Patriotism Or Pilgrimage? Study No. 204
mericans have found their way to the moon, but they’ve lost their way to the SON! Patriotism cannot save our nation, nor can even prayer by itself. We need more than that. Our pressing needs are true repentance, restoration, and revival.
It has been said, “Truth is hate to those who hate the truth.” Christ was truth personified, and yet He was hated without a cause. He taught us in Matthew 5:44 that we are to love our enemies. We are, of course, to hate evil deeds and evil ideologies, and we may even hate the devil who inspires both, but we are not to hate people. Christ taught us not pacifism, but Biblical nonresistance.
Romans 12 and 13 tell us that it is the job of God and government to avenge evil, not born-again believers. In Romans 12, Paul speaks of “we.” Romans 13 speaks of “he,” referring to government. This shows us a separation of Church and state. In the old covenant, “Church” and state were one, being Israel. God gave them an earthly kingdom and an earthly inheritance to defend. They fight today for the same reason they fought back then. However, in John 18:36, Christ told Pilate, “If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight. But now is My kingdom NOT of this world.”
Yahshua (Jesus) illustrated this truth for us in dealing with Peter in Luke 22:49. Peter asked, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” Then he acted before receiving the answer, and cut off Malchus’ ear. Peter was a fisherman and used his sword like a fishing pole, otherwise he might have cut off his head! Killers for Christ? He told us that the man who lives by the sword will die by the sword, Matthew 26:52. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, II Corinthians 10:4, for the arm of flesh will fail us, Jeremiah 17:5-6.
The grave markers of many church members who fought in war read, “Died in service to God and country,” but KILLING IS NOT OUR CALLING as saints of the Most High. We have not been given the ministry of RETRIBUTION, but rather the ministry of RECONCILIATION. If our Saviour would not let them fight for Him, why do people think they can fight for Caesar and Gentile rulers, going off to wrestle against flesh and blood? We are pilgrims and strangers, and our citizenship is in Heaven above, Philippians 3:20 (margin).
Christian churches have a history of blessing troops and weapons. How inconsistent to talk about holiness, yet participate in war, shed blood, and kill or help kill. In Germany there was only one organized Christian group that refused to capitulate to Hitler, and that was the Jehovah’s Witnesses. During World War I, Seventh-Day Adventists in Germany went to war with Adventists in America, as did the Protestants. The few thousand Adventists that objected were thrown out of their churches. But shall we quote the Sixth Commandment, as “Thou shalt not kill, unless Washington says you must”? It is a sobering thought to ponder that the soldiers who nailed our Saviour to the cross could have tried to justify themselves by saying, “Well, I was only obeying orders.” Of course we know the Scripture says we must obey God rather than men.
People use Ephesians 6:10-17 and say, “See here, the Christian can be a soldier because Paul said so!” But this Scripture is referring to spiritual warfare, not natural battles. He is talking about ‘G.I.,’ however, it is not “Government-Issue” but “GOD-Issue”! In II Timothy 2:4, it reads, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” Paul meant just the opposite of what some today try to make it say. I Corinthians 7:22-23 tells us we are not to be the servants of men. That is, we are not to sign our lives away into servitude, as people do when they enlist in the military services. Also, new recruits must swear an oath, which is something else that believers are forbidden to do!
When and if they catch and kill bin-Laden or Saddam Hussein, don’t you know there will be shouting and dancing in the streets of America? Yet God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” Ezekiel 33:11. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t deserve it, and not that we should pray our government will fail to accomplish their objectives, but Christians are also not to rejoice when our enemy falls.
Killing all our natural human foes will never resolve our nation’s spiritual crisis. (See Jeremiah 37:9-10.) Our land will be healed when the people of God called by God’s name, humble themselves and get right with Him! The freedom of our land was not purchased with bullets, and cannot be maintained by ballots (Psalm 127:1). We must remember Proverbs 16:7, “When a man’s ways please the LORD [YHWH], He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
“Pray for the peace of JerUSAlem,” Psalm 122:6.
Attitude of Early Christians Toward Military Service
“They refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defense of the empire . . . it was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, or magistrates, or of princes,” History of Christianity (New York: 1891), Edward Gibbon, pp. 162-163.
“The army suffered even more than the civil services. Even in the second century, Christianity had affirmed that ‘it is not right to be a man of the sword,’ and that ‘a son of peace, whom it becometh not even to engage in a litigation, should still less take part in a battle,’ . . . the incompatibility of military service with Christianity,” A Short History of Rome (New York: 1919), Guglielmo Ferrero and Corrado Barbagallo, p. 382.
“A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius, no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service,” The Rise of Christianity (London: 1947), Ernest William Barnes, then Bishop of Birmingham, p. 333.
“We who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness, have each through the whole earth changed our warlike weapons — our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage — and we cultivate piety, righteousness, philanthropy, faith, and hope, which we have from the Father Himself through Him who was crucified,” Justin Martyr in “Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew,” (2nd century C.E.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI), Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors, Vol. I, p. 254.
“The first Christians thought it was wrong to fight, and would not serve in the army even when the Empire needed soldiers,” The New World’s Foundations in the Old (Boston: 1929), Ruth West, Head of the Dept. of History in the Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, and Willis Mason West, Professor of History in the Univ. of Minn., p. 131.
“The attitude of the Christians toward society added to their unpopularity. Because Christ had preached peace, many of them refused to join the legions, or to fight if drafted. This seemed treason, inasmuch as a prime duty of the Roman world was to repel barbarism. Moreover, the Christians were unsocial; they abstained from most public amusements as immoral, and they refused to illuminate their homes or garland their portals in honor of national triumphs,” Ibid., p. 538.
“Its members refused to enter the army or take any part in war . . . . Origen . . . remarks that ‘the Christian Church cannot engage in war against any nation. They have learned from their Leader that they are children of peace.’ In that period many Christians were martyred for refusing military service. On March 12, 295, Maximilian, the son of a famous Roman veteran, was called upon to serve in the Roman army and he refused, saying simply, ‘I am a Christian’,” H. Ingli James, quoted in Treasury of the Christian World (New York: 1953), edited by A. Gordon Nasby, p. 369.
— written by Les Rinehart, 3286 CR 225, Goodson, MO, 65659, (417) 993-1140, firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOR FURTHER STUDY: “Whatever Happened to Pacifism?” by Whaid Rose (article reprint, 4-1999). Bible Advocate, PO Box 33677, Denver, CO, 80233-0677, email@example.com.
“What the Bible Teaches About War,” Christian Light Publications, PO Box 1212, Harrisonburg, VA 22801.
Studies in the Doctrine of Nonresistance, Rod and Staff Publishers, PO Box 3, Crockett, KY 41413-0003.
“Shall We Smite With the Sword?” “Heaven or Washington? Guidelines for Christian Citizenship” Amish-Mennonite Publications, 8509 Bayard Rd., Minerva OH 44657.
“Peace Doctrine in Questions and Answers,” “Why I Can’t Take Part in Carnal Warfare Since I’ve Become a Christian,” Gospel Tract and Bible Society, PO Box 700, Moundridge, KS 67107.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ Taught and Lived Nonresistance — Do You?” Apostolic Missions Intl., PO Box 3385, Cookeville, TN 38501.