My thoughts have changed radically over the past few years. No longer could I serve in the military at any level or in any position. I realize this is somewhat theoretical in nature; it's not as if recruiters are knocking down my door to get to a 43-year-old. Regardless, I couldn't and wouldn't ever be part of the military. Even if the USA was invaded by another country as part of total war I would not join the military.
I've come to this conclusion after thinking long and hard about Jesus' teachings. Specifically, I've been pondering both what he said about and how he acted toward his enemies. Jesus teaches us much in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." Some Christians limit the meaning of this verse to only the helping of people reach spiritual peace with God through the gospel; however, in light of what Jesus says later in Matthew 5 this seems like too narrow of an interpretation.
In Matthew 5:38-47 Jesus expands on what he said in 5:9. Our Lord says, "You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Jesus says a lot in those verses. Much of it can be summed up in the startling phrase, "Love your enemies." I believe this is one of Christ's most counter-cultural and counter-world statements. It gives us a view of how radically different the Kingdom of God is from the kingdoms of this world.
One of the primary things the military does is fight against enemies. In light of what Jesus says here, how could I take up arms against enemies of the USA? Can I love someone and shoot him at the same time? I don't see how the two can possibly fit together. Furthermore, I don't understand how I could be part of the support network behind the soldiers. If I'm assisting them in doing their job, which involves killing others, then I'm at least partially responsible for any deaths caused.
Did Jesus actually live out what he said? How did he treat his enemies? Did he even defend himself? The answer is a resounding "No!" Read any of the trial and crucifixion passages from the gospels to see this. For example, Matthew 27:27-31 says, "Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him."
Jesus was living out what was written of him many years before as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:7, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth."
In the end my conclusion regarding military service is quite simple. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. How could I possibly serve in the military when I might be ordered to kill someone in the name of the USA? Killing and loving do not mix. Therefore, I could no longer serve in the military in any capacity whatsoever.