Saturday, October 17, 2009

CAN A CHRISTIAN BE A SOLDIER?

It seems that questions like this have to be answered with each generation. With the question of war on our minds, there are some who question if a Christian can be soldier. Consider the following:

1. Recognize that a person has to follow his conscience.Everyone must be fully convinced in his own mind. If a man can't serve His country in good conscience, there is no choice but to object (1 Pt. 3:16). The point here is not to convince you otherwise. A Christian can be a conscientious objector. But many sincere people have studied out the subject and come to the conclusion that they can serve as soldier, law enforcement officer, etc. Sgt. York is the true story of Alvin York who wrestled with the question. He went to war and was the most decorated solider in the war. During those days the church was going through a debate over this very subject.

2. Acknowledge there is a difference between murdering and killing.
Genesis 9:6 "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man." The man that executes the death penalty can't himself be sinning.

3. Good, spiritual people can serve in the military.
The Scriptures give us evidence that good, spiritual people served in the military. If Cornelius (Acts 10) or another man that John the Baptist spoke with in Luke 3 could be a soldier, there's no reason why a Christian can't be a soldier today. Romans 13 says, "3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 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, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." - Romans 13:3,4 If justice is their work, they are doing God's work.

4. God's Minister, doing God's work, can't be doing evil.
The Governor and the Soldier are doing God's work. Paul tells the Christians that God has a minister for justice in the government (leave out here the questions of good and bad govts, this is the Holy Spirit speaking of govt. in general). The authorities, the rulers along with their warriors who are doing the actual wielding are to be obeyed, says Paul to the Christians. Why? Because God's ministers of justice will punish those who do evil (Islamic terrorists, bank robbers, etc).

5. Executing justice doesn't mean you are unloving.
Does God quit loving by being a Judge? Does a parent quit loving by using the rod? Some people impose their opinion and conscience to suggest that since Christians are to love their enemies they cannot be soldiers. Put another way, they says it is unloving to be a soldier. Therefore there opinion is that only non-Christians could be one. This is a fallacy to argue that a person cannot love and bring righteous justice. A front line soldier can be motivated by love and justice, just as God can.

6. God's people are the best Judges and most just. Moses was just. Joshua was just. David was just. There is an expectation from God that His ministers of justice, the governing authorities, are to be just and fair. Who better than a Christian is qualified? It would be especially nice if the ministers of justice were Christian; which is why we pray for them because "God desires all men to be saved" (1 Tim. 2:1-5). The soldiers in Scripture who became Christian, like the ones that John (Lk. 3) and Peter (Acts 10) baptized, would be better ministers of justice because of their Christ-like attitudes. There is no evidence in Scripture to suggest they would have to put down their swords on becoming Christians.

7. Some people suggest soldiering and policing is dirty work, and God only wants non-Christians doing that. But if the non-Christian soldiers are doing God's service, and if the service is anti-Christian, doesn't that defile God? If killing bad guys is automatically a negative, indistinct from murdering, then the instrument of justice and the wielder of the instrument is dirty. The error here is the fallacy of not distinguishing between right and wrong, killing and murdering. If all putting to death, including the use of the sword by the ministers of justice (Rom. 13), was evil, it would impugn God IF this ministry is so intrinsically evil that Christians can't do it. The service is noble if the one's carrying the sword are righteous. If God commissions the govt to carry the sword for the punishment of evildoers while still retaining His righteousness, then there is nothing innately wrong with being a sword-wielding soldier or policeman. God is never unjust or unloving.

8. The right perspective.
A Christian does a noble work of serving in the military. He must always have a clean conscience about this. Churches have sons and daughters serving in dangerous places. And yes, they are going to be praying for these people AND they will speak positively about their service. The latter is partly in answer to the pacifists critics who impugn and question the spirituality of those who serve. We must always love. No matter if we are protecting our home and children who are near or back home, we must always keep a Christ-like spirit of love. We cannot not be just or righteous if we don't. There are many soldiers on the frontline who are not Christian. And their attitude about killing some bad guys might or might not be right. The Christian can share the Good News with misguided soldiers and the Truth will make them better at the service they do.

I thank God for people who will stand and defend our God-given freedoms. There are tyrants in this world who would take away the freedom we now enjoy. The tactics of Islam to strike paralyzing fear in citizens is not opposed merely by unjust warmongers, but is also opposed by brave and courageous believers in justice.

Finally, this discussion is really addressing two issues. The first is the attitude of the person who is supposed to be righteous in all that he does. The soldier in Luke 3 needed to be happy with his wages, to be content, and just, not accusing falsely, etc. A soldier who gets a special thrill in putting a bullet through someone should have his gun taken away. And second, it's about exercising God's service for justice.

Some people feel that the church sounds too war-like by talking about and praying for the soldier. The sense that some churches are putting military service on a pedestal, exalting that work above others, might be only perception or it might be real. Sometimes special attention is given for family members in the military because of the real world seriousness of what they are doing. So we pray for them weekly, for them to be safe and spiritually strong. Maybe our words are not as carefully delivered so that the audience does not hear the love or the respect we have for human life. These are messages that need to be fine-tuned. But generally speaking, there is no moral problem for Christians to serve in the military. Do the churches that defend the use of military force not love? Of course they love and they need to express it more.

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