What is God’s position on military armies and federal, state, local government police agencies?
Before we begin, remember the governing principle of scripture, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Cor 13:1, Mat 18:16). This principle dictates that any truth of God that is applicable to all people of every age, in order to be counted as doctrine, must be substantiated by at least two references in scripture, particularly the New Testament in which we now live. If a commandment is found in the New Testament that is not backed by at least one more reference, then that commandment is only applied to the person or people to whom it was spoken originally.
Since the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the law of God has changed. Under the old covenant between God and man a law was given to rule the people. That law, given to Moses, contained over 600 commandments and ordinances that governed the life of the people of God. One of the first 10 commandments was written, “Thou shalt not kill”. But if you recall, God did allow, and even command the Israelites to take the promised land by force and to kill all the ungodly inhabitants. The commandment is only referring to malicious murder and not righteous judgment nor self-defense. Throughout the Old Testament, God allowed, and even commanded the killing of some people. God even helped his people fight battles to kill and subdue kingdoms so that he could establish his blessing upon the righteous. And even some of the commandments in the law of Moses were to kill those who sinned. But that is in the Old Testament. Now, we know that things have changed because of this grace given to mankind through Jesus Christ. And God is no longer commanding people to fight for land. However, He does allow for the protection of land and people.
Under the old law, the judgment of God was quick and the wrath of God was all too often apparent and sometimes absolutely scary. However, under the new law of Christ (Gal 6:2, Rom 8:2), (which actually is not a law of commandments but the law of love) the judgment hand of God is held back so that people can repent and be saved through the blood of Jesus.
Jesus transitioned us to the new covenant way of life with his words and doctrine, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Mat 5:43, 44).
So, whereas in the old testament, it was allowed to hate your enemy (Psa 31:6, Deut 23:6, Psa 41:10, Psa 139:21), now we must love our enemies. The Lord Jesus also changed some other practices such as working on the sabbath, not stoning to death those caught in adultery or other sins, and even the definition of murder (now, God considers it murder if we even hate our neighbor – 1 John 3:15). We are now called to be peaceful and loving toward all men and to turn the other cheek instead of fighting. Jesus also said that we would be persecuted and even killed for His name’s sake, and that we should not resist.
However, there are two important guidelines to note:
1 – PERSECUTION IS ALLOWED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS’ SAKE ONLY:
The persecution that is promised and allowed by the Lord is only persecution for righteousness’ sake. That means that because we are Godly and righteous and proclaiming the name of Christ, some men will take offense just as they did with Christ. However, the only scriptural examples of persecution are from religious leaders or government officials, and not from the general public. Thus, Jesus is not insinuating that the Christian should smile and allow himself to be killed by a gangster thug or crazed maniac who is out to murder his family. No, Jesus is referring strictly to persecution for being Godly, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Mat 5:10-12). “And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12).
Any human being has the right to bodily protection from ungodly and immoral people, and this includes possessing weapons of equal or greater caliber than the attacker. Even Peter carried a sword while working with Jesus – (Luke 22:49,50 – but remember Jesus was being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, so Peter should NOT have used his sword to protect Jesus from his captors on that final day).
And of course, the Christian also has access to divine protection from God. The access to that promise is only by faith (by believing it), though, which is an entirely different subject and will not be discussed here.
1 – THE GOVERNMENT IS TREATED DIFFERENTLY
When we read scripture, we do it as an individual. The believer in Christ is to study and conform to the scriptures that he may be an example of Christ on this earth, in character, in holiness, in deeds. And institutions or groups or governments should also adhere to the principles of Christianity. However, there is a special authority given from God to the rulers of the land to keep peace among the people. There has always been governments and restraining forces in every civilization and always will be because there are always evil people. God began the institution of policing and punishment, and He is the one that ordains it. Here are the New Testament proofs that God allows government force and punishment for evil people.
Romans 13:1-7 “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”
1 Pet 2:13-14 “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.”
Here are some points to consider:
1) God doesn’t enjoy wars and killing and bloodshed, but He allows it to protect the innocent from further devastation. The New Testament clearly defines that rulers and governors are ordained to punish evildoers. And since there are at least two witnesses of scripture to back this, it is an active doctrine of the new testament.
2) The Christian should not glory in nor rejoice in the revenge of this country toward criminals or terrorists or any other country. But he should expect and pray for quick elimination of the evil acts toward the innocent. And we can be pleased when justice prevails. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Tim 2:1-2). The born-again believer will have the love of God within his heart and should mourn at the death of any soul. But at the same time, remember that the unrighteousness of man is as detestable to God as death is, and that the wages of sin is death.
3) Death is an enemy to God and to Christ, and should be avoided if possible.
4) Obviously, it would be ludicrous to expect a policeman in the United States to patrol the community and keep order without a weapon. And it would be just as ludicrous to tell him never to use it, even to protect an innocent person or himself from a criminal with a weapon of similar caliber.
5) God has given special grace and authority to those in these government and military positions to execute judgment on the terrors to society. The average citizen does not have this authority and should not involve himself unless enlisted in the army or forced into combat.
6) The Christian, if enlisted into the military, should absolutely do his job as unto the Lord. And he should ask for and receive special grace from God to kill if necessary.
7) The Christian is absolutely allowed to hold a position in government as a policeman or other peace keeper in order to serve his fellow man. The world needs the wisdom of God in these positions. The Christian should possess this wisdom. So Christians are absolutely allowed to hold positions in the military and all governments.
8) The attack on America in 2001 was not considered government persecution, nor persecution for righteousness’ sake. Though the terrorists cry that it is some religious war, they are actually maniacs possessed with a devil to kill and destroy. The attack on America was not because we proclaim Jesus Christ, but because of economic and political unrest and frustration.
9) Keeping peace in this country and in some other countries is vital for the spreading of the gospel. The time is short. Our focus should not be on wars and rumors of wars, but on helping the next person know God through Jesus Christ.
10) This topic is not to be brooded over, but only pocketed for a brief understanding of the Christian’s position and attitude toward punishment of and protection from criminals. The believer in Christ should cast his care to the government leaders for protection and judgment, and keep his attention focused on his relationship with the Lord and his responsibility to help everyone know of salvation through Christ. If the believer is a soldier, policeman, or government official, he may do his job with grace and confidence, trusting that God is with him.