Should Christian Parents Encourage Their Kids to Join the Military?
By Sylvia Cochran – Christian Parenting
Faith and patriotism are rolled into one in the saying “pro aris et focis,” which has been transliterated to mean “for God and country.” Visit any ceremony honoring military veterans, and you will hear some references to God and faith. Yet how do you, the Christian parent, square this with Christ’s command to turn the other cheek?
As s Christian parent, I have noticed that there is a bit of subtle peer pressure pushing one to mention military service to the kids as a viable option to college. There is no doubt that becoming a member of the armed forces is a highly respected profession. There is also no doubt that returning military veterans deserve honor and respect. At the same time, an undercurrent has some Christian parents wondering whether the military is truly the right choice for their grown child – or any grown child, really.
Looking at the Bible, it is clear that military service was part of being a member of the community. The earliest occurrence I could find takes place in Genesis 14, when Abram forms a posse of 318 “trained men” from his household. He went out and took on the Elamites who had kidnapped Lot and his family. Later on in Israel’s history (1 Samuel 13:2), King Saul sets up the first army consisting of 3,000 men.
Fast forward to the New Testament, and we see that God had direct interaction with devout soldiers. Acts 10 chronicles the baptism of the Centurion Cornelius and his household. The Bible describes this solider as being generous to the poor, devoted to prayer and spirituality. There is no condemnation of his profession. In fact, plenty of military language and metaphors have bled into the description of what it means to be a god-fearing Christian. Case in point is the armor of God, which is described in Ephesians 6:11-17.
On the other side of the equation, there are conscientious objectors to the draft and military service in general. Citing the sixth commandment, they note that God forbids murder. This then opens up the debate about premeditated murder and murder in self-defense. Jesus has clearly stated that a man should not resist an evil person. In His iconic sermon on the mount, the son of God called peacemakers the sons of God. He refused the assistance of a sword-wielding disciple ready to defend his master. Of course, this is the same Jesus Christ who appears as a warrior king in the book of Revelation.
Who is right? Are you wrong if you discourage your children from serving with the armed forces? Are you wrong if you encourage this type of service? The Bible teaches that God does not change who He is. Hebrews 13:8 notes that Jesus himself is “the same yesterday and today and forever.” Unlike human mores and sentiments, God does not adjust. It is clear that God never asked his followers (with exception of the Levites) to abstain from military service. The greatest examples of faith were men who went to war and killed in battle.
People do change. What was acceptable and even encouraged yesterday, today has become a bone of contention. It is here that the Christian parent must realize that the church is big enough to accommodate all kinds of opinions. Military service is a matter of opinion, not scripture. God does not expressly order the faithful to take up arms or forbid them from doing so. Each Christian must make this decision based on a personal understanding of scripture and prompting of conscience. Remember that in the early church, some disciples abstained from eating meat because their conscience prompted them to do so. Others saw nothing wrong with eating the meat. The Bible warned both parties not to let a matter of opinion divide them.
Go, and do likewise.
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