The Christian Nature of Military Service

The Christian Nature of Military Service2018-09-20T11:51:24+00:00
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Introduction

May Christians legitimately serve as members of the military? Military service may involve war, and war of necessity involves killing other human beings. Is doing so a violation of the 6th Commandment? How do we reconcile military service with Biblical injunctions to “love our enemies,” “resist not evil,” “turn the other cheek,” and do good to those who persecute us? In sum, is following Jesus in conflict with the profession of arms?

 

Scripture references

Study the following biblical references and consider how they address the questions listed below. If using this outline with a Small Group, consider assigning different Scriptures to different individuals and relating them to one or more of the questions. Then scroll down the page to review our recommended resources; one or more of these articles could be the basis of further reflection and discussion on this topic.

Exodus 20:13, 21:12; 1 Samuel 15:2-3; Luke 3:8-14; Romans 13:1-7; Matthew 10:34, 26:52; Luke 22:36-38, 49-53; Matthew 5:9, 38-48; Romans 12:17-21; Romans 14:19; Psalm 20:7; Matthew 4:4-7; Nehemiah 4:8-9

 

Questions

  1. The 6th Commandment states succinctly, “Thou shalt not kill (KJV) or murder [NIV et al.].” Does the Old Testament teach that all killing is a violation of the 6th Commandment? Is there a God-ordained place for the use of lethal violence in protection of the innocent and execution of justice?
  2. Does being in the military mean we are not peacemakers?
  3. Christians are called to love even their enemies, to avoid resisting evil, and to overcome evil with good. Can we do so as soldiers? If we can, how do we apply these teachings to our military duties?
  4. How do we understand Jesus’ various references to the sword? Are they contradictory?
  5. Does supporting the nation’s military show that we trust in man, not God, for our security? Would a pacifist position be “putting God to the test”? Is there a balance?
  6. Roman centurions are mentioned in the New Testament a number of times, and often in a positive way (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 23:47; Acts 10, 27:43-44). Can we glean anything relevant to this topic from these instances?
  7. Should Jesus’ example of non-resistance be normative for all Christians? If so, does this mean that a Christian may not legitimately be a soldier? If not, why not?

Recommended Resources

The following resources are meant to get you started in the subdomain of The Christian Nature of Military Service.

The Jungles of War

How well do you reflect the gospel in the pain-filled eyes of a frightened seven-year-old girl whose grandparents you just helped kill?

The Concept of Calling For the Military Professional

The purpose of this study is to describe the concept of calling and its relevance to the military professional of the 21st century, preparing to “fight the next war”—especially to the vast majority of American officers who identify themselves as Christians.

Mortal Enemies

An incredible story of how the man who led the attack on Pearl Harbor found new life in Christ!

Living out faith while in service to country | Episode 31

Major Will MacKenzie and Major Derek Brown, USA, discuss several topics during their conversation with LTC Colin Wooten, USA.—friendship, being a Christian in the military and killing an enemy combatant, serving in the military as Christians, and what it means to actively live out your faith and integrate your faith in all areas of life.

Dear Chaplain

An open letter from chaplains answers questions about going to war, being deployed, families of deployed, and those considering the chaplaincy.

Christians in Combat

If we are called to embark on a campaign that we believe to be righteous, whether it be moral high ground, dangerous missions work, lifestyle evangelism, or a military campaign, then tragedy or cost cannot tarnish the truth associated with that calling.

Additional Resources

OCF offers many extra resources as you continue digging into the subdomain of The Christian Nature of Military Service.

What is OCF?

It’s not unusual to hear people ask, “What is OCF?” or “What does OCF do?” They may wonder if OCF is a club of officers like-minded in their Christian faith, or just the local Bible study fellowship they attend.

Entering a Sacred Covenant | Episode 008

"So help me God." It's the final four words in oaths for both officers and enlisted. Have you thought about what the phrase means, or what it implies? Our guest today is Col Richard Toliver, USAF (Ret.), and he’s going to unpack those four words—what he calls "a sacred covenant.”

A Man of Faith and War

One Christian of distinction, who fought in five wars, was U.S. Army Brigadier General Gustavus Loomis. In Loomis is the ideal balance of Christian faith, devotion to family, and excellence in military service.

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