Military Personnel In The New Testament
Military personnel are actually seen many times in the New Testament. For example, John the Baptist was once approached by a group of soldiers who wanted to know what they needed to do in response to his preaching. Rather than telling them to quit the army, John simply responded by saying, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely– be content with your pay” (Luke 3:14 NIV).
Later on, Jesus healed the servant of a Roman military officer and even commended him for his faith (Matthew 8:5-13). Acts chapter 10 details how another military officer (a God-fearing man as we’re told) received the baptism of the Holy Spirit after calling for the Apostle Peter in response to a vision from God. The Apostle Paul also used the example of a soldier’s faithful service to his commanding officer as a good model for a Christian’s relationship to Jesus (2 Timothy 2:4). So we can see that the New Testament clearly presents military service as an honorable job.
Biblical Principles Related To Warfare
In Deuteronomy chapter 20 we find a number of guidelines that might be applied as general Biblical principles regarding warfare. Here they are:
- The Bible teaches that an effort to avoid war and maintain peace should be attempted first before going into battle (Deuteronomy 20:10-11). However, the Bible also teaches that the complete destruction of an enemy may sometimes be necessary (Deuteronomy 20:16-19).
- Generally, non-military personnel (such as women and children) are to be spared (Deuteronomy 20:14). While the women and children of the Old Testament era probably didn’t appreciate their status as spoils of war, it’s also fair to say that they probably liked it a whole lot better than giving up their lives.
- Deuteronomy 20:19-20 tells us that there should be no unnecessary destruction of the environment during times of war.
- The Bible makes an allowance for those who do not wish to fight to choose not to do so (Deuteronomy 20:5-8). Today we might refer to such people as “conscientious objectors”.
- The Bible teaches that representatives of God should be available for the armed services (Deuteronomy 20:2). Today we know these individuals as “chaplains.”
“Just War” Theory
Over time, a number of tests have been developed to determine whether or not it is right for a group or nation to go to war. These principles have come to be known as the Just War theory.
This theory is based on the fact that all humanity recognizes that certain things are always wrong no matter who you are or where you live. This theory also lines up with general Biblical principles such as those found in Romans 2:14-15 and Matthew 7:12.
Some elements of the “Just War” theory include the following:
- Is the cause just? Is the group or nation acting in self-defense or to right a serious wrong?
- Is the intent just? Does the group or nation intend to restore freedom and peace?
- Have all other options been exhausted? Have all other means for peacefully resolving the conflict been totally explored?
- Have non-military civilians been declared protected? Does the group or nation agree not to intentionally target or make war against people who aren’t fighting?
Christian Responses During Times Of War
Finally, here are some good Biblical responses that a Christian can make during times of war:
- Pray for peace (1 Timothy 2:1-3, Jeremiah 29:7)
- Pray for those in authority and for those involved in the conflict (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
- If you are in disagreement with your government’s position, you can demonstrate your disagreement through legal and peaceful means (Romans 14:23b)
- The Bible teaches that civil disobedience is the right response when the government’s position clearly conflicts with Biblical teaching (Acts 5:27-29)
- Follow the Bible’s guideline found in Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (NIV).