Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why Are Christians in the Military?

It's that time of year again - the season for patriotic fervor and pro-military attitudes. We're past Memorial Day and the 4th of July is just around the corner. Flag Day is sometime in June (I can never remember the exact date). These holidays are almost always accompanied by military events of various types. When this occurs, the church in this country never fails to be one of the biggest cheerleaders for both the flag and the military.

One question: why are followers of the Prince of Peace in the military?

(This post stems from an earlier one entitled Sorry, But I Can't Stop Asking Questions.)

Jesus Christ expects his followers to turn the other cheek and love their enemies. Our Lord makes this exceedingly clear in the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus also left an example of non-violence for his disciples to follow. When he was arrested, tortured, and crucified he could have struck back and been justified in doing so. However, Christ instead took the beatings not only to pay for our sin but also to show us how to respond when attacked.

Since this is both what Jesus taught and showed us, how can any of his followers be part of the military? In particular, how can any Christians take part in combat where they may be called upon to kill other human beings on behalf of a secular state?

I used to have no problem with Christians being in the military. After studying scripture I have changed my mind. Christ's teachings simply do not allow for His people to act violently toward others. Jesus offers no loopholes. He never tells his followers that in certain circumstances acting violently is acceptable.

In light of this, why are Christians in the military? In response to this question I've heard some believers say that they are in the military to defend others. This may at first sound like a good answer, but Christ never even implies that we should use violence to defend other people. Additionally, in the military it is not God but government who is giving the orders.

In the end I'm still left with the question: why are Christians in the military?

5 comments:

Neil Braithwaite said...

What did our savior Jesus and the Apostles think of those in the military? Read Luke 7:1-10 and Acts 10 &11.

It seems from Luke that Jesus had nothing but the highest spiritual regard for those in the military. And it seems that honor, conviction, devotion and faith were the aspects of the centurion’s character that had a lot to do with Jesus’ opinions of those in the military. Could it be because they chose to put their lives at risk for the sake of others’ freedoms? If Jesus had a problem with people being in the military, it seems that the incident with the centurion in Luke would have been a great place for him to set the record straight about non-violence. But He didn't! Might you ask why?

Also in Acts 10 & 11, it’s interesting that God would send an angle with a special message from God to Cornelius - a centurion. Scripture records that: “He and all his family were devout and God-fearing and he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” The angle’s message is very specific that Cornelius had found favor with God for his faith and generosity to the poor. The angle said, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”

When Peter came and the Holy Spirit was given to Cornelius’ entire family, why didn’t Peter explain non-violence to Cornelius then and tell him to leave the military? Yet another why for you to ask.

These are two specific examples dealing with people actively in the military. Neither Jesus nor Peter gave any indication that being in the military was wrong or un-christian as you believe. Now please tell me how you can even begin to think that God has a problem with people being in the military?

You validate your anti-military doctrine purely by eisegesis. The same way most of church doctrines have been formulated over the years since the Apostles died off. In fact, your approach to this issue is how churches validate paying pastors – a doctrine you certainly don’t agree with.

Kevin said...

I think the military has also succeeded at something the church has failed at: giving young men (and, increasingly, women) purpose, camaraderie, mentoring, and goals for personal development. Christian discipleship ought to far exceed any human institution in these areas. I suspect a regenerate believer given a choice between being directly discipled by Christ and being part of a military unit would have little difficulty choosing. Jesus said his followers would do greater things than he did. Why then do we not see Christ-like disciple relationships in our churches? Unfortunately, so many young believers know few, if any, mature believers who are serious about making disciples, because the latter also never had someone who was serious about making disciples, and so on. That Spirit-powered transformation into Christ-likeness for the glory of the Father has been lost. I confess, I don't really know how to go about restoring it. But we can know what we do not know, and we can ask for things we don't know how to ask for because the Spirit intercedes.

P.s., reflecting on what you wrote, I had an image of a military base in a truly "Christian nation": large banners reminding recruits, "Love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who abuse you." I doubt that such slogans would get the approval of military leaders in any nation. It's hard to shoot someone whom you love and pray for.

Arthur Sido said...

Why are so many Christians in America employed in Caesar's military? The blunt answer is that much of the church is caught up in a perverse blend of Christianity and American patriotic exceptionalism. For too many of us, the church and America are basically one and the same so it makes perfect sense to go forth to kill to protect America/church.

Neil Braithwaite said...

Arthur Sido - So what's your response to my comment? What's different about the USA military today and that of the Roman empire in Jesus' time? Why didn't Jesus and Peter admonish the military men they encountered to get out of the business of killing for Rome?

The real problem with the body of Christ today is not with Christians in the military, it's with the "perverse blend of Christianity" and false doctrines foisted on the Ekklesia by men in unbiblical hierarchical bishop positions who were greatly intimidated by Roman emperors and also greatly influenced by greed, power, Greek philosophy and paganism. The false doctrines they produced that were endorsed and enforced by the power of Rome go far beyond the simple gospel message of the Kingdom of God taught by Jesus and His Apostles. The very sad thing is that today's church still adheres to most of those unbiblical doctrines such as tithing, hierarchical clergy/laity system, the trinity, original sin and many more.

There are many thousands of Christians today that are awakening to the truth of the gospel. They are not content with leaving "institutional" church, they seek the purity of truth in all things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

You believed in Mormonism and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God for many years. What was blinding your sight to the truth then? How did God reveal the truth about that cult and its lying reprobate leader? Do you believe your eyes could be blinded to any more of God's truths?

I admit that I was blind to many false doctrines and can't now even begin to believe that I was so duped.

Never stop seeking truth brother.

Neil Braithwaite said...

Eric and Arthur -

If your home was under assault by armed thugs, would you rather have armed or unarmed police respond to the call? Or would you even call the police - knowing that they are armed and may have to shoot and/or kill an intruder?

If ISIS was attacking your town in great force, would you want the US military to intervene - or would the local police be OK?

Are you OK with a military response against ISIS as they continue to try and eradicate Christians?

Just when is it OK to use deadly force?