The following excerpt has been edited and reformatted from lesson 4 of the new Men’s Bible Study from RBP, A Man and His Country by Allen Ferry.
Lesson 4: Should a Christian Go to War?
I wrote most of this book while deployed with the 42nd Infantry Division, United States Army, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was over six thousand miles from home and family. Why was I there? Patriotism! Yes, I love my country, and I have personal convictions regarding my responsibilities as a citizen.
As men, we must shoulder our citizenship responsibilities. My hope is that as you progress through this study, the Word of God will stir your heart and you will develop Biblical discernment to enable you to differentiate good practices from unbiblical ones that will diminish your testimony for Christ. The Word of God speaks clearly. So let’s get started.
Pro Deo et Patria! For God and Country!
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Before the Declaration of Independence was written, Americans were fighting for freedom. They were not soldiers by trade, but to protect their homes, they became “Minutemen,” ordinary colonists who could be called upon at a minute’s notice. The spirit that compelled those settlers to become “citizen-soldiers” has become an American heritage.
American citizen-soldiers were the backbone of the fight for independence at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. They scaled the cliffs of Normandy, France, penetrated the jungles of Vietnam, and are now enduring the rocky terrain of Afghanistan and the heat of Iraq.
Today, patriotic Americans volunteer to join the military—ordinary citizens who, like their forefathers, are prepared to keep their nation free. Should you participate? Here are seven questions to ask yourself.
#1—Am I a patriot?
A patriot stands ready to serve and protect his country.
1. a. How do you describe a patriot?
b. Do you consider yourself a patriot? Explain.
2. Do you place high value on the military as an extension of civil government? Why or why not?
Jesus had an encounter with a centurion (Luke 7:1–10) and called that soldier a man of great faith. Notice that the centurion was a generous patron of both Rome and Judah. His Jewish friends said, “He loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” Patriotism and personal faith are not exclusive.
In addition to recording incidents that commend soldiers, the Bible uses military metaphors to illustrate the life-and-death struggle against spiritual enemies.
3. What did Paul call Epaphroditus and Archippus (Philippians 2:25; Philemon 2)?
Fellow soldiers have carried the same gear, breathed the same foul air, seen the same wounded bodies, and buried the same buddies. Fellow soldiers—in a physical battle or a spiritual one—know how to depend on one another.
#2—Do I respect soldiers?
The apostle Paul validated and elevated the profession of soldiering as he challenged Timothy, his ministry protégé, to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). By this analogy Paul taught that a good minister must be like a good soldier. The implication is twofold: a good soldier is an example to follow, and hardship is expected.
#3—Do I have the qualities of a good soldier?
Good soldiers are serious. Veterans know that each generation depends on the previous generation. Paul depended on Timothy to take responsibility for the next generation of Christians (2 Timothy 2:1, 2). The result of our Christian mission will impact generations to follow. Likewise, can our country’s next generation depend on us to maintain their freedom?
4. a. Humanly speaking, does the battle against evil ever end? Explain.
b. Can any generation afford to cease vigilance? Explain.
5. Do adults have the responsibility to protect their families? Or does the responsibility belong to someone else? According to 1 Timothy 5:8, whose responsibility is it to provide for a man’s household?
Good soldiers are objective. The U.S. military, for example, trains personnel according to standards. No one is to interpret these standards subjectively. A recruit doesn’t change the military; the military changes him. Spiritually, Christian soldiers do not change the truth; they expect the truth to change them.
6. Read 2 Timothy 2:2.
a. What was one of Paul’s objectives?
b. Name two or three components of a training plan for training disciples for Christ. What components have parallels in the training of military soldiers?
c. Why are training plans for military soldiers and spiritual soldiers both important?
Good soldiers are loyal. Loyalty in the military is a two-way street: enlisted to officers and officers to enlisted, both looking out for the other. Likewise, in a spiritual relationship, the mentor gives and expects loyalty.
Good soldiers are driven. Driven soldiers endure hardship for the right cause (2 Timothy 2:3). Good ministers and good soldiers have a moral compass. Their sense of what is right directs and drives them through hardship.
7. a. What will you endure for your favorite sport?
b. What will you endure to spend time reading God’s Word? praying? witnessing? taking a stand for righteousness?
Christian soldiers are motivated to please Christ no matter what it costs them.
Good soldiers are interconnected. Insightful soldiers value one another and understand the contribution of each person.
Good soldiers are ethical. In Greek the word ethos means “manners, characterizing one who is morally upright.” That means, for example, that good soldiers endure and control their sexual appetites. They want to please their Lord (2 Timothy 2:4).
Finally, good soldiers are resolved. They are resolved to one purpose: to please the commander by accomplishing the mission. Good Christian soldiers are resolved to put the pleasure of God in first place (John 8:29) and everything else in second place (Philippians 3:8–14; Hebrews 12:1, 2).
#4—Do I understand the need for trained soldiers?
Genesis 14 records the first call to arms mentioned in the Bible.
8. Abraham trained men from his household for war so he could defend his family (Genesis 14:13–16). Could those men have been called “citizen-soldiers”? Explain.
#5—Do I meet the requirements for military service?
A military force is necessary for national security and freedom. Serving in the military should be considered a privilege.
9. Moses established requirements for military service for the Israelites. Identify those qualifications:
Numbers 1:2, 17, 18 Numbers 1:4
Numbers 1:3 Numbers 1:17–54
10. Moses also established exemptions from military service (Deuteronomy 20:5–8). What are some benefits of seeing this precedent in the Bible? Explain.
#6—Will I be an ally with the Almighty and my brothers
In WWII, the allies were the nations “on the same side” in the battle against the German Nazis. Likewise, spiritual allies align with God in the war against evil: loving what He loves, hating what He hates (Psalm 97:10).
11. Identify what God hates. Why do you think He hates that
Proverbs 6:12–15 Proverbs 11:3
Proverbs 8:13 Proverbs 13:10; 16:18
#7—Am I ready for armed combat (spiritual and corporeal)?
With the privileges of citizenship comes the responsibility to serve and protect one’s country. Appropriate weapons are needed to end conflict and reestablish peace. In the spiritual realm, we have the Word of God so we “may wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). For most Christians, the war is spiritual, not corporeal. God is the ultimate commander, and His enemy becomes our enemy. And we become strong through Him (Ephesians 6:10).
So, is participating in the military for you? Here is a final test:
I want to keep my country free. Agree Disagree
I consider myself patriotic. Agree Disagree
I appreciate the freedoms of my country. Agree Disagree
I appreciate the rights my country grants me. Agree Disagree
I understand the use of military metaphors to describe the Christian
life. Agree Disagree
I want my family kept safe from harm. Agree Disagree
I hate what God hates enough to fight against it. Agree Disagree
I want my children and grandchildren to live free. Agree Disagree
If you agree to all the test statements, want to do something, and qualify for military service, pray about signing up to serve your country.
Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) Allen “Doug” Ferry began his military career in 1987. He has been deployed to Bosnia and Iraq (twice). Allen is now the Joint Forces Chaplain for the New York National Guard. As a civilian, he serves as the Protestant chaplain at Auburn Correctional Facility. Allen and his wife, Theresa, have two adult children and two grandsons.