Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Should Christians Serve In The Military?

Biblegems #143
Question: I recently received a card from a stranger stating that “war is not good for our country; therefore joining the military is unpatriotic.” Several Scripture references were given in support of this claim. Does the Bible teach that Christians should not join the military because, according to the Bible, all war is wrong?

The unasked for advice this young man got in the mail represents the kind of poor biblical interpretation practices that so often give Christianity a bad name.

Misrepresenting Scripture
The card this young man received contained the following statements  which were claimed to be the “Word of God.” However, not one Bible reference is given to show where in Scripture the passage is found. The reader is left to assume the author of the card is accurately representing Scripture—which he is not. Below are the verses, plus my comments:

“Thou shalt not kill” is one of the Ten Commandments, and is found in Exodus 20:13 (cf. Dt. 5:17; Matt. 5:21; Rom. 13:9). It means “Do not murder,” and has nothing to do with war, self-defense or capital punishment.

“Renounce war, proclaim peace” is not found anywhere in Scripture. The phrase “proclaim peace” shows up only once (Dt. 20:10), and even there the reference actually means, “to make an offer of peace” before an attack is begun. It has nothing to do with renouncing war.

“Do not go out to battle save I the Lord command” is not found in Scripture.

“Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay” comes from Romans 12:19, but is also misquoted. The passage itself has nothing whatsoever to do with waging war. And even if it did refer to war, it would only apply if seeking vengeance were the motive for waging war, which is seldom the case.

“Keep my commandments and I the Lord will defend you” is also not found in Scripture.

The Bible and War
War is a reality of the sin-broken world in which we live. It is an unavoidable reality because nations rule by force in the absence of submission to God’s sovereignty over the earth. What is true of individuals is often true of nations—they take by force what they want, forcing those they take from to defend themselves:
         James 4:1-2 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.

The day will come when Jesus Christ returns to earth and establishes His Kingdom and war will cease:
Is. 2:4  He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Until that day, Christians serving in the military are serving governmental authorities instituted by God Himself to use worldly means for exercising justice and righteousness:
Rom. 13:4 For he [Governing Ruler] is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

I would encourage readers of this Biblegems to check out Biblegems #81, “Murder And Self Defense,” for further development of this topic.


  1. Pastor, Thanks for this- I am forwarding to my new Marine Pullee!

  2. Hello, I've been contemplating this issue. I was wondering your take on these verses?

    John 18:36 "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."

    2 Timothy 2:3-4 "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."

    Ephesians 6:12 "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

    Matthew 6:24 "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

    My thoughts are that there is nothing more noble to fight for than Christ, yet Jesus said because His people are not a kingdom of this world, they wouldn't fight. Even though the early church was under tremendous persecution, seeing their women and children being tortured and killed, they did not rally and defend themselves in a military fashion.

    The Bible says that we can't be a good soldier of Christ if we are entangled with the affairs of the world. Wouldn't being in the military entangle ourselves with the affairs and agendas of our secular government? We are citizen of heaven, and God calls us to a spiritual battle - not an earthly one.
    I know as a Veteran's wife, the military always had to come first. Many military men can't be consistent spiritual leaders of their homes because they are gone so much of the time. If they feel led to do something for the Lord, they must hope and pray Uncle Sam will let them. They have mandatory sensitivity training to accept ungodly practices. We actually knew a soldier that faced trial and court martialing because he refused to take a class on accepting homosexuality in the military.
    Now instead of protecting the constitution, the mission is protecting national security. (If you remember during Katrina, the military obeyed unlawful orders by violating the 2nd amendment.) The military is also becoming more hostile to the sharing of the Gospel. Maybe long ago, the military defended the freedoms of this nation, but now our servicemen are pawns for a system that disdains Biblical Christianity.

    I'm thankful for the ones who serve and can keep strong in the Lord, but I think there comes a time in one's walk with the Lord that everyone must decide where there full allegiance lies. By observation, the problem is that by the time men get to that point they are halfway to retirement...