A follower of Christ is under orders to love as God loves. We not only love our friends, but our enemies as well; and we pray for those who persecute us. After I preached that yesterday, several of our folks affirmed that the message was provocative and practical. But they asked how loving our enemies fits with waging war on barbarians or Nazis or Al Qaeda. Granted, Christ wants us to forgive our neighbors who offend us, but does he want us to turn a blind eye to terrorists who murder our fellow citizens and threaten to exterminate whole nations?
That’s a great question, and here’s the answer. God not only ordained the church; he ordained the role of government as well. Romans 13:1 explains that we should respect all governmental authorities because their authority comes from God. Christ suggests the same idea in his conversation with Pontius Pilate (John 19:11.) And this is the role of government assigned by Scripture: to punish those who do evil and reward those who do good (1 Peter 2:14.) Governments must defend us from invasion by other nations and from criminal behavior by other citizens. In order to carry out those tasks, governing authorities must assemble armies, navies, sheriff’s departments and police departments. The same God who directed us “Thou shalt not murder” in the Ten Commandments also sent armies off to war and raised up godly men like David to lead them.
There are several occasions in the New Testament where men of God cross paths with military men. Some Roman soldiers actually ask John the Baptist how they should demonstrate repentance and prepare themselves to meet God. The prophet warns them to stop taking bribes and making false accusations, and to quit complaining about their pay. Significantly, he does not demand that they stop taking orders and fighting wars. (Luke 3:14) Warriors in the New Testament are never directed to lay down their arms. In fact, Jesus Christ is talking about a Roman Centurion when he remarks, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”(See Matthew 8:10.) That’s pretty high praise from the Master, about a man who is both a military leader and a spiritual leader.
I thank God there are still men and women who are willing to risk their lives to battle our enemies, defend our borders, and enforce our laws. And here’s the kicker: soldiers, sailors, air men, members of the Coast Guard and Marines are generally some of the godliest people in a church. Ask any pastor: we love it when warriors and their families show up on Sundays looking for a church home. They understand what it means to be on a mission, they respect authority, and they are prepared to sacrifice and work hard. Military people know the urgency of occasionally going to war, but when God calls them to worship, they are incredibly skilled at waging peace. They are some of the most peace loving, low maintenance members of any congregation.
Lift up the Cross!
To hear the sermon that inspired this question, visit our website http://www.providencetoday.org and locate “The Declaration of Peace.”