Question: "What does the Bible say about fighting?"
Answer: The Bible mentions fighting in several contexts, including the fighting of a soldier against an enemy army (Joshua 8:1–11; 1 Samuel 14:52; 17:19), the fighting that occurs between people because of an argument or other conflict (2 Corinthians 7:5), the fighting of the Christian’s soul against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12; Jude 1:3), the fighting that occurs between angels and demons (Revelation 12:7), and the fighting of a person trying to overcome his own sinful tendencies (2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Timothy 6:12). Depending on the situation, fighting can be noble and good or it can be sinful, but fighting is not wrong in itself. The object of the fight is what determines the fighting to be righteous or evil. Even God fights on behalf of His people who trust Him (Exodus 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:30; Nehemiah 4:20). God is called a “man of war” in Isaiah 42:13 (ESV).
Fighting in the Bible can be physical or spiritual. Either way, the conflict is intended to establish dominance over the opposition. That opposition can be a human army, Satan, or sin. Fighting involves intense effort; it is a struggle that requires maximum exertion, whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. When Jude tells us to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3, KJV), he uses a form of the Greek word agónizomai, from which we get our English word agonize. Eugene Peterson paraphrases Jude 1:3 as “fight with everything you have.”
Some things, like the gospel, are worth fighting for. But there are many more things not worth fighting over. Christians are not to fight one another but are to strive for peace within the body of Christ (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:11). We are not to fight the government but are to submit to its laws (Romans 13:2), knowing that our true Governor is Christ (Isaiah 9:7) and we belong to His kingdom. When speaking to Pilate, Jesus said that, if His kingdom were of this world, His servants would take up arms and fight on His behalf—but His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Peter had to learn this lesson the hard way (Matthew 26:52).
Too often, fighting is a sign of sin in our lives. James gets to the heart of the problem: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:1–3). Most fighting is rooted in selfishness and lust. The saints of God should not stoop to bickering, squabbling, or wrangling over the things of this world.
Christians are called to fight physically when necessary. There is nothing wrong with fighting to protect the innocent or to defend one’s home, one’s family, or one’s country. For example, a Christian soldier is required to fight in order for him to be obedient to his military commanders. Soldiers are mentioned throughout the Gospels, and Jesus never treats them as sinful or wrong in carrying out their duties, nor does He command them to leave the service. John the Baptist tells them to be fair and honorable (Luke 3:14). In the Bible, several soldiers are also described as devout and faithful men (Acts 10:7; Matthew 8:5–13). All Christians are called to fight spiritually. God provides the armor (Ephesians 6:10–17). The spiritual war is waged against sin, against erroneous doctrines and practices that corrupt the church, and against the old sin nature within us. A believer’s life is compared to the life of a fighting man (2 Timothy 2:1–4; Philemon 1:2). If the opposition is evil and the cause is good, there is nothing wrong with fighting, according to the Bible.