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Military Service Murder?|
Q. I have a question. When a soldier signs himself into the army or marines or navy, etc. is the person granted a pass to kill? I think the only way I would do the dirty deed is if the enemy was invading my home to kill me, my family or my friends. (J.M., Mt. Vernon, WA)
Great question and thanks for asking - this question has been on my mind, too. I guess we could ask the same thing about killing in the line of duty for police work or the FBI, too.
No, a soldier is not granted a pass to kill in the way you ask. All military personal are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) which has strict guidelines for how and under what conditions soilders are to engage in battle. This is not a license to kill.
To Kill - To Murder
We know one of the Bible's Ten Commandments is "Thou shalt not kill." The use of the English word "kill" is not a proper translation - it should read "thou shalt not committ murder." Reading on in the Bible we also find that if a person is found guilty of deliberately murdering someone that person is to be put to death! What do we do with that?
That's because in the Bible there is a distinction between "killing" someone and to "murder" another human being. Lindsey states, "So, right away, we find the commandment doesn't mean no killing under any circumstances. The Hebrew verb translated" kill" is in an intensive verb stem that means, "to murder" (Lindsey 2004, 2).
In fact, from the earliest biblical accounts we find God encouraging the Israelites to fight and conquer the surrounding tribes and cultures - with instructions not to cave in to barbaric rites and religious practices of those they conquered.
Sometimes we just forget just how evil many idolatrous nations had become. In Nineveh, for example, prisoners of war were skinned alive. In other places babies were placed into the searing white-hot arms of Moloch to be burned alive. So from the beginning we know that God differentiated between "killing" in wars and premeditated "murder."
Governments Designed to Protect
All governmental authorities including their military forces are set up by God to protect the peoples from evil (Romans 13:1-5). Remember that the apostle Paul wrote these passages about obeying and respecting governmental authorities in a time when Roman emperors were really wicked, awful leaders!
It's a sad fact that we exist in a world filled with imperfect, sinful people and a world that is ruled by an evil being (1 John 5:19). This won't change until our Messiah returns to set up his millennial kingdom.
Meanwhile it's pretty ugly here on planet earth. We all need to face reality. Just like the merciless, barbaric ancient Ninevites there are some extremely evil people out there who think they are serving their god by murdering your kids and the elderly (and anyone else who refuses to serve their false gods).
In fact, as one of their stated goals they would like nothing better than to nuke several U.S. cities at the same time. They call this goal an "American Hiroshima." It is horrendous and we need protection from them to survive as a nation.
As imperfect and sinful as governments are we still need them to protect us from even worse evils. That is probably one reason why governmental authorities are ordained by God (Ro 13:1).
In the Bible it's interesting that some Roman soldiers asked John the Baptist how they should live. John didn't tell them to quit the military or to stop killing people. He simply told them not to extort money or make false accusations (Luke 3:14).
Psalm 144:1 tells us a little about David who was one of the Old Testament heroes and a "man after God's heart."
He prayed and sang,
"Praise the LORD, who is my
He trains my hands for war
and gives my fingers skill for
New Testament Military
In New Testament times Jesus marveled that a Roman centurion understood chain-of-command, the use of authority and had great faith in Jesus' powers (Matthew 8:5-13). It is useful to note that Jesus didn't rebuke the centurion who commanded one hundred soldiers. He didn't tell him to quit his job or disobey orders.
Put on God's Armor
The apostle Paul described Epaphroditus as a "fellow soldier" (Philippians 2:25). Paul even used a description of military equipment to help us learn how to put on the "armor of God" to battle the spiritual forces around us (Ephesians 6:10-20).
This military equipment against spiritual forces include a "belt of truth," the "body armor of God's righteousness," "shoes of peace," a "shield of faith," a "helmet of salvation," and using the Bible itself as the "sword of the Spirit."
A Mad, Mad World
In other words, from start to finish the Bible talks about our physical battles in the world and our constant wars in the invisible realm ruled by evil forces. Military service is a part of God's essential plan to keep us safer in a world gone mad! When He returns everything will change and He will rule instead.
Meanwhile, let's give thanks for our dedicated service men and women and support them in their efforts to ward off evil. They serve their country with character, dignity and honor in a manner condoned by our sovereign Lord throughout time.
Lindsey, Hal. 2004. Should Christians kill? World Net Daily. April 29. Available from: http://184.108.40.206/news/printer-friendly.asp?ARTICLE_ID=38258. (accessed 11/15/09).
What does the Bible say about a Christian serving in the military? www.GotQuestions.org. Available from: http://www.gotquestions.org/Printer/military-Christian-PF.html. (accessed 11/15/2009).
Holy Bible New Living Translation. 2007. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.
Ryrie Study Bible NASB (Chicago: Moody, 1996).
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