“The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.” (Exodus 15:3)
Three days ago, the White House announced that the president’s first budget will call for a historic $54 billion increase in military spending as the fight against ISIS and the global war against Islamic terrorists continue. As we speak, there are some 4,000 civilians fleeing Mosul each day amid the fighting. As they escape, they witness bodies of children and body parts strewn all over the ground. My brother is a surgeon who just finished a medical deployment in Mosul with Franklin Graham’s organization, Samaritan’s Purse. According to my brother, Islamic fighters intentionally target young children and women. It is unspeakable evil.
Two nights ago, I watched the much acclaimed movie, Hacksaw Ridge, with my wife. The movie is based off the true story of Private Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who served as a conscientious objector during World War II. Private Doss saved 75 lives during the Battle of Okinawa without lifting a weapon. For his actions, Doss was the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor.
The actions of Doss were unequivocally praiseworthy. When an American risks his own life to save the lives of his fellow Americans (with or without a gun), the act is worthy of our deepest gratitude. Desmond Doss deserved the Medal of Honor for what he did that day on “Hacksaw Ridge.” No question about that.
Yet, one could easily ask: “What if everyone during World War II objected to bearing arms because Christ told us to turn the other cheek?” Where would we be as a nation? Where would we be as a world? I am sure that both Japan and Nazi Germany would have loved such ruminations. As Edmund Burke rightly observed, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Both President Trump’s first budget and the life of Private Doss remind me of the importance of sound theology. Truth is, Desmond Doss was dead wrong in objecting to kill as an American soldier during World War II. Without bogging you down with the particulars of Augustinian “Just War” theory, let us be clear that the bearing arms to protect the people you love from an evil aggressor is not prohibited anywhere in Scripture. Executing a murderer is not murder (Gen 9:6, Acts 25:11). And a president’s (or king’s) ordering of soldiers to destroy an evil enemy is actually part of the leader’s divinely appointed responsibilities (Rom 13:4).
No question, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9), but we must never take such verses out of context. The bloody cross of Jesus Christ is the clarion historical case study which shows us that both God’s justice and God’s love exist conjunctively. We would be wise to remember that peace is never free in a fallen world. Strangely, Desmond Doss erroneously continued to observe the Saturday Sabbath while refusing to fight on behalf of his nation. Biblically, Doss had the prohibitions reversed: Christians are to no longer keep the Saturday Sabbath, and Christian soldiers are to fight heartily for peace.
TEACHING OUR SONS
Jesus did not command the centurion to resign his post; instead, He commended the military leader’s faith (Lk 7:9). God, Himself, is a “man of war” (Ex 15:3), and King Jesus’s return to earth and subsequent ascent to His throne will be the bloodiest ascent in the history of mankind (Rev 14:20). While we must teach our sons to be men of peace, we must also teach them that it is honorable to serve as godly soldiers or law enforcement officers. Since such professions act on behalf of God as His “avengers” bearing the sword (Rom 13:4), Christian men ought to serve joyfully, not dubiously, in such professions. Soldiers ought to know that their line of work is honorable before men and honored by God. They ought to have the full support and gratitude of the American people.
Peace is never free in a fallen world, and the harsh reality is that a conscientious objector is only free to object because his brother has not objected. Pacifism, in the face of appalling evil, is not just bad theology–it’s a sin.