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?
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
- 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?
- Does being in the military mean we are not peacemakers?
- 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?
- How do we understand Jesus’ various references to the sword? Are they contradictory?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
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