Dear Christian, How Can You Be in the Military?!

Let me begin with a disclaimer:

I do not represent the United States government or the Chaplain Corps. I speak for myself. My thoughts and opinions are just that – my own. 😉

Now that we got that outta the way, here we go!

A couple months ago a friend asked me about my chosen profession as a military chaplain

LT Chris Linzey, CHC, USN
LT Chris Linzey, CHC, USN

(I’ve spent 5 years in the Army Reserve and am now an Active Duty Navy Chaplain). The questions went like this:

How can you carry out Christ’s commands to love our enemies, to not resist evil, to overcome evil with good, to not kill – now that you’ve taken an oath to the military and abide by its laws? What are you counseling the service men and women?

This post isn’t going to get into the ins and outs of Just War Theory. I’ve written about it elsewhere (as have MANY others who understand it a lot better than I do).

But I do want to address the idea that Christians should not be in the military because we are called by God to be set apart.

1) From a biblical perspective, all of the instructions in the New Testament about loving enemies, overcoming evil with good, etc. are not instructions to officials about the best way to run a government. They are instructions about how we ought to conduct ourselves in our personal relationships. Remember that in the Old Testament the God who commands, “Thou shall not kill” is the same God that allows capital punishment for certain crimes. There is a difference between our personal ethics and our corporate ethics – and this difference isn’t a bad thing. It’s what allows us to pursue peace and healthy relationships while still being a society that deals in justice and punishment.

2) Coming to faith has never meant resigning from military service. Even in the Bible, Soldiers were not condemned for their military service or told to quit. In fact, the Bible tells us about Soldiers coming to faith.

John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…. “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance….” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He answered them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” (Luke 3:3-14)

If being a Soldier in the Roman army were wrong, why are Soldiers not condemned? Rather, they are told to be satisfied with their wages. That means they’re staying in the service!

3) Finally, as a Chaplain, it’s not my job to fight. The two purposes of military Chaplains are a) to spiritually care for service members and b) to advise Command about ethics, moral, and spirituality. In that sense, John the Baptist was the first Chaplain beginning in the New Testament era! He spiritually cared for Soldiers and helped them move in a godly direction.soldiers-praying

I’m not making a case for or against any particular war or military action. We will be debating the morality of military action until the end of time. My only point is that there is nothing intrinsically immoral or ungodly about Christians serving in the military.

In the military we are taught to obey ALL lawful orders. Should the time come when the military gives Christians orders that are unlawful or conflict with personal morality and ethics, Service Members are free to disobey the orders – just know that you will have to face the consequences of that decision 😉

At the end of the day I believe the Chaplain Corps makes the military a better place. We get to speak to issues of ethics and morality. We get to help Service Members pursue spiritual health. And, since the Bible clearly has no problem with God-followers serving in the military, I will not feel guilty about wearing the cloth of my nation.

I proudly serve my God while I proudly serve in my country’s armed forces.

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I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!

Revolutionary Faith: Why the American War for Independence was Unbiblical

Image courtesy of Michael Elliott at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Michael Elliott at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Let me begin this post the same way I begin any conversation I have where I talk about a Christian response to Independence Day and the American Revolution:

I am a Chaplain (Captain) in the United Stated Army Reserve. My two younger brothers are both Active Duty U.S. Army. My father was in the Army. My grandfather was Active Duty Navy, was enlisted and sunk at Midway, finished seminary and went BACK into the Navy as a Chaplain. I have several uncles and cousins that have been part of the military. Clearly, then, I support the military and believe that a military, like a police force, is a necessary part of society. I do believe in Just War Theory. I don’t speak for the Army or for the government, but I want you to get where I’m coming from.

Now – to the point of the post: I believe that the American War for Independence was unbiblical and should not have taken place from a Christian point of view. No, I’m not crazy. I’m not some left-wing nut. I’m actually fairly conservative and (totally honesty here) am a registered Republican. But I whole-heartedly believe that the Bible is supposed to be our guide for what we believe and how we behave, and I believe that the New Testament would tell us that The Revolutionary War was wrong.

Looking at the New Testament book of 1 Peter will explain where I’m coming from:

1 Peter 2:11-17 ~ 11 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you.12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.13 Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority 14 or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. 15 For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. 16 As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.

First, Peter calls us strangers and temporary residents. Some Bible versions use the word “aliens” to describe his audience. No, not the little green men, but people who are foreigners. His primary audience were Jews of the Dispersion. They had been scattered from their homeland and lived abroad in “Gentile” territories. They were literally foreigners. He calls them to live exemplary lives among the non-believers so that even the non-believers will end up giving glory to God.

While we might be naturally born citizens in America but we find ourselves in a country that is more and more turning its back on the ideals and belief systems of Judeo-Christianity. We are fast becoming the minority. We need to remember that, no matter where our home or citizenship lie, our ultimate home is heaven. We too often forget our heavenly citizenship and cling to our earthly citizenship.

There’s a band called Building 429 with a song that says:

All I know is I’m not home yet. This is not where I belong
Take this world but give me Jesus. This is not where I belong.

That’s the attitude early Christians had. The longer we stay here the more we forget that we don’t belong here on earth – we’re passing through.

Second, Peter flat out says that Christians are to obey human institutions from the Emperor on down to local governors. That pretty much says it all right there. Extend Peter’s principle through history and imagine that he is writing to Colonials, separated from their homeland in Britain. “Submit to every human institution because of the Lord, whether to the King as the supreme authority or to local magistrates….” Boom! End of revolution.

The Christian principle and ideal in the Bible is one of submission and appropriate behavior. There is no exception clause for open rebellion. Rebellion is contrary to the Spirit of God.

I will admit that changing our understanding does not change history. We are where we are. What I would like to see changed is the American predisposition to believe that we are righteously called to be God’s people in this land. We are not.

Our nation was not founded on God. Our nation was founded on the Constitution of the United States of America (which, yes, does have some Christian principles in it). Ancient Israel, with its covenant and Torah, was founded on God (Yahweh). America – not so much. Here our country singers sing that “We’ll put a boot up your @$$” and claim that it’s “The American Way.” Shame on us for confusing America with Christianity.

It’s time to accept that Yahweh is the God of all nations, not just America. So please, Christians, stop chanting: “USA! USA! USA!” as though we have special divine favor. Please stop asking God to specially bless our country as though we are his special nation and are better than other nations. Stop reveling in rebellion and mourn the fact that so many Christians are caught up in the national cult of patriotism and worship at the throne of Uncle Sam when we ought to be putting our emphasis on our citizenship in heaven and worshipping at the throne of the Almighty.

So, it’s the 4th of July. The day when Americans tossed the Bible aside and said, “It’s more important to us to have freedom from the economic constraints of England than it is to follow the biblical model of submitting.

Because that’s what Jesus would have done. He would have fought tooth and nail for his freedom and liberty. He would have demolished the opponent and then celebrated every year.

Oh, wait. He didn’t, did he? He submitted – even unto death.

May God forgive our arrogance and disobedience….

**Note – I fully expect 90% of Americans to disagree with me. That’s okay. If you’d like to participate in civil conversation I really do welcome it.

Related Post:
~ Patriotism Vs. Faith
~ The Rebellious American Spirit