the gift of the Holy Spirit and is even baptized into the Christian faith while being an
army officer.

How the Early Christians Viewed the Human Governing Authorities

St. Paul makes it clear that the human governing authorities receive their position from God and
that Christians should be obedient to such authority.  The JWs agree with this position while
also believing that the human governing authorities are agents of the devil.  

Notice how St. Paul describes the situation:

“Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by
God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. 2 Therefore he who
opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have
taken a stand against it will receive judgment to themselves. 3 For those ruling are an object of
fear, not to the good deed, but to the bad. Do you, then, want to have no fear of the authority?
Keep doing good, and you will have praise from it; 4 for it is God’s minister to you for your
good. But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear: for it is not without purpose that it bears the
sword; for it is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath upon the one practicing what is
bad.  5 There is therefore compelling reason for YOU people to be in subjection, not only on
account of that wrath but also on account of [YOUR] conscience. 6 For that is why YOU are also
paying taxes; for they are God’s public servants constantly serving this very purpose. 7 Render
to all their dues, to him who [calls for] the tax, the tax; to him who [calls for] the tribute, the
tribute; to him who [calls for] fear, such fear; to him who [calls for] honor, such honor.” Romans
13:1-7 New World Translation

Notice that St. Paul refers to the human governing authorities as God’s minister and servants
who have the right to express their wrath on the one practicing what is bad.  You might ask
your JW friend if they would call a police officer to assist them in a situation with a criminal and
if they would be grateful to a police officer that may have used force to free them from this
situation.  The answer will probably be yes.  If this is the case, then the JW has just said that
they approve of force for the protection of the innocent and this is a just reason for entire
nations to go to war.

Love Others as Christ Loved Us

The number one commandment of the Christian message is to love others as Christ has loved
us.  A particularly powerful scripture is the admonition that St. Paul gives to Christian husbands:

“Husbands, continue loving YOUR wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and
delivered up himself for it,”-Ephesians 5:25 New World Translation

Notice that a Christian husband is called upon by the Lord, following the example of Christ, to
give up his life in service to his wife.  This means that there could be a time when a husband
may have to put his life in danger to physically defend his wife from some assailant.  In other
words, a husband is morally obligated to do all he can to defend his wife from harm.  Of course
using physical force would be a last resort for a Christian but if there is no other way to save
one’s wife, then lethal force would not only be appropriate, an argument could be made that it is
an obligation to do so if one wanted to truly fulfill their Christian role as a Husband.

Likewise, Christians are called by God to love our neighbors as ourselves.  This means that
Christians are obligated to do what they can to protect the innocent from harm.  (See Matthew
Chapter 25)  Sometimes this can mean having to use physical force even lethal force to protect
the innocent.

Furthermore, as Romans 13 demonstrates those who receive governing authority by God are
obligated by God to provide security to their subjects and using force is one of the tools God
has given them to use in providing this force.

The Christian Tradition of a Just War

Since the time of St. Augustine the “just war doctrine” has been a part of Christian thought as
Christians have become more of a majority religion.  (
Link to Just War Doctrine)  The Catechism
of the Catholic Church emphasizes that resorting to war must be a last resort and that all other
avenues to resolve the conflict should be exhausted.  Notice the following from the Catechism
of the Catholic Church paragraphs 2307-2317:

2307 The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the
evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer
and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.

2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.
However, "as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the
necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-
defense, once all peace efforts have failed."105
2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous
consideration. the gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral
legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting,
grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. the
power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine.
The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of
those who have responsibility for the common good.
2310 Public authorities, in this case, have the right and duty to impose on citizens the
obligations necessary for national defense.
Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and
freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common
good of the nation and the maintenance of peace.
2311 Public authorities should make equitable provision for those who for reasons of
conscience refuse to bear arms; these are nonetheless obliged to serve the human community
in some other way.
2312 The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during
armed conflict. "The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that
everything becomes licit between the warring parties."
2313 Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated
humanely.   Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are
crimes, as are the orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to
excuse those who carry them out. Thus the extermination of a people, nation, or ethnic minority
must be condemned as a mortal sin. One is morally bound to resist orders that command
2314 "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas
with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal
condemnation." A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who
possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons - to
commit such crimes.
2315 The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring
potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace
among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. the arms
race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them.
Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy
populations;  it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for
conflict and increases the danger of escalation.
2316 The production and the sale of arms affect the common good of nations and of the
international community. Hence public authorities have the right and duty to regulate them. the
short-term pursuit of private or collective interests cannot legitimate undertakings that promote
violence and conflict among nations and compromise the international juridical order.
2317 Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust, and pride raging
among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to
overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war:
Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until Christ
comes again; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself
will be vanquished and these words will be fulfilled: "they shall beat their swords into
plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more."

Have the JWs Always Been Neutral?

Interestingly, while the JWs claim that they are the only true Christians on earth and use their
neutrality in politics and non-participation in wars as proof, the fact of the matter is that JWs
have not always been neutral.

For example, the Bible Students (what the JWs were known as prior to 1931), actually taught
that there was no scriptural prohibition against military service.  Here is what was published in
the Watchtower:

“Notice there is no command in the Scriptures against military service.  Obedience to a draft
would remind us of our Lord’s words, “If any man compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”
The government may compel marching or drilling, but cannot compel you to kill the foe.  You
need not be a good marksman.” August 1st 1898 Watchtower page 231

Responding to the JWs’ Criticisms of Just Wars

When responding to the JWs always do so in a spirit of mildness.  Never get angry even when
the JWs’ responses might be rather offensive.  Emphasize that war is a terrible thing and that it
should only be used as a last resort but that there are some situations where the decision to go
to war is just.

Also tell your JW friends that you look forward to the time when Jesus returns and war will be
done away with in the new heavens and new earth. (See Revelation 21:1-4)
Jehovah's Witnesses and Just Wars
By Jeffery Schwehm