Did Jesus Call People to be Pacifists, or Does He Want Us and the Military to Protect Our Loved Ones?
I'd like to share some wise and sound words concerning the topic of Christians in military service from Dr. R. D. Luginbill. This article shares about whether or not God wants people to be pacifists or to protect their loved ones. The reason I'd like to share it is that there have been quite a number of people whom I've known lately who seem to imply that a person can't be a devoted Christian and serve in the military at the same time. I feel this is a very wrongful judgment to make and that we need to be more discerning about this topic and seek the Bible more deeply about it. I hope the following article is very helpful to all who read it.
First of all, I would like to say the simple fact that without military security, there would be no nation states, and nationalism is a very important part of the plan of God since the flood. For only by compartmentalizing the human family into different nations do we have an "immune system", so to speak, that prevents the devil from bringing the entire world into a state of catastrophic self-destruction all at once. One country might successfully outlaw the practice of Christianity, for example, but it is not such an easy matter for Satan to pull this off everywhere. Through the existence of nations, God has always provided safe havens throughout history for the search for the truth.
In my mind, there is no question but that military service is an honorable profession, and that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a Christian joining the military. Indeed, as with law enforcement, this is a profession of self-sacrifice where considerable risk is taken on for the benefit of others.
This is not to say that any military organization is perfect, and certainly not that all of the individuals in a military organization are perfect. After all, we live in the world. Short of "going out of the world", we are going to encounter godless unbelievers of many stripes and all manner of questionable behavior in whatever we do to earn our daily bread.
God knows very well that if we are walking and working in the world, we will bump into all manner of questionable persons and actions. The mark of a Christian is to eschew foul behavior in his/her own actions and to keep everything with persons who don't on a purely professional basis. This is, in my opinion, easier to do in the military than in some other areas of life, because, generally speaking, military organizations run a "tighter ship" than most civilian organizations/companies/groups do, so that while on both sides there may be codes of propriety, one is more likely to find them functioning properly in the military. To be sure there are lapses everywhere, but a mature Christian ought to be able to navigate such roiled waters whether inside or outside of the military.
There are many people who seem to believe that there are only two possible ways to view the topic of military involvement and these extremes include:
1.) rabid, unthinking patriotism
2.) pacifistic, anti-military rejectionism
There is a sweet-spot is in the middle, however. Christians need to be able to discern between extremes in people's views and work to seek the truth in matters such as this. I personally have no problem understanding that my allegiance is to Jesus Christ. While I am very happy to be an American and do my duty as such, I have no illusions about my country's problems and the flaws in our government, society, as well as foreign and domestic policy. Any Christian who cannot distinguish between the loyalty and commitment they have to Jesus Christ and the loyalty and commitment they owe to their country -- and keep these in the proper relationship of Christ first and everything else second -- certainly has no business joining the military.
The military presents a great number of challenges to faith and practice (as do other experiences, such as going to college, for example), and as with all difficult endeavors in life, only the spiritually mature are likely to navigate such challenging times in an honorable, Christian way. Joining the military no more constitutes a ratification of bad behavior of the individuals therein or the policies of the government than does, say, joining a law firm where many of those working there may be immoral and where some of the tactics employed may occasionally be questionable and sometimes result in miscarriages of justice. One could make this comparison about almost any profession.
The Bible never condemns being in the military; quite to the contrary, those in the military come in for commendation for their actions on numerous occasions (the appeal to the beatitudes is a mere canard inasmuch as there are plenty of things in that perfect code of conduct that could be used to rebuke the behavior of any human being alive). Defending one's country is unquestionably not only legitimate but I would argue biblically required.
Some people may disagree with this when they refer to the verse of Matt. 5:44 which states "....Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." However, we are not to just pull out scripture here and there without looking at it as a whole for we are to rightly divide the word of truth. With the many encounters Jesus and Peter had with military men, I never see Jesus or Peter telling them to stop serving in the military. If it were a sin, then Jesus would have approached them in the same way he did the woman at the well, or the woman caught in adultery or the Pharisees. However, this is never the case and Jesus and His disciples did not rebuke people for serving in the military. For example, Jesus never told the centurion to stop serving in the military as we can see in Matthew. 8:5-10.
To add to this point, John the Baptist told the soldiers who came to him to be baptized to refrain from extortion and false accusation and to be content
with their wages, not to stop being soldiers (Lk.3:14). David was one of the greatest believers
in history, and his exceptional record as a soldier is very well known. One might also add that while we are to love our enemies, and while the shedding of blood in murder is one of the worst sins, capital punishment is ordained in scripture for a number of
offenses in the Old Testament and never condemned in the New. Thus there are clearly circumstances where the taking of life is necessary for the continuation of law and order and for the protection of the state which, while not necessarily godly, is definitely
"of God" (Rom.13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1Pet.2:13-17).
I also believe that overall political circumstances do matter. If I were drafted into the US Navy during WWII, any objection of conscious to serving would be difficult to sustain, in my opinion. However, if, during the same conflict, I had been drafted into the Waffen SS so as to round up and execute Jews in the Ukraine, who would doubt but that a Christian should renege? So as we draw nearer to the end times, the issue of "whom are you serving" is becoming more and more of a valid one. At present, we live in a republic which is not in principle entirely anti-God in its constitution or overall practices; as long as that is the case, obeying its laws and serving its agencies, including the military, is not, in my view, sinful. And as I say, given the risks taken on behalf of the rest of us, military service is in my view sacrificial and honorable. The day may come when things change so much that it will no longer be advisable for Christians to serve. That day came in Weimar Germany when the armed forces were told to swear an oath not to the country but to Adolph Hitler personally. In my view, that was the breaking point. We are not there yet in this country. But it is not amiss to consider the dangers of fatal compromise stemming from the future possibility of Christian military service under antichrist during the Tribulation (that would go for being in law enforcement at that future time as well).
The military is tough in many ways. It is not for the weak, physically or spiritually. For believers who have gained a sufficient level of maturity, it can be a wonderful, toughening experience; but for those who are not ready for it, it can be very damaging.
Clearly, we all ought to be most grateful to the Lord if we have never had to spill blood, whatever the context. However, I find nothing in scripture or in our Lord's words to support a position of refusing to defend oneself or one's family by whatever means necessary in extreme situations. After all, Jesus certainly didn't tell the disciples to bring a sword along on their journeys after His departure only to be used for a bluff. Capital punishment has to be carried out by someone, and that is certainly envisioned as a necessary function of government in the New Testament as well as in the Old. Military service is always portrayed as honorable in both testaments, and I can't see our Lord using military analogies (e.g., "if a king is about to go to war . . ." Lk.14:31) if the whole notion of military confrontation wherein the shedding of blood is inevitable was somehow anti-God.
And, lest we forget, our Lord Jesus is the greatest warrior of all time. As the Angel of the Lord, He personally slew 185,000 Assyrians and will slay millions at the battle of Armageddon with the sharp sword which proceeds from His mouth. As I say, no one should set themselves to take life, and praise God if we haven't had to. But I also praise God for those who have, for it is by their sacrifice that our freedom has been secured. Clearly, no human conflict will ever be a case of absolute right versus absolute wrong (until the Armageddon campaign), however, generally speaking, defending one's country is not only legitimate and honorable but also an obligation in the same way that obedience to the law and paying taxes are. Only through military defenses and oft times in the course of world history through their active use has the world been kept from being united into one conglomerate under the devil's control. And it is the diversity of individually sovereign nations that have made the continuation of the light of truth possible over the long centuries spanning back to the expulsion from Eden. That will all come to an end during the Tribulation when antichrist is victorious at the mid-point of the seven years, and the results of his one-world rule will be horrific for all, and especially for believers who refuse to worship him. It is certainly true that during those days being in the military will be something believers should avoid at all costs – in spite of the principle of the legitimacy of defending one's nation because the one who will be on the point of usurping all legitimate authority will be of the devil. A case can certainly be made for the position that in times past this has also been the situation albeit to a lesser degree (such as in Nazi Germany), but any decision to refrain from taking up arms in such circumstances would, in my view, have to be based on the inherent evil of the regime for which one would be fighting rather than some principle of pacifism, if it were to be biblically sound, at any rate. Here are some links to other similar treatments of this issue:
Article by Dr. R. D. Luginbill