First Baptist Church of Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress, an outspoken Donald Trump supporter and a cable-news commentator, has excited attention with his claims, in an interview with the Washington Post, about the Lord’s plans for Trump and dictator Kim Jong-un:
When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-un. I’m heartened to see that our president — contrary to what we’ve seen with past administrations who have taken, at best, a sheepish stance toward dictators and oppressors — will not tolerate any threat against the American people. When President Trump draws a red line, he will not erase it, move it, or back away from it. Thank God for a president who is serious about protecting our country.
Jeffress is citing Romans 13’s admonition that a ruler “beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Christianity has relied upon this scripture, and others, to understand that legitimate government, with its police and military functions, is approved by God for providing public order and protecting from external threat. The Just War tradition across centuries has built upon this understanding by providing counsel on when warfare is justified.
It’s safe to say, contra Jeffress, that no serious segment of Christian tradition has understood Romans 13 to specifically sanction blanket authority for any particular ruler of any nation to “use whatever means necessary . . . to stop evil” anywhere in the world. The Just War tradition, among other conditions, typically calls for lethal force as a last resort.