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Can a Christian serve in any capacity in the military?
Answer by Bill Cavender

As it happens, this day, the 4th of July, 2009, seems an appropriate time and date to do some thinking upon this matter.
To me, the greater issue, principle and question is the over-all relationship of a Christian to his/her government, serving in the military being one facet of that greater issue. Can a Christian, a believer, have any relationship with, and/or participation in civil government?

Civil government(s) among men, appointed men to rule over and govern other men, is a divine, God-ordained principle, authorization, and appointment. "The powers that be are ordained of God..."(Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:13-17; Daniel 2:21; 4:17, 25-26, 32, 35; 5:21; John 19:10-11; I Timothy 2:1-8, etc.). (Please read my last article, "The Question Box - #3," in which our duties to governments were discussed in much detail.). Civil governments are plainly said to be "ordained of God," and are NOT "of the devil," as I have heard some to say, here and there, over the years.

No particular KIND or FORM of civil government(s) is specified by God for any particular country or nation, in any period of world history (the EXCEPTION being when God appointed a monarchy, a KING, for His people of the Old Testament, Israel, in the land of Canaan - I Samuel 8:1-7, 19-22; 9:17; 10:1; Hosea 13:11). There are presently, in the world, monarchies, kingdoms, republics, democracies, dictatorships, etc., and have been so throughout the histories of men and nations - but no one KIND or FORM is dictated by God Almighty. All that He says and teaches is that the governments ("powers that be" Romans 13:1) are ordered, authorized, set-up, "ordained" by God! We who are Christians and citizens are to be obedient to those rulers, and to the laws of the land in which we live. We are to understand and realize that the cruel dictatorships of a Hitler in Germany or a Stalin in Russia, or an all powerful monarchy as in Saudia Arabia, or a constitutional monarchy as in Great Britain, are just a much ordained by God as is our republican, elected-representatives form of government in the USA. God allows nations to choose their own rulers, evolve into their own forms of government(s) - and then reap what they sow and suffer the consequences of their choices, for good or for ill.

We are the most fortunate people, it seems to me, upon the face of the earth - the Christian in the United States of America. This country and nation, for two hundred and thirty-one years (July 4, 1776 - July 4, 2009), has been the world's greatest experiment in "democracy," a "republic," in which men seek to govern themselves, through electing representatives to certain legislative bodies (local, state, national). These elected representatives are to do the will of the people who elect them by secret ballot and vote - and these elected representatives are subject to recall (to be voted out of office) when they do not represent the will of the people who elected them. Our system of government, fashioned and formulated by "our founding fathers," never envisioned an all powerful, central government. In our Constitution and Bill of Rights, the government planned by our forefathers was given certain specific rights and powers and works - and everything else was reserved to the states and to the individual citizens. TODAY that concept is being ignored and rapidly changed by our leaders in the national Congress in Washington, and by our newly-elected, highly-inexperienced, very arrogant-pompous, young President. One of the finest things that every American Citizen could do today, our day of National Independence, our birth-date as a nation, would be to read the Bill of Rights and the original Constitution of the United States of America, as written by our founding fathers. It will surprise you how far we have traveled away from the foundation principles and ideals of our nation's fathers and founders.

Our form of government in the United States of America allows us, as citizens, participation in every facet of government - if we (any one of us) choose to do so. Fundamentally and foremost, we are allowed to vote, to participate in choosing our leaders, if we choose to do so; but we are not commanded by the laws of God nor by the laws of the land to do so - or not to do so! It is our own choice. The right to vote and the exercising of that right and privilege is, to me, the most fundamental of our right(s) as a citizen, and all our other rights and privileges of citizenship are built upon that foundational concept and right. There is no law of God, that I know of, or understand, which dictates to a child of God, a Christian, WHAT he/she may do by way of participation in the affairs of our country, and in the particular form of government which we have in this nation.

In my years of being a Christian (since February, 1946) and a member of the body of Christ, the church of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-13, 27; Romans 12:4-5; 6:1-7, 16-18; 16:16; Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4-6, etc.), I have read many, many debates among brethren and others, I have read many, many religious papers and articles, and I have had many, many personal discussions with others regarding the principles and questions as to the extent of a Christian's participation in the civil government.

I have, in my own discussions with others, and in much reading of the thoughts and opinions of others, seen and realized the extremes of opinionism, and the gamuts ("range") of convictions held, and upheld, by so many. I concluded long ago that I would be honest with God, learn His will as best I can, abide by my own thoughts and convictions in these matters, and not try to bind my opinions and practices on others - nor allow them to bind their convictions and opinions upon me!

I have been told that: a Christian CANNOT vote; cannot hold any kind of elective, governmental office or job, as a mayor, city councilman, state legislator, national congressman, etc.; cannot work for any facet of government, as an office clerk, a policeman, a fireman, a sheriff's deputy, etc.; cannot take a government check, such as "Social Security;" cannot serve in the military, as a soldier, sailor, marine, etc.; cannot have ANYTHING to do with government! Somehow or other, I have not been able to find those ideas and teachings in God's word, and especially in the New Testament of Jesus Christ, under which we live; and to me, very extreme opinions and convictions which some have advocated, and do advocate. I refuse to be bound in any way by these ideas and opinions.

I read in the Old Testament Scriptures that Joseph became the "Prime Minister" of Egypt, second in power only to The Pharaoh, when Joseph was thirty years old (Genesis 41:37-46). He was very much "involved in politics," in the most powerful nation on earth at that time. Ignoring all the Judges and Kings in Israel in the Old Testament in this present study, we see Daniel was elevated by King Nebuchannezzar to be "chief governor" or "ruler" over the whole province of Babylon, and "chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon." Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, And Daniel was the chief advisor to Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:48-49). These were very much political, high-governmental offices.

In the New Testament Scriptures I read that Jesus healed a Roman Army Officer's servant who was near death (Luke 7:1-10). The Saviour said nothing about this Roman soldier having to leave the military as a condition of the Saviour's willingness to heal his sick servant. In Acts, chapters 10 and 11, we read of God making choice among all peoples of the Gentile nations as to whom He would send the apostle Peter to preach to the Gentiles. God chose a Roman Army Officer. There was no condition stated that this Roman Officer, Cornelius by name, must leave the military prior to becoming a Christian, nor that he must do so afterwards. Cornelius was baptized into Christ, with his family also, Acts 10:34-48. The Eunuch of Ethiopia, a Jew in the service of Candace, the Queen of Ethiopia, a man of great authority in the government, the treasurer of the country, very much in politics and government, obeyed the gospel of Christ, becoming a Christian, a child of God, but was not instructed that he must give up his government job if he was going to be a servant of Christ (Acts 8:26-39). Jesus our Lord instructed "soldiers" as to proper standards of conduct in dealing with others - but He did not tell them that must cease being soldiers (Luke 3:14). Zacchaeus, the chief tax-collector of Jericho, was visited and blessed by our Lord Jesus, and told that he had the faith of his spiritual father, Abraham - but he was not told by Jesus that he must cease being a tax-collector for the Roman government if he was going to serve Jesus and be as father Abraham(Luke 19:1-10).

My thinking and my convictions are that service to our country, in any office, job or work, in any facet of relationship to the government (local, county, state, federal) is a matter of one's own knowledge, understanding, and conviction(s). I served in the military in World War II, U.S. Navy, January, 1944, to the end of July, 1946. If I was younger, and my country had need of me, I could and would do so again. Some of the finest, most dedicated, most spiritual-minded, most godly brethren I have met and known along my journey of sixty-three years in the church, and sixty-two years of preaching the gospel and working with people, have been people in the military, both officers and enlisted men and women. I judge them not. I encourage them all to serve God and man as we are plainly taught in God's word, the Scriptures, to us all. Let each one of us who try to serve Jesus Christ be very careful as to how, when and why we sit in judgment upon others, and upon our brethren in particular. I learned a long time ago that my conscience cannot be another's judge - and their's cannot be mine. May God bless you all. Bill Cavender

Next Question - Question #5: In Acts 20:7, 11, are these TWO different 'breaking(s) of bread,' or is there one ONE?

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