Previously we examined the Christian and his responsibilities to his government. We learned that he must always remember that the world is not his home, he should pay his taxes and render obedience to the government insofar as the government does not infringe on his ability to serve God, and that he should continually pray for the authorities of the government so that he may continue to live in tranquility.
A similar issue for the Christian is the question of war: when, if ever, can a Christian fight in an armed conflict? The issue is an extension of the government issue, as governments are normally the bodies which declare war on one another. What does the Word of God say about war?
The question of war is not discussed directly in Scripture. We are to fight a spiritual battle against sin and darkness (Ephesians 6:10-20), but not to fight any physical battles. We are told of soldiers who converted to Christ: Cornelius in Acts 10 and the Philippian jailer in Acts 16. We are not told, however, whether or not they continued in their positions after conversion. History shows us through Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History that in the second and third centuries CE, soldiers who converted to Christ would often renounce their military positions, even to the point of martyrdom.
Jesus did teach against the general concept of war, however. We must always remember that war begins due to a sin: some group or individual sinned against another, and an armed conflict arose from it. Christ has this to say about enemies that one makes in Matthew 5:43-44:
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.
So, we are to love our enemies! This would make a strong argument against the Christian’s involvement in war.
Paul also gives us a principle, not contrary to that of Jesus, that would be good to remember, 1 Timothy 2:1-2:
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may live a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
Here we are urged to pray for tranquility and peace in our lives.
So, then, what is the Christian to do? Shall he serve in war or shall he not? The question must be answered by each individual Christian with his own conscience directed by a true faith. He must study the Scriptures and see what they have to say, and make a decision based upon them. Every man come to his own conclusions based upon Scripture, upon which basis each also shall be judged (Romans 14:10).