From these obligations we may discern three basic prohibitions. First, we are, in a passive sense, to do no willful harm. Second, in a positive sense, we are to promote the well-being of others and therefore, to protect from harm. Third, we are not unjustifiably or unlawfully to take a life.
It is immediately apparent that these three responsibilities may come in conflict with one another. For example, the duty to do no harm to someone who might be attacking another person with malicious intent may come in conflict with the duty to protect from hard the one being attacked. Within the Reformed tradition, historically there has been weight towards the obligation to protect from harm when that duty is in conflict with the obligation to do no harm. This has been based on the judgment that protecting from harm is ordinarily more in keeping with respect for life.
It is on that judgment, for example, that when an attacker is threatening the life of another who is innocent or does not seek to do harm, we are not permitted the luxury of non-action or of pacifism
, for that is not consistent with respect for life that is in keeping with God’s ordering.