I am a 3 year old Christian, so I am still young. I don't know much. Please keep that in mind because I am not in any way a bible scholar. I love the Bible, I love and obey Jesus in word and deed, I love the Great Creator of all things. I lean on God for wisdom. Please take the information I present in that light.
This article clearly talks about this issue of military service and Matt 5:38. I think the points are very good and explains things I didn't even think about, regarding other sinners and their relations and positions in life and so on.
"Has God indeed said...You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also
You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate you enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemy, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you
" (Matt. 5:38-39, 43-44)
There are many who label themselves as some type of "Christian", yet who reject these plain commands of Jesus. They are quick to run to scholars so-called, and others who explain away these plain commands as somehow NOT meaning what they plainly say. They will try and make all kinds of indirect arguments, and to use philosophies of 'duty to state', in order to nullify the Word of God. For the true disciple of Jesus, these methods to explain away the commands of Jesus should be rejected out of hand, and we should live to please our Master. For He does say, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Each true disciple of Jesus understands that the way of the cross, is our Way. That, "For this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." (Acts 7:57-60; 1 Pet. 2:21) The flesh says, 'I will not follow in those particular steps', but the Word and the Spirit teaches otherwise.
The disciples of Jesus have had to live in various nations since Jesus formed His church back at Pentecost. These nations are, of course, part of the world system, or of the kingdoms of this world. Jesus has called His disciples to live a radically different life than those who are not His. Only in this way, can His disciples fulfill His command to be the salt and light of the earth. His highest commands, include that we love one another and our neighbor. The nations and kingdoms of this world (these terms "nations" and "kingdoms" of this world, as defined by the New Testament, mean the people which make up the nations and kingdoms, which people are not part of the Kingdom of God) know nothing of Jesus' holy love (agape). As Paul so aptly wrote in regard to mankind, "There is none who does good, no, not one
Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known." (Rom. 3:12, 15-17).
By God's grace, the disciples of Jesus have been born again OUT of the nations and kingdoms of this world, and into Jesus' family - the Kingdom of God. Jesus' disciples, the church, no longer walk in darkness, but in His light. Jesus' disciples know that they do not war against flesh and blood, but against the god of this world and his dominions. The true church does not use carnal weapons to battle it's enemies, but rather spiritual "weapons" (2 Cor. 6:7, 10:3-4). If we truly love Jesus, then we will obey His commands (John 14:15). And Jesus commands that His disciples are not to fight back when attacked carnally. He says this plainly in Matt. 5:38-45:
"You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, do not resist an evil person. But whoever shall strike you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. And to him desiring to sue you, and to take away your tunic, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and you shall not turn away from him who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you, so that you may become sons of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:38-45)
Who to Obey? God or Man
So, what is the disciple of Jesus to do when some authority tells him to disobey Jesus' commands? What is he to do if he is living in a nation which asks him to do something that God commands him not to do? Do we have any example, command or precedent in the New Testament which will guide the disciple of Jesus in this matter? In fact, we have a very clear example. You see, just after the church was formed, the apostles Peter and John were preaching Jesus in Jerusalem (Acts 3:12-26). This did not please the religious and political leaders of the nation of Israel, so they arrested Peter and John (Acts 4:1-3). Peter and John were then brought before the leaders (religious and political) of the nation of Israel, and Peter preached Jesus to them! (Acts 4:5-13). Since the nation of Israel had rejected Jesus, they did not want Peter and John preaching His gospel, so they commanded them "not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus" (Acts 4:1. Here we have a crystal clear example of a nation's government commanding the disciples of Jesus to not obey a command of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 28:18-20). In today's world, the same wicked command is given. All muslim countries governments command that a person not preach Jesus the Christ. And in fact, more and more "democratic" nation's are commanding that a person not preach Jesus' truth, particularly His truth of "I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life. And no man comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6). They will allow false jesus' and false gospels to be preached, but not the true Messiah of God, Jesus of Nazareth as revealed in the gospels. So, what did Peter and John do when commanded to disobey the Lord Jesus' commands by the nation's government and religious authority in which they were living at the time? You will find the clear answer in Acts 4:19-20, which says, "But Peter and John answered and said the them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'" There you have it. A perfectly clear approved example in the New Testament which teaches that there are times when the disciple of Jesus must disobey the government of a nation that they are living in, or religious authority that is 'over' them. Specifically, that when a nation's government commands the disciple of Jesus to do, or not do something which is contrary to Jesus' commands, then the disciple of Jesus is to disobey the commands of the nation on that matter, and instead be faithful to carry out the Lord's commands. The same is true regarding "religious" authorities.
Many try to use Roman's chapter thirteen to nullify Jesus' commands to love our enemies. Does Rom. 13:1-7 nullify (or modify, as some would claim) Jesus' commands in Matt. 5:38ff? Let us look at that passage of Scripture:
"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor."
Of first note, make sure you read the verses prior to, and directly after this passage. Rom. 12:21 says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." This precept is based directly upon Jesus' teaching in Matt. 5:38ff, and is a rebuke to the 'kill the enemy' teachings. In addition, Rom. 13:9-10 says, "
all (commandments from God) are summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'". Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." This teaching is also based on Matt. 5:38ff, and tells us that "love does no harm to a neighbor", which is another rebuke of the 'kill the neighbor the government defines as an enemy' argument.
Now, in regard to Rom. 13, the simple question is how would what is taught there nullify or modify Jesus' commands in Matt. 5:38ff? The passage simply teaches that God creates the governments/nations of this world, and God has given the function of law keeping to the governments of the nations of the world. Paul is simply teaching that believers should not be in rebellion against the laws of the governments of the nations they find themselves in, as those governments pass, proffer or enforce laws which do not contradict God's commands. It is really that simple, and this in NO WAY nullifies or modifies Jesus' teachings of loving one's enemies. Now, if a nation's government creates a law that goes against the commandments of God, what the disciple of Jesus should do is obvious, as we saw in Acts 4:19-20. We are to interpret the Word of God as a whole, looking to the whole counsel of God's Word for God's final answers on issues. In this case, Acts 4:19-20 is a clear modifying precept to Rom. 13.
Here are some examples to help the reader understand this principle. If the government of the nation where you are an earthly citizen enacts a law that says 'our citizens are to lie to their neighbors', then is the disciple of Jesus going to obey that law? If the government of the nation where you are an earthly citizen enacts a law that says 'when driving in your automobile, and seeing someone lying next to the road who appears injured, you are not to stop and help that person under any circumstances', then is the disciple of Jesus going to obey that law? If the government of the nation where you are an earthly citizen enacts a law that says 'each married man in our nation must come to the nation's political capital and spend some time with a prostitute at least once every 4 years', then is the disciple of Jesus going to obey that law? If the government of the nation where you are an earthly citizen enacts a law that says 'our citizens may never teach what the Bible says about abortion or homosexuality to any other citizen', then is the disciple of Jesus going to obey that law? If the government of the nation where you are an earthly citizen enacts a law that says 'every man over 20 must go to the Canadian border on Jan. 1st of every year, and punch those Canadians in the face, who don't like the government of the United States', then is the disciple of Jesus going to obey that law?
Well, dear reader, if the government of the nation where you are an earthly citizen enacts a law that says 'some of our citizen's must sign up with our nation's military and go kill people that the nation's political leader's designate as 'the enemy'', then is the disciple of Jesus going to obey that law? Why is this last example different from the previous examples? Compare the command of the nation to kill others, against Jesus' commands in Matt. 5:38ff. What the disciple of Jesus will do is to agree with the plain truth of Jesus' commands, and reject the commands of the world political entity.
Rom. 13 simply teaches that the disciples of Jesus are not to break the laws of the nation in which they are living, UNLESS those laws contradict God's commands in His Word, the Bible (Acts 4:19-20). Jesus commands His disciples to "love their enemies" and to "not resist an evil person". If a nation commands a disciple to hate their enemy (other people in neighboring nations), which command is epitomized by being commanded to kill them, then the disciple must obey Jesus' commands, and not the nation's command. For Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other." (Matt. 6:24) When two conflicting commands are issued between Jesus and any other authority, the true disciple of Jesus will always obey Jesus' commands over the other's, no matter what the ramification. What do you think was the primary reason that millions of martyr's over the centuries died by the hand's of world's governments and religious kingdoms? The primary reason was for disobeying the commands of the nation's or religious kingdoms in which they were living - which commands contradicted Jesus' commands.
Those wishing to justify hating one's enemy - which hatred is epitomized by war and the killing of others - and thus looking to nullify Jesus' commands in Matt. 5:38ff, will often turn to the examples of the centurions in the New Testament. The argument goes something like this: "since John the baptist, and Jesus spoke to these men, and the centurions (roman soldiers) were either commended for their faith, and/or they were not told to forsake their jobs, then hating and thereby killing others by serving in a military is justified." The argument might come in slightly different forms, but this is the central thrust of it. Let's take a look at this argument.
First, and foremost, as the argument is put forth above, it is an invalid argument, because the premises do not support the conclusion. The first premise, John the baptist and Jesus commending men for their faith in Jesus, does not mean they approved of all of the men's works, including their sinful works. For example, God clearly approved of King David, and that in spite of King David's sin - the taking of multiple wives (2 Sam. 5:13 in light of Deut. 17:17); the murdering of women and children (1 Sam. 27:9-12); lying (1 Sam. 27:10); the unnecessary torture of captives (1 Chron. 20:3); the adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of Uriah. Yet God STILL characterizes David as, "a man after My own heart" (Acts 13:22) and that in spite of David's sin. Why, because of David's faith, and the humble and contrite heart it produced.
The second premise, that because John the Baptist and Jesus did not command the centurions to leave their jobs, again does not mean they approved of the centurion's hating (and thereby hurting) those who made themselves their enemies. In regard to John the Baptist, he was not part of the church of Jesus Christ - he was not a partaker in the new covenant - and thus he was ignorant of some of the teachings of Messiah (Matt. 11:2, 3, 11). John was the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, since he had the privilege of introducing Israel to her Messiah (Matt. 11:11). So, when John was speaking to Centurions, he was speaking as a prophet under the old covenant, not as a disciple of Jesus. John knew the Lord was using the Romans to prepare His people Israel to receive the Messiah, and thus he did not spend his time rebuking gentiles, but rather rebuking and exhorting Israel in order to get her ready to receive Messiah. Under the Old Covenant, the Lord regularly used pagan nations to chastise Israel, so why would John have had a problem with the centurion being used in that way? Again, John was not speaking as a disciple of Jesus to the centurions, but rather as an old covenant prophet.
In regard to Jesus, it is noteworthy that nowhere in the New Testament do you see Jesus individually commanding a disciple to leave specific sins. He universally and generically commands all His disciples not to sin, but He did not, during His earthly ministry, point out the specific sins of his disciples or the specific sins of those responding to His grace. Even the adulterous woman at the well in John 4 is not told to leave or to marry the current man she is living with (John 4:16-21). One could infer that from His question, but He certainly did not plainly command her. Thus we can see the invalidity of the 'because they did not command the centurions to leave their jobs' argument. Let's apply that argument to the woman at the well in John 4. Since Jesus did not tell her to stop fornicating (akin to Jesus not telling the centurion to leave his job), this means that Jesus condones fornication or adultery (akin to Jesus approving of the centurions using force against their enemies). The error of this argument should be obvious. The Lord is gracious and merciful, and He speaks to people at the level they can receive (John 16:12). Jesus commended the centurions for their faith, but this does not mean that He either approved of all their works, or He approved of their being centurions.
Again, just because Jesus didn't tell them at the point the Scripture records the discourse, that they should love their enemies and to turn the other cheek, does not mean Jesus condones the hating of one's enemies. Thus, as we have seen, the principle of 'because Jesus did not tell the centurions to stop a particular behavior, then Jesus approves of the behavior', is shown to be a faulty principle of interpretation. If the centurion's "job" (after he became a disciple of Jesus, and was no longer ignorant of all of Jesus' commands) would lead him to break Jesus' commands in Matt. 5, then he would forsake that "job" and follow Jesus in the way of the cross (1 Pet. 2:20-23). After all, Jesus does command His disciples to "pick up your cross and follow Me." (Matt. 16:24). And He also commands that his disciples not use the sword to advance His kingdom (Matt. 26:51-52). To be in a position of being in a nation's military for the purpose of coercively ruling over them by use of, or threat of , the sword, is NOT a position a disciple of Jesus could hold in good conscience, since His Master command's otherwise (Matt 5:38ff).
Finally, and in general, interpreting the Word of God by implication from silence, or deduction from inference, is a very weak principle to stand on, especially when we have the clear and plain Words of the Master which contradict the alleged implication or inference (Matt. 5:38ff).
What About Jesus' Command to Buy a Sword?
Some would argue that Luke 22:36-38 justifies joining an organization of the world whose purpose it is to "defend" a nation by killing those which it views as politically opposing it. The verse says the following, "Then He [Jesus] said to them [His disciples], 'But now he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garments and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: 'And He was numbered with the transgressors.' For the things concerning Me have an end.' So they said, 'Lord, look, here are two swords.' And He said to them; 'It is enough.'"
Let us agree upon what these verses do plainly teach. First, clearly Jesus does say that His disciples could have swords, and in fact He does command them to buy a sword. He then prophesies yet again in verse 37 that He was going to offer His life as a ransom for the sins of the world, and then return to the Father. This is taught in verse 37, and particularly the end, which says, "for the things concerning Me have an end". In other words, He was no longer going to physically be with them, and thus He would no longer provide them with special protection as He had previously provided during His earthly ministry (John 17:11-12).
The most important principle in properly interpreting the Scripture is context and cross reference with other Scripture. The context of this passage is NOT some political statement, nor some statement about defending a nation. Rather, it is a statement about personally defending others in our normal life's travels (Of course the sword referred to in Luke 22 could be used to defend against animals as well.). We know from Matt. 5:38ff, that Jesus teaches that His disciples are not to resist and evil person. In other words, they are not to resist carnal attacks against their individual person. On the other hand, Jesus does say, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). The implication in that verse is sacrifice for others, and the phrase, "to lay down one's life", certainly does infer a physical sacrifice. Therefore, we can conclude that Jesus teaches that it is all right to defend those 'innocent' (meaning they did nothing to directly or indirectly cause the attack against them) people around you (friends), against harm. The example frequently given is a child who is attacked as you are walking somewhere. Love would require that you attempt to defend that child from harm, and to use whatever means necessary to stop the child from being harmed. As a disciple of Jesus, I am not to retaliate against an attack against myself, but I do have Scriptural grounds to defend those innocents in my family/community against harm.
The problem comes when this principle of the defense of those around you (friends and neighbors) as you live your life before the Lord in His community of believers (the true church), is perverted to justify killing others at the beckon call of a world's government. The root of this problem comes from the confusion between the Kingdom of God, and the kingdoms of this world. The New Testament knows nothing of beleivers living their lives with unbelievers - in their communities, organizations or kingdoms. In fact, the New Testament commands that the disciples of Jesus live lives apart from unbelieving communities and organizations (2 Cor. 6:11-7:1) [link to, Come Out From Among Them and Be Separate!]. Thus, to attempt to make a logical jump from defending those around you as you live your life for the Lord serving Him in His church - to joining a world's military in order to kill those the world label's as 'the enemy' - is proven to be an error on two counts. First, it is not a necessary logical conclusion from Luke 22:36ff. Second, it disobeys the doctrine of separation put forth in 2 Cor. 6:11-7:1. There is huge difference between defending 'innocent' friends and neighbors from spontaneous aggressors versus killing those whom you don't even know, and whose crime entails politically offending a government of the world.
What About Having A Non-Combat Job In A Nation's Military?
There are some organizations which the disciple of Jesus could not be a part of based upon the stated or recognized purpose of the organization, no matter what function they perform in that organization. For example, a disciple of Jesus could not be a cook at a "nude strip entertainment" establishment, or ever the janitor at such a place. The purpose of the organization is directly contrary to Jesus' commands. As another example, a disciple of Jesus could not be an employee for an abortion "doctor", even if their function had nothing to do with the actual killing of unborn babies e.g. cleaning the bathrooms of the facility. The purpose of the organization is directly contrary to Jesus' commands. One last example would be an employee with some boxing association which promotes boxing. The purpose of the organization is directly contrary to Jesus' commands to love one another.
Well, what about a nation's military? What is the purpose of the organization? Is it to use physical force against people whom a world's government label's as 'the enemy'? Can the disciple of Jesus, in good conscience, agree with, or work to support the purpose of the organization? Does Jesus issue any commands that contradict the purpose of the organization? What about Matthew 5:38ff? Will the military accept a disciple of Jesus telling them, upon joining, that the disciple will only perform job's which do not support combat in any way? Will the military accept a disciple of Jesus telling them, upon joining, that he believes that the purpose of the organization is inherently sinful and against God's law of love? What about the commands of 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1? Could the disciple of Jesus be a part of an organization whose purpose is to use force to coerce by force of carnal weapons, the enemy into submission? Would a true disciple of the One who commands that we love our enemies, want to be part of such an organization?
These questions, if answered in light of the Word of God, will provide the reader with God's will on this issue. And what should be plain is that the disciple of Jesus could not be unequally yoked with people in an organization whose core purpose is to use carnal weapons to force/kill and thus subdue a political enemy designated by a world's nation or kingdom.
What About a Police or "Peace" Officer?
This is best addressed with the separation doctrine in the New Testament, as already covered in the previous section regarding non-combat roles in a nation's military [link to Come Out From Among Them and Be Separate!]. What is the purpose of the police department? It is to enforce the law by means of force or threat of force i.e. using carnal weapons. While God does ordain, in His sovereignty, governments to minister the sword to keep the world from destroying itself (Rom. 13), this is NOT an endorsement of the disciple of Jesus using carnal weapons. The disciple of Jesus is not of the world, nor is he part of the world's organizations which have as their purpose, using physical force against others. Let us turn to one more example to illustrate the fact that "serving" as a police officer would bring you into conflict with Jesus' commands in Matt. 5:38ff.
If the police officer is commanded by his department that under certain circumstances, he is to draw his gun and shoot someone, how does that command square with Matt. 5:38ff? Essentially, the police officer is trained that "if a "suspect" does not comply with your commands, then he should be considered hostile to you (i.e. your enemy), and you are to use whatever means of force are necessary to subdue him, including deadly force". What does Jesus say to do to your enemies, in Matt. 5? He commands we love them and thus be kind to them! Again, having an allegiance to a world's organization is no justification for disobeying Jesus' commands. Let the Lord work through the world's governments as He sees fit, but you, disciple of Jesus, come out of the world and it's kingdoms, and serve Jesus and His Kingdom of God - through His church ONLY [link to Come Out From Among Them and Be Separate!].
Again, one will only be able to see these simple truths if one can see a distinction between the two kingdoms - the Kingdom of God, or the kingdom(s) of this world. The disciple of Jesus has only ONE allegiance, and it is NOT to the world, or the world's nations, governments, kingdoms, organizations or corporations. The disciple of Jesus has only ONE kingdom he/she is commanded to be a part of, that is the kingdom of God - His true church. If the believer must seek employment in the world, he should do so keeping the commands of the Lord near his heart. We should be careful not to be part of the world's organizations which will place us in the position of having to disobey Jesus' commands. And the true disciple of Jesus cannot be part of an organization whose stated purposes run contrary to New Testament commands.
As we have seen, the only New Testament justification for the disciple of Jesus using physical force, is to defend other 'innocents', such as friends and neighbors (certainly including brethren or children) from spontaneous acts of aggression.
If you understand the following truth given by Jesus, you will have no problem receiving His commands as given in this article. In regard to kingdoms, Jesus says this, "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). Jesus' kingdom is presently ruled by a King who is seated in heaven, and that King plainly teaches that His Kingdom is manifest in His church/called out ones, and that His called out ones do not fight to advance or protect His kingdom. If anyone cares to examine true church history, one will see this principle lived out again and again. The true church always grows under persecution and martyrdom. When lost people see disciples of Jesus laying their lives down for their love for the Lord, and willingly being martyred for Jesus, then they are seeing the most powerful witness possible. In fact, in seeing the martyrs, the lost have seen the same, powerful witness of the gospel that one will see when looking at Jesus willingly laying down His physical life to pay for the world's sins recorded in the gospels.
The world, and the worldly "christians" might call this New Testament doctrine of non-resistance, "cowardly". Of course, if they were going to be rational about it, then they would be forced to label Jesus and His martyrs the same way. In fact, Jesus commands His disciples that when they are persecuted in one place to flee to another to get away from the wicked persecution of those who walk in darkness (Matt. 10:23, 23:34). What the blind cannot see, is that there is no greater faith, nor faith empowered courage, than to believe Jesus' Words and to lay down one's life due to one's love for Him or a friend. As Jesus' disciples, we don't kill others to advance His kingdom, since His kingdom is advanced only by His holy love. And when other's want to kill us for loving the Lord Jesus, then we allow them to send us Home, for it is better to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord.
The world screams "justice", all the while blind to their own sin. The truth is, if God gave the people who demand justice what they deserve, then God would be forced to send them to hell. Of course, if God gave everyone who ever lived the justice they deserve, then He would be forced to send everyone who ever lived to hell, except His only begotten Son. Fortunately for mankind, the LORD God is merciful, and has made a Way for each person to escape the justice they deserve. That Way is Jesus the Messiah, and by falling down before Him, begging for forgiveness, and trusting in Him as Lord and Savior to save you from your sins, you will be spared the justice you deserve applied to you.
That which calls itself Jesus' church in the USA is currently in active idolatry towards the nation in which they exist. "Service" in the military is looked upon as good and right in God's sight by the vast multitudes shuffling into church buildings. Their love for their country is greater than their love for Jesus and His plain commands as discussed in this article. Sadly, it can be said of the "church goers" today, what was said long ago about the people of Israel, "So they feared the LORD, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods
" (2 Kings 17:32-33) [link to Are God-Fearer's Disciples of Jesus?]
May the remnant who still can see the Real Jesus and His commands, come out from among them, and be separate, and start to form His true church once again in these last dark days! [link to Are You Called Out?]