Should a Christian serve in the military?
I asked a friend, neighbor, and fellow Christian to address this question.
I entered the Air Force in 1983 and have been a Christian for an even longer period of time. I am still serving my country and my God. Being in the military, like maybe anything else we might do, is to a large extent what we make of it ourselves. How many civilian jobs stress putting other people first, like in our armed forces? Not only does the armed forces put others before themselves, servicemen and women even die for others. How Christ-like! Some people may join for the adventure, some for the prestige or money and other self-serving reasons; however, the armed forces are still in the service business no matter what someone's motivation may be.
The military has its share of problems, but overall, the military probably is a more positive work environment than most in this world. The military has standards. The military has certain expectations of its people. Military members are under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ.) The military will not take just anybody into its ranks. The Core Values of the United States Air Force are Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do. Those are some good values. According to Wikipedia, the Marine Corps adopted the motto Semper Fidelis in 1883. According to Wikipedia, Semper Fidelis is Latin for "Always faithful." Not a bad motto for a Christian.
I was a pretty strong Christian when I came into the Air Force and have had a great opportunity to meet and worship with so many other Christians. I have probably grown as a Christian differently than I might ever have if I had stayed at home in rural Arkansas. I even got to be a deacon in Louisiana and got to preach some in Italy. The congregation I attended in Italy was not one that would be considered "conservative." However, where is the physician more needed, in the house of the sick or the well? What would the Apostle Paul do? Would he worship at home by himself, or get out there and try to save souls? Shouldn't we give our liberal brethren the benefit of the doubt and not judge their heart and make an effort to set the proper example and teach as we have an opportunity? If you have no other reasonable alternative to worshipping by yourself at home, other than joining some liberal brethren and trying to make a difference, shouldn't you at least try?
I would advise that wherever servicemen or women go, they find a good place to worship and they commit themselves to more than just attending services. Get involved with the local congregation. Take on teaching a Bible class, be one of the song leaders, commit to mowing the lawn...do more than just attend. Get involved socially with some of the brethren. They may make Christian friends that last a lifetime. They may even hear much the same words of wisdom or encouragement that they heard as a youth but delivered in a different way that has a more lasting impact. Just the change of scenery and personal perspective might help them mature as a Christian. There is no guarantee that a young Christian staying close to home will not stray or stagnate. If you, as a parent, desire, once you know where your son or daughter is to be stationed, find out where he or she plans to worship and contact someone there and ask them to make an effort to help your son or daughter.
I have missed many Sunday worship services because of military duty. I have spent some of my time in the past working on sermons on the Sundays that I did not worship with a congregation. Think of the opportunities to let your Christian light shine to others, or the opportunities to have a serious Bible discussion with others. If you miss services because you were unjustly imprisoned, or because of military duty, or duty as a firefighter or police officer, or in a hospital, it doesn't mean you should cease thinking about God, reading your Bible, or finding an opportunity to "sow some seed."
I didn't marry a girl back home. I married a woman who attended the same congregation I did close to where I was stationed in Texas. Military service doesn't guarantee that you will mature as a Christian and marry a Christian spouse, but it doesn't have to prevent you either.
Please consider the following:
Can Christians be in Law Enforcement, the Military, and Government?
(If not, who would you rather have?)
If a Christian believes it is wrong to serve in the armed forces or in law enforcement, then wouldn’t it be wrong to use those services as well? If it is sinful to be a police officer, then what would justify our calling for police protection in a time of crisis?
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 - The wise man of God says there is a time ...
Moses knew there was a time to kill when he defended his oppressed brethren. Acts 7:22-35, Exodus 2:12-3:10
In John 15:12-13 Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Also see I John 3:16. Men and women who serve in law enforcement and in the military may lay down their lives for their fellow man. They may sometimes sacrifice their needs, hopes, desires and even their very lives for others.
In Luke 10:27, Jesus says we must love our neighbor as ourselves. Just as this means do them no harm, it must also imply that we are to see that no harm comes to them. Remember the Golden Rule? If we enjoy protection and freedom, are we willing to protect and defend our family and neighbors?
Luke 3:12-14, John the Baptist told the tax-collectors and soldiers what? Give up your occupation? No.
Matthew 8:5-10 and Luke 7: 1-10, Jesus does not condemn the work of the centurion, but rather commends his faith.
Luke 14:31-32, Jesus discusses kings taking counsel before a battle. Would he use an illustration which did not have his approval?
Luke 22:35-38, Jesus now tells His disciples they will have need of a sword--a need that is even greater than the need for a robe. (Self defense is approved)
Luke 22:48-52, Jesus criticizes those who have come to arrest him with swords and clubs--things which would be rightly used against a robber.
In Acts 10 Cornelius was a Roman Centurion
Please read II Timothy 2:3-4.
Romans 13:1-7, excellent, self-explanatory verses on the function and authority (from God) of governments.
I Peter 2:13-14, discusses submission to governing authorities.
Colossians 1:16-17, discusses God’s part in creating governments.
Proverbs 29:2, What happens when righteous people rule?
Please also See Deuteronomy 20
Biblical examples--consider the roles that each of these people played in their governments.
- Naaman 2 Kings 5:1-2
- Abraham Genesis 14:12-16, 20
- Joseph Gen 41:38-44
- Nehemiah 4:7-23 (Private Weapons)
- Esther, Queen of Persia
- Daniel, Ruler of Babylon
- Children of Israel Exodus 32: 22-28 (Private Weapons)
Next, let’s examine the often-misunderstood sixth of ten commandments found in Exodus 20, “Thou shalt not kill.” People who grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible, and whose intent was to simply understand God’s will and obey it, should have known beyond a shadow of a doubt that “Thou shalt not kill” did not prohibit all killing. Any thorough student of the Bible could learn that there were animal sacrifices under the Old Law, (please see Leviticus chapters 1– 8), that God sanctioned the eating of meat in Genesis 9:3 and Acts 10:10-15, (also, please see Deuteronomy 12:20-25,) that God at times guided his armies in battle as found in Joshua 6, and commanded capital punishment in Genesis 9:6. In Proverbs 6: 16-17 we learn that God hates hands that shed innocent blood. Notice that he did not say hands that shed blood.
God also allows self-defense as we read of the young David slaying both a lion and bear in defense of his flock in I Samuel 17. In verse 37 David said it was the Lord who delivered him from the attacking beasts and he would likewise deliver him in battle against the Philistine (Goliath.) Remember the Apostle Paul killing the attacking viper in Acts 28:1-5? Isn’t it obvious that “Thou shalt not kill” means “You shall not murder?”
However, if the context of the sixth commandment isn’t convincing enough, please examine the original Hebrew word ”ratsach” used for kill in Exodus 20:13 and the Greek word used for kill “phoneuo,” found in Matthew 5:21 and Mark 10:19. According to The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible, 7523 ratsach is "a prim. root; prop. to dash in pieces, i.e. kill (a human being), espec. to murder:--put to death, kill, (man-) slay (-er), murder (-er)." Also According to The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible, 5407 phoneuo "from 5406; to be a murderer (of):--kill, do murder, slay." Newer translations such as the New American Standard and New King James Bibles accurately translate the famous command as “You shall not murder.” This is both honest with the original source texts and the context in which the command was given.
By the way, one can only be a murderer if he kills another human. Why? “For in the image of God He made man,” Genesis 1:26 and “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man,” Genesis 9:6.
No theologian has any right to contradict God.
In fact, Jesus spoke of hypocrites who pretend to worship God but instead teach as doctrines the commandments of men. Matthew 15:7-9.
GOD EXPECTS THE INDIVIDUAL TO:
- Render no evil for evil (I Thessalonians 5:15, Romans 12:17)
- Blessed are the meek and peacemakers (Matthew 5:5, 9)
- Turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile and do good to enemies (Matthew 5:38-48; Luke 6:31 )
- Forgive your brother (Matthew 18:21-23)
- Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (Romans 12:19 )
- Love one another (I John 4:7-21 )
GOVERNMENT (WE THE PEOPLE IN THE U.S.)
- Rulers are ministers of God (Romans 13:1-7)
- They don't bear the sword in vain; an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil
- Also please see I Peter 2:13-17
- According to the inspired Apostle Paul, one can commit something deserving of death
- Please see Acts 25:10-12
- Please see the wisdom of executing a sentence speedily against an evil work (Ecclesiastes 8:11)
Darryl G. Treat, Colonel, United States Air Force