Turn, Turn, Kill?

Turn, Turn, Kill? February 22, 2019

There’s a famous song written by Pete Seeger, yet popularized by The Byrds way back in 1965, called “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

You’ve probably heard it before. It takes the words from Ecclesiastes, chapter 3 and sets them to a groovy tune and says: 

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up…

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

It’s fascinating to me how often I hear Christians refer to this verse of scripture as a way to justify violence. 

“It says in the Bible, ‘there’s a time for war and a time for peace; a time to kill and a time to heal’, so obviously God makes room for violence when it’s necessary.”

But is that really so?

I would argue that there is a time for war and a time for peace, but that Jesus (our Lord) has established for us what “time” it is now. 

Jesus showed up and announced that the Kingdom of God had come. Then he gave us – his followers – a very specific command: “Love one another.”

Next, Jesus commanded us not to hate our enemies, but to love them. 

Then, he rebuked Peter for using a sword by saying, “Put that away! Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.”

Then he told Pilate “My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were my disciples would fight.”

So while there may very well be a “time to kill” and a “time for war”, Jesus has made it very clear that we are now living in a “time of peace” and “a time to love”. 

The question is: Are we following Jesus?

One last thought: What if our Judgment Day before the Lord Jesus consists of Him calling our enemies forward to ask them if we loved them as He commanded us to do?

What would they say?

How would we defend our lack of obedience?

The time for love is now. We are in a season of love, not a season of war or hate. 

Let’s get busy loving.


Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.

His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.

Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. 

BONUS: Want to unlock exclusive content including blog articles, short stories, music, podcasts, videos and more? Visit my Patreon page.


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  • Your posts always so thought provoking. How the hell do you follow/get updates of your new posts without signing up for all Patheos sites? Dumb techie!!

  • soter phile

    Syria, Afghanistan, home-grown terrorist arrested yesterday, 63 million abortions since Roe v Wade, opioid crisis…
    Are you sure this is a time of loving & peace?

    My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians in the West. To the person inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone…Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit. The topic of the lecture: a Christian attitude toward violence. The thesis: we should not retaliate since God is perfect noncoercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die. And as one watches it die, one will do well to reflect about many other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.

    – Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace

  • Iain Lovejoy

    “Syria, Afghanistan, home-grown terrorist arrested yesterday, 63 million abortions since Roe v Wade, opioid crisis…
    Are you sure this is a time of loving & peace?”
    So, violent times are times for Christians to practice more violence?

  • Old me

    It all depends if you want to follow Jesus when the rubber hits the road. I am not trying to be smart, I just believe what Jesus said.

  • soter phile

    Suffering for doing good? Sure.
    Not taking revenge because Christ didn’t with me? Sure.
    Standing idly by while neighbors or children suffer? No, Jesus never said that.

    Love of neighbor entails defense of neighbor – especially the most vulnerable.

  • It’s very poor hermeneutics to apply Jesus’ sayings to government. Jesus was speaking to individuals on how to relate to other individuals. We also have to consider that Jesus wrote the Old Testament, that is, considering that Jesus is God and God wrote the OT.

    Neither does Jesus take away the right of self defense. Jesus, Jesus said love our enemies, but he also told us to love our families. Why should we love people who would murder us or our family more than we love our families?

  • Nonviolence is not “doing nothing”. ON the contrary: Nonviolence will get you killed for doing something other than violence.

  • soter phile

    So police officers are wrong to use force to defend the innocent?
    WW2 vets should have simply put flowers in Panzer tank cannons?

    I respect the Amish & Mennonites – but I utterly disagree with them.
    As I said before, love of neighbor entails defense of neighbor.

    YHWH Sabaoth’s army will eventually beat swords into plowshares,
    but you’re advocating an over-realized eschatology, Keith.

  • soter phile

    a) no, the challenge was to the author’s contention that this is a time of peace.

    b) interestingly enough, Miroslav Volf (as one who saw genocide in his own native land) is pointing out that God’s ultimate end to violence is the only reason we do not have to take revenge now. But that is not the same thing as extreme pacifism.

    c) to be clear: I’m not advocating for a Crusade-type, theocratic state. I am advocating for appropriate God-ordained (secular) authorities to use violence as need be to ensure peace (e.g., Rom.13; Augustine’s Just War theory; etc.). And those authorities will answer to God for abusing such means (if not also other worldly governments in the mean time; e.g., Habakkuk). Similarly, Christians must “obey God, not men” (Acts 5:29) when the secular government is at odds with God’s command.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The article says that this is a time for Christians to engage in peace, and that the fact that Ecclesiastes refers to a “time for war” is not a justification for Christians to engage in violence. It does not say that the world is in fact at peace: you cannot have read it properly.
    Keith Giles advocates non violent action and resistance in the face of evil, oppression and violence, rather than Christians engaging in violence themselves. In general I agree with him on this, but, unlike him, I do think that there may be possibly vanishingly rare occasions when the use of force may be justified if no other way can be found to save lives. Just War theory does not BTW simply say that violence “as needs be” to ensure peace, but only the minimum necessary, under strict conditions when there is no other option available as a last resort.
    If you are correctly describing Volf’s theology it would seem largely contrary to God’s character as seen in Jesus, in that he seems to consider taking revenge a necessary and good thing, rather than, ad Jesus teaches, a sin. He portrays God as a jealous hypocrite who only condemns revenge because he wants to keep it all for himself.

  • soter phile

    you said: …only the minimum necessary, under strict conditions when there is no other option available as a last resort.
    Is that not “as needs be”? I guess to war-mongers it wouldn’t be…

    Keith said: We are in a season of love, not a season of war or hate.
    Jesus rather directly told the church to expect to be hated. He also rather clearly implied we are in spiritual warfare, a fact not lost on Paul (Eph.6).

    With Keith, that presses some of his assumptions – as I noted elsewhere on this page. I think he is advocating for an over-realized eschatology (beating all the swords into plowshares before the time has come).

    In regard to Volf, I think he’d take a rather large exception to the pejorative characterization you’ve given God here. Justice is God’s to take as the Judge. The state has been given limited, proximate authority in that regard. Jesus doesn’t teach that judgment is a sin, especially his role as Judge (but rather points at hypocrisy & judgmentalism as a sin – e.g., Mt.7:1-5). To that end, Volf’s major point in the quote above: it is precisely knowing that God will put an ultimate end to injustice that enables Christians not to feel it necessary to seek revenge in this life.

    Or to put it more succinctly: our interim non-violence is primarily due to the knowledge of that God will bring perfect justice. The cross is the most striking & paradoxical example of God’s character – holding mercy & justice together simultaneously.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    You confuse justice with revenge. I have no idea if Volf does because all I have of his ideas is what I am getting filtered through you. God says “love your enemies” not “hate your enemies but let me gratify that hatred for you by making them suffer myself”. That is not in the character of Jesus.
    God’s justice to the oppressed doesn’t consist of inflicting further suffering on the oppressor after they are dead, but of ending oppression, freeing the oppressed and restoring right relationships between people. Oppressed people want an end to oppression and suffering not the hollow (and unchristlike) satisfaction of knowing their enemies are eventually going to suffer to.

  • soter phile

    “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.”
    That verse is what I had in mind. I’m not confusing justice and revenge – but only with God is his vengeance perfectly just.

    Yes, go read Volf yourself. It seems like you want to caricature him (as I’m increasingly feeling you attempt to do with me).

    Jesus is Judge. It’s a theme of the NT. It’s something he says many times. He will bring justice. He will bring vengeance – but there is mercy for those who stand under the shelter of the cross, where the justice we deserved fell on him instead. That is the character of Christ – without compromising his justice or mercy.

    you said: God’s justice to the oppressed doesn’t consist of inflicting further suffering on the oppressor after they are dead…
    if you would have added a “solely” after consist, we’d have been ok. as it is, the Bible directly contradicts you here. Jesus rather overtly speaks of Hell on much the opposite terms.

    you said: …not the hollow (and unchristlike) satisfaction of knowing their enemies are eventually going to suffer to.
    no, i’m not advocating some sort of divine schadenfreude or wanting ringside seats in hell. i’m merely pointing out the passages which many conveniently ignore when dismissing hell as a concept.

    no one talked about hell more than Jesus; but no one was more compassionate than Christ. as one dead theologian wrote: “no one should speak of hell without tears in his eyes.” such is the character of God: mercy & justice. but woe be unto the conservatives who only want to talk about hell, and woe be unto the ‘progressives’ who want to pretend hell doesn’t exist. one leads to a fear-based religion, the other to a “it’s God’s job to forgive” entitlement. Notably, neither seems capable of experiencing the terror followed by joy that so often accompanies an encounter with the living God in the Scriptures.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    You do love your proof texts, don’t you?
    The verse you quote is precisely an example of divine justice in operation, and nothing to do with hell.
    It is part of a long song in Deuteronomy 32 put into the mouth of Moses warning Israel that if in the future they are facing destruction and disaster they should recognise it as divine punishment and repent (The Hebrew might be better rendered “The punishment is from me.”) The song goes on to say that God will then turn his anger back on those afflicting Israel and restore the kingdom again. This is about God’s justice doing away with sin and restoring right relations, not tit-for-tat revenge, which God doesn’t do.

  • MHO it’s important to ask myself how is my now now. I have known violence … But not today. Today I feel the kingdom of love all around me. It was not always so. I am not afraid of the future that has not taken place. I’m not afraid of people who are violent that I am not around. Today I have been blessed with shalom. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d6be2369b2d4fe6cdd4ad25c757894395f67976447f144c2b76ef80fc1b737ce.jpg

  • I like this;

    /”time for war” is not a justification for Christians to engage in violence/

    … empathy precludes engaging in matching violence with a violent heart MHO. Where does empathy come from? In my experience that comes from experience experiencing the presence of a loving God as one is willing to be obedient to guidance and teaching. As time rolls on and Encounters with people in all sorts of situations stem I feel one learns to cherish shalom. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ddaf12824b27cbcae7005e54bf22c6c8e541132c2b5b7efa9fcb6bfffd7c81e1.jpg

  • I like this;

    /”time for war” is not a justification for Christians to engage in violence/

    … empathy precludes engaging in matching violence with a violent heart MHO. Where does empathy come from? In my experience that comes from experience experiencing the presence of a loving God as one is willing to be obedient to guidance and teaching. As time rolls on and Encounters with people in all sorts of situations stem I feel one learns to cherish shalom.


  • Eireanne Russ

    Not more. The same. As Jesus did on the cross and does today–when we allow Him to.

  • soter phile

    I love Scripture – because God is showing us who he is, despite our preconceived notions.
    I like that it disabuses me of my own false ideas, and rescues me from my own false kingdom.

    I can’t tell if you are claiming God doesn’t take vengeance (which the Scriptures say he does) or if – in order to avoid that notion – you are reducing my claim to tit-for-tat revenge (projecting human limitations?) instead of owning his justice absolutely holds us accountable.

    For believers, that’s a chastening in love (Heb.12);
    but for those outside the shelter of his grace –
    it’s disingenuous to say (as you did) that has nothing to do with hell.

    Yes, we are called to repent. Yes, God is just.
    Yes, on the cross he took what we deserve so we could get what only he deserves. Mercy.
    As one hymn writer said: on the cross, justice and mercy kiss.
    What would that justice be without his mercy? The wages of sin is…

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Let’s play this fun game again, shall we? I say one passage, Deuteronomy chapter 32 in this case, has nothing to do with a particular topic, hell, which it doesn’t, and then you tell me that I am wrong or “disingenuous” about what the original passage says because some different passage, in this case Hebrews 12, says something different, and so on ad infinitum.
    (Having checked, inevitably, Hebrews 12 has nothing to do with hell either, or indeed divine vengeance for sin at all, but I really can’t be bothered to play.)

  • Impossible! If I let someone murder me I show more love for the murderer and ignore the needs of my family.

  • soter phile

    Hebrews 12 says God disciplines those he loves.
    Chastening – as opposed to sending to Hell – is loving. That was the point.

    It’s not a game. Jesus said all of Scripture pointed to him.
    Hell is being separated from God’s love. Pick from the myriad of images Jesus used:
    Outside. In the dark. Unquenchable fire. Suffering. Weeping & gnashing of teeth. Forsaken.
    As Jn.3:17 said, whoever does not rest in him, “stands condemned already” –
    not by Christ, but by their own self-enslaving actions (Jn.8:34).

    I didn’t say every passage of the Bible is directly about Hell.
    But the point of the Bible is to lead us to relationship with God –
    and what do you call a life separated from that? The Bible consistently gives harsh imagery.

    Only to the degree that these things lead us to God… that’s what matters.
    If Hell is being outside his grace/love/benevolence… then yes, it all indirectly relates.

    But I’m not promoting a fear-based religion. I’m pointing out that Jesus talked more about Hell than anyone else in Scripture – and he loved more than anyone else.

    Until the addict admits he is addicted, he will never seek help. Intervention is loving.
    There is that much at stake. Denying that need is what is disingenuous.

    The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

  • Eireanne Russ

    While i would disagree, I have nothing I can add that will change your feelings on this topic This is not a question of either parties salvation, but rather of how we choose to guide and live our lives. We each must make those choices, so rather than cause further discord, I will yield the field, though not the point.

    Be blessed and prosper as your soul prospers.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Then we are in agreement, since what I said was that God’s justice is about chastening and with always the ultimate goal of securing repentance and reconciliation, and not about exacting retribution, and you are now saying the same thing yourself.

  • I would like to understand how letting someone murder me is showing love to my family who depends on me.

  • soter phile

    Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory… (Rom.9:21-23)

    According to Paul – both give God glory.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Well, no. Paul says that God’s glory is displayed in this scenario upon those to whom he shows mercy. According to String’s, “choosing” is a bare-faced mistranslation: the word means “wanting” or “willing” to do something, and you are again quoting the verse out of context. The previous part of Romans 9 is about why the bulk of the Jewish people have not turned to Christ. Verse 19 puts a rhetorical question in the mouth of Paul’s Jewish opponents, asking themselves who it is among them that is not complying with the Law that God is still angry with Israel, and Paul then turns it around to say that the real situation is that far from being righteously following the law with some unidentified sinners letting the side down, the Jewish people were all “vessels of wrath” upon whom God would be willing to exercise his wrath and power, but God instead bore their behaviour so that through the Jewish people (through Christ) he might show mercy to the “vessels of mercy” – the rest of the nations that did not know God.
    Note that (the above translation notwithstanding) what Paul says is that God makes known his glory “upon”, not “to” the “vessels of mercy” – they receive the benefits of God’s glory, they aren’t just an audience to go “ooh” and “ah” at God showing everybody how powerful he is.
    There is nothing in here at all about God inflicting punishment on anyone to make himself more glorious, which is utterly contrary to the nature of God as displayed in Jesus.

  • soter phile

    I didn’t quote the verse out of context. I merely quoted the verse.
    Or shall we re-visit the entire outline of each book each time?

    Romans 9:10f stresses God’s sovereignty & the tension therein. Otherwise Paul’s question in v.14 (what shall we say then, is God unjust?) makes no sense. He is directly dealing with the conundrum of God’s choice & human responsibility. He builds to the question & continues to the point in v.22f considering that same tension…

    What if some (by God’s choice) are marked for noble use? (i.e., chastened & redeemed)
    And others were created for common use? (demonstrate God’s glory through receiving the wrath we all deserve, but from mercy had saved some)

    He is given glory even in exercising his wrath – including when it is not merely chastening.
    Unless you’re a universalist, the goats readily present that problem.

    And as for the caricatured (oohs & ahhs) of schadenfreude… that’s not what I’m claiming. It’s the same hard notion as what Isa.53:10 says about Christ: It was the Lord’s pleasure/desire/will to crush him… And Php.2 includes his obedience to death on the cross as part of what leads all to confess Jesus… to the glory of God the Father.

    The cross does demonstrate the character of God: where justice meets mercy.
    And those who do not stand under that shelter stand condemned already (Jn.3:18).

    God’s character is at stake.
    It’s not schadenfreude. He receives glory because he is a just God – whether doling out that justice (wrath) or extending mercy (justly due to Christ’s blood atonement).

    Attempting to deny that (as mimetic guys do) requires ignoring the primary thrust of the whole of the sacrificial system. I’d invite them to an honest reading of Leviticus, especially ch.1-11.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    In almost all cases, except when it is part of a collection of separate sayings such as in Proverbs, some of the shorter OT laws or legal rulings or some parts of the Gospels, a Bible “verse” is a sentence or short paragraph within a particular argument, lesson, story, poem or song and completely meaningless in isolation. The division into verses itself is medieval and no part of the original books. You don’t need to quote an entire chapter if referring to it, but, yes, there is absolutely no point in referring to a particular verse other than in the context of the larger work it is part of. That is how reading and comprehension work. If you can’t do this you have no business purporting to quote the Bible at all.
    Before quoting bits of Romans 9, you have to read the whole thing and understand where they fit in Paul’s argument. These verses are about the role of the Jewish people, as Paul says quite clearly in verses 1-9, and yet you refer to verse 10 as being about “God’s sovereignty and the tension therein” and “human choice & responsibility” as if verses 1-9 did not exist. Paul’s point is that though they were all Abraham’s offspring, God for his own purposes picked Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau, despite their in fact being the eldest in each case, and he was now picking for his purposes the Christ-believing Jews over the others in the same way. You are (as you always seem to do) plucking the verses out of the continuous, seamless line of argument that they are part of and making them about something completely different which doesn’t actually appear in the Bible at all, as far as I am aware.
    As to God’s glory, the passage in Phillipians you yourself quote, and the passage in Romans we are discussing and every other one, for that matter, as far as I know, are always clear that God’s glory is to be found in the redemption of his people and (in the NT) their confession of Christ as Lord (which amounts to the same thing) not in sinners failure to repent and being chastened for it, which you blasphemously and horrifically suggest.
    (BTW, on an “honest” reading of Leviticus, sacrificial system has got rock all to do with penal substitution, which is again a medieval and reformation period invention. “Honest” doesn’t mean “tendaciously to support my particular extra-Biblical ideas”.)

  • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

    Jesus seems to have no problem aborting those “babies”.

  • soter phile

    Do you always assume the least of those with whom you disagree?
    I have a post-graduate degree in the field. Frankly, I went to institutions you would hold in high regard – and I still disagree with you.

    Ironically, despite your smug responses, I think you know full well that many in the AAR disagree with your take on Romans 9, if not the whole of how you’d want to read Romans. Despite your ham-handed attempt to mock me for citing individual verses (as if the context doesn’t support what I’m saying), you are merely introducing a red herring. I think you know that even as you do it. And if you do not, that speaks more lowly about your comprehension of the very scholarship you are attempting to wield.

    Liberal & conservative scholars may passionately disagree in the academy, but they generally acknowledge a thoroughly researched thesis. Claiming Rom.9:1-9 carte blanche invalidates the challenges of Rom.9:10f lacks scholarly integrity, or at the very least demonstrates a general lack of reading more than one’s own opinion. Or shall I block quote some supposedly progressive commentaries to demonstrate the point?

    No, you’re simply trying to out-maneuver rather than engage the point. It’s just obfuscating.

    …as is your claim that Leviticus (and the sacrificial system) have nothing to do with PSA. I sat under world-renowned scholars who attempted to dodge the obvious implications of the word ‘propitiation’ – as other world-renowned scholars called them out. One thing became abundantly clear: being world-renowned didn’t help them avoid the meaning of the word.

    It’s tragic to watch progressives try to ‘save’ God from who He reveals himself to be.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Sorry, you don’t get to tell other people that they are “obfuscating” when your principle method of supporting your point consists of constantly shifting your argument and then vaguely referring to unspecified qualifications and other uncited arguments by unidentified people on unidentified (and different) topics.

  • soter phile

    AAR = American Academy of Religion
    That’s not unspecified, but rather well known.

    And rather than trot out my own credentials (which you’d simply find a way to dodge), I invited you to read commentators from within progressive circles – who would support what I’m saying here. (And your quick glossing over that offer lets me know you are aware that they exist.) If you cannot hear a refutation from within your own camp, to whom will you listen?

    No, at each turn, you are choosing to avoid the content by raising yet another red herring.
    My argument has not shifted: Jesus taught repentance. Hell is real. We need a Savior.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    “My argument has not shifted: Jesus taught repentance. Hell is real. We need a Savior.”
    …and you get even more surreal. You say your argument has not shifted and then make three statements, all of which I agree with and none of which we were arguing about.
    Edit: P.S. It’s a bit sad to try and pull rank by citing membership of a voluntary association anyone can join.

  • soter phile

    I figured – in light of the copious statements above – you’d infer the context.
    again, you assume the least… yes, weird.

    Jesus taught repentance. Lack of repentance gets more than just “chastening” (which we disagreed upon above)

    Hell is real (not just an idea from which we are chastened to repentance & reconciliation, as you appear to be claiming above)

    We need a Savior. (We are saved from something – the very wrath PSA deniers dodge because they find God’s wrath unpalatable.)

    you said: Edit: P.S.
    I’m not pulling rank. You accused me of being ‘vague’ and citing ‘unspecified qualifications’ and ‘unidentified’ people. I merely pointed out that in the prior comment I had not only named a scholarly society (i.e., not vague), but that there is an array of scholars across the theological spectrum who would support my views on Romans 9. that does not ensure I am right, but it does invalidate your claim that i don’t know context or that my views are untenable because of Rom.9:1-9. you were (at the least) intimating i have no scholarly basis for my views. I demonstrated the opposite is true.