Is it proper for a Christian to serve his or her country as a soldier in war? | Q&A | Tomorrow's World

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Should a "soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3) fight in the wars of this world?

Question: Your magazine often writes about United States military involvements, and shows how Bible prophecy foretells of war. The Old Testament is filled with accounts of the Israelites at battle. Is it proper for a Christian to serve his or her country as a soldier in war?

Answer: Jesus Christ set a clear standard for His followers: "But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you" (Luke 6:27-28). He also taught that we are to live by "every word of God"—to guide our lives by every word of the Bible.

Certainly, Christians have a responsibility to obey legitimate government authority (Romans 13:1-7). Christ Himself explained that His followers are to pay taxes to civil governments (Matthew 22:21). We see that Christians must not disregard the duties lawfully imposed by civil society.

However, when the laws of civil government conflict with God's law, Christians must decide to whom they will give their ultimate allegiance (Acts 4:19; 5:29, 32; Romans 6:16). When the Israelites fought wars, they were doing so by the direct command of God Himself, fighting for the human kingdom God had at that time—the nation of Israel—under the conditions of the Old Covenant. But Israel rejected God's rule, so He put them away and symbolically "divorced" them (Jeremiah 3:8). Later, of course, Jesus Christ came and made the Holy Spirit available to all who were baptized and obeyed Him. Christians today understand that Christ's Kingdom is not yet ruling in this world. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here" (John 18:36). Christ promised that He would establish His kingdom on earth when He returns. Until then, Christians have an allegiance that is not of this world (Philippians 3:20). Today's Christians are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13), and await His kingdom.

What should Christians do if they are drafted into mandatory military service? At present, there is no draft in the U.S.; however, the law requires male citizens to register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday—a requirement that does not violate the biblical principles set out in Matthew 22:21 or Romans 13:1-7. Registering with the Selective Service System does not imply that a person consents to participation in war, and in fact this registration can provide an opportunity to state formally one's conscientious objection to military service. Organizations such as the Center on Conscience and War (not affiliated with Tomorrow's World; their Web address is can provide help regarding ways to document one's conscientious objection. But no matter what other steps a conscientious objector may take, a fundamental point is that one must live one's convictions now, so that if a draft comes, it will not appear that a refusal to fight is a matter of cowardice or convenience, rather than longheld deep religious conviction.

Many countries make provisions to allow sincere conscientious objectors to be excluded from mandatory military service, or to be placed in non-military roles of public service to fulfill a national service commitment. The U.S. has historically made these allowances during times when there was a military draft, so Christians can serve their countries without violating God's law.

Christians who live in nations where military service is compulsory must make a decision that can carry severe consequences: by obeying their Savior, they may be risking prison (or worse) for refusing to serve in the military. Christ gave an important principle when He explained that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). Those who have their hearts set on the Kingdom of God will make that Kingdom their priority, and will not jeopardize their place in that Kingdom by fighting and killing others in the wars of men.


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