Is It Wrong for a Christian to Serve in the Military? Part 2

A Daily Little Lesson

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We’re asking the same question a second time in Part 2 of the question, “Is It Wrong For Christians To Join The Military?” (Read Part 1 here) Today we’re going to try to go a little further in answering this question.

christian soldier praying

We did discuss last time that going to war does not necessarily preclude the obedience to the commandment, “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself”, because God told the people of Israel to love their neighbors as themselves, but God sent those same people into war.

All right, so obviously, God can’t contradict Himself, and it’s things like this that cause people to ask the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Right? It hardly seems like an act of love to go to war and so no wonder people ask, “Who is my neighbor? Jesus said, I should love my neighbor, but then that same God, the same Jesus that told me to love my neighbor told me to go to war.” Now, Jesus isn’t telling anybody under the New Covenant to go to war because we’re not a geopolitical nation, we’re scattered throughout all the nations. This is a different kingdom that we’re in than the people who were in the kingdom in Israel, so let’s think about it a little bit more. In the Old Testament there is certainly no prohibition against joining the military. Naturally, God was commissioning armies. Under the New Covenant, you can’t find a prohibition about serving in the military. In fact, you could find some very complimentary things said about those who serve in such capacities.

We’ll look in a moment at Romans 13. But first, let’s look at a couple of other examples. John the Baptist was preaching (under the Old Covenant, granted) and there were some soldiers there who said, “What should we do to prove that we’re repenting at your preaching?” He didn’t say, “Resign your post,” or “Abandon your positions,” or “Quit the army.” He said, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14). Well, that would have been a good time for John to have said, “Get out of there as fast as you can,” or “When your commission expires, don’t sign up again,” if God was generally opposed to being in the military.

Then there are people in the Bible like Cornelius, who was a Centurion, and you read about him in Acts 11. He was a Gentile. In fact, he and his household were the first Gentiles to believe in Jesus and they were the first Gentiles to whom the Holy Spirit sent an apostle—an evangelist—to go preach the gospel to. Cornelius was a Centurion, which means he was a Roman soldier over about 100 other Roman soldiers. The Bible says that he was “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household” (Acts 10:2). When Peter was preaching the Gospel the Holy Spirit fell on him. The Holy Spirit fell on this soldier! So here’s another case. That would have been a great time for Peter to say, “Now, the Holy Spirit’s not going to be doing anything for you under the New Covenant as a soldier, so you need to get out of that position.” No, you don’t find that happening, and there are more examples we could cite, as far as the soldiering aspect goes.

We have Jesus, for example, healing a Centurion’s servant. Again, some will say, “That’s under the Old Covenant, so it was okay back then, it’s not okay now.” But, again, I’ve already pointed out in our last Little Lesson that the command to love your neighbor as yourself was given under the Old Covenant, yet God sent some of the people under the Old Covenant to war.

If in fact the greatest deterrent to war is a standing army that’s ready and prepared and able to get victory, then it’s a very honorable thing to be in that position. Along those lines now let me take you to Romans 13, and this is Paul writing about government, in general. Of course, one of the things that governments do is establish various branches of the military to protect their citizenry.

Take note of what Paul says in Romans 13: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.” And here’s why: “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” He doesn’t stop there. “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”

So we’re supposed to obey the governing authorities. Human government was instituted by God. Government is absolutely necessary and it’s really a huge blessing, although, lots of us complain about our governments. But if you put all of the good that governments do on the side of some of the bad things they might do, the good is immense. They organize people for a common cause to benefit everybody. Getting a standing army ready and prepared to defend the citizenry is one of those things that governments are good at and they’re established by God to do.

Now, Paul goes on, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.” That’s generally true, not always, but generally true. “Do you want to have no fear of authority?” Paul asks. “Do what is good and you will have praise from the same.” Listen to how he describes government officials and people who work for the government, “…for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God…” That’s the second time Paul has called government a minister of God.

Paul also makes a reference to government bearing the sword. In our day, the sword could be seen as those with guns and uniforms, the police, the guys who are enforcing the laws. “… an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” That’s one of the major responsibilities of government, to resist evil and to squelch it, stop it, punish it when it arises. “Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.”

I think there is great application here as to whether or not it’s right or wrong for Christians to be within the military. When Paul writes that those who are serving in the government are ministers of God, well, that’s every aspect of that government. It’s an extension of the authority of God.

Again, yes, there are some moral implications. If you find yourself as a Christian in the military having to go to war and it’s an immoral cause, then that requires some consideration. Again, as I’ve already mentioned to you in our last Little Lesson, a major reason for having an army, having a military, is to prevent war. Secondly, to prevent evil. Those are two good things and I say, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” There’s more that could be said, but these are Little Lessons, we’re not covering everything in great detail. But this is some food for thought. Thanks for joining me, God bless you!

(Read more on the topic of Christian Pacifism).