In writing for www.gotquestions.org, I was asked to address whether a Christian can ever use violence. Here is the essence of my answer…has been edited for the wider audience.
There are two aspects to your question that I feel should be addressed. One is the use of violence in our person lives and the other is the use of violence as a nation or as a member of the military.
In our personal lives and witness, I do not see where violence was ever used to propagate the gospel. But, in the realm of self-defense keep in mind that carrying the sword was not considered a sin. For Peter to cut the servants ear off when Jesus was being arrested, he had to have the sword to start with (Matt 26:51). And, yet he had been walking with Jesus Christ for approximately 3 years. Certainly, if it was wrong for him to carry the sword after 3 years with Jesus he undoubtedly would have been unarmed that evening.
If someone were to break into my home and be threatening to harm my wife or children, if I had the opportunity to defend my family I would resort to violence in order to protect and save mine and my family’s life. I would hope I would only use the minimal amount needed to restrain the person until the police can arrive. But, certainly if death were imminent for my family members and I had the opportunity I wouldn’t think twice at taking the life of the intruder. I certainly don’t think that conflicts with the Bible in any way.
Regarding Christians serving in the military, consider the following. One of the key things I consider very important to addressing this issue is to look at the interactions Jesus Christ had with the military. In Matthew 8:5-13, we see a very unusual site. A Roman centurion pled with Jesus to heal his servant. Try to imagine this picture. A centurion was a man of high position in the Roman military. He was in charge of 100 soldiers and likely garnered a lot of respect from his men and potentially forced respect from the Jews who had no choice. Most Romans had little regard for the Jews other than forcing them to be subservient to their rule. So, for this Roman centurion to approach Jesus — a wandering Jewish preacher — was very unusual indeed. The centurion even commented that he didn’t feel worthy for Jesus to even come to his house. We find Jesus doesn’t chastise him for being in the military. Instead, he commends him for his level of faith. Again, don’t lose the fact that for a Roman to be expressing faith in a Jew is very significant.
In Mark 15:39 (NKJV), we read that a Roman centurion was one of the first to express faith at the crucifixion site when he proclaimed, “Surely this man was the Son of God”. This is not likely the same centurion as the miracle with Jesus healing the centurion’s servant as that miracle occurred in Capernaum — dozens of miles away.
The entire chapter of Acts 10 is a wonderful relating of the story of a centurion named Cornelius who apparently was a believer in Jehovah. We know this from the description of his prayer and fasting life. In the opening verses we see where an angel of the Lord visits Cornelius and tells him that his prayers and alms have come before God as a memorial. As I mentioned before, in these 3 accounts of Roman centurions we never find one single word criticizing them for being in the Roman military.
There is one other aspect worthy of exploration. A Christian law enforcement officer would find themselves using violence on a frequent basis. However, most people would never question this as we all are safer because we have police forces authorized to use violence in order to protect the greater safety of society. One would hope that a Christian police officer especially would never find pleasure in having to use this violence but certainly feel very much in the will of the Lord in protecting people from evil.