Under the above title we have occasion to reflect upon some of the problems that confront the young Christian who is called to give a part of his time and life in the service of the army.
There are two distinct elements in this problem that stand out for our consciousness, namely, that of the soldier, and that of the Christian.
In the idea of a soldier we are confronted with various deeply important relations to which it is our duty to give constant attention, if the idea and the—duty of military service is not to degenerate into a base brutal libertinism.
As soon as we speak of the soldier in the accepted sense, we are implying that such a person is a member of some nation, or at least has placed himself in connection with some nation through becoming a member of her army.
We have here the idea of citizenship.
And this idea is a thoroughly Biblical one, for it implies that in the providence of God we have been set into the organism of a people so that in some sense we are a part of it. This inclusion may be either voluntary by the fact that we have come to a certain country and adopted it as our country. Or it may be that we are a member of such a country by birth and thus were born in the relations that are implied in this citizenship.
Now this relationship implies certain privileges and certain duties.
The privileges consist in the fact that one has the right to the protection which the organism grants to its members. It also means that he shares in the goods, the prosperity, the good fortunes of the body of which he is a member. This is one of the great purposes of organization, of incorporation. This is very evident in the great corporations of which the Scriptures speak so much, namely the corporation of Adam and that of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But now the membership in this body, or nation, also implies duties. The privileges are possible through the fulfillment of the duties that are fulfilled in the communion. Also this is abundantly expressed in the great organization of the Church of Jesus Christ. Serving one another, submitting to one another, edifying one another unto the building up of the body until all come to the full stature of the blessed knowledge of God, and also here it applies first of all to the Christ Himself. His calling and His honor are balanced hand in hand.
I do not think there is any question about this relationship as the Bible teaches it.
Because of this principle it may also be regarded as very doubtful whether one may ever drift on through life without becoming a citizen of some country where he assumes the duties and enjoys the privileges.
It is evident that also here we have to do with the command of the law of God: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
To express it in the relation which we are now discussing we shall have to say that a man must love his country, his nation. This may seem strange at first, for our thinking in the past decades has gone through a whole cycle of attitudes and reactions. We know of times when patriotism, love of country was almost an idolatry, expressed in the words to show the absurdity, “My country right or wrong.” And we have also seen a period of cynical criticism in which the idea of love for country became a huge joke.
Evidently both of these are wrong. And the one as well as the other betrays a lack of balanced biblical thinking.
Also here the Word of God is the light for our thinking. It teaches that we shall love our neighbor as our self. And this also applies to our neighbor as he is related to us in the bond, the organism of the nation. As we are exhorted to love servant or master in the implied relation, and as we love our family and its members in the relations that grow up out of that family organization so also as a citizen in the state.
If this presentation of the facts is correct then with respect to the Christian soldier, it means that he is a soldier in love to his country. In this particular relation he carries arms for the purpose of seeking the welfare of his country. Also here we have the guiding word of Scripture. The ordained power carries the sword as the execute of revenging wrath upon the evil for the good of the citizenry (Rom. 13:1-10).
I am well aware of the fact that the realities of life make this situation so complex and confused that there is a great tendency simply to become bitter and indifferent, because nothing makes sense any more.
Perhaps we will say that love is impossible, because this country has simply become a mass of atheism and wickedness. Yet we know that the Bible does not teach us to love only the righteous neighbor, but also them that hate, curse, persecute us. Wickedness does not absolve us from the duty of love.
Or we may say that the whole foolish war makes no sense. Also here we must be careful. We do not know all the facts that would form the basis for a sane judgment. In general we may consider that it is the duty of our nation to administer and protect the territories and peoples that it had on its hands at the termination of the war in which it was involved and victorious.
That there is possibly much corruption and foolish involvements in the whole situation is a part of the world of decay in which we live, and to which we always contribute our part and bear the responsibility. But as to the essential issue of right or wrong in the war as a-whole we can poorly judge.
Or a soldier may even go so far as to say that he cannot possibly fulfill this duty of love to his country, when that very country is in war against his own Christian brethren, and is harassing the very church of God.
However here we must also remember if that our Christian brethren on the opposite, side may, in spite of their Christian hearts, be supporting a wrong cause. And conversely, a nation of unbelievers may well be defending a righteous cause, a defense of country or a rectification of crooked international relations.
I think this only shows how terribly complicated our life and calling can become in this sinful world. For situations could arise in which we would be convinced that our own nation is carrying an unjust war against an innocent Christian people.
Then there would be two possible alternatives.
There would be the possibility of withdrawing from our commitments to the nation. The possibility would be open of renouncing our citizenship in such an unrighteous nation, and casting our lot in with what we considered the righteous Christian nation. But of course there are situations where such transfer of allegiance would be far from easy both physically and from moral considerations and perhaps wholly impossible. Then we would simply have to recognize that our de facto government is over us in the providence of God and we are committed to obedience.
And this also involves tremendous spiritual consequences. Who of us is sufficient to these things.
For under a situation so averse to the Christian sensitiveness the Christian soldier would still be bound to do his duty to his own nation. He would be in duty bound to carry his sword with zeal. He could not be a robot, that marks time. In such a case as above it would still be the duty of the Christian soldier to give himself with all his talents, gifts, and energies night and day to further the task assigned him, namely to wield the weapons by which God executes order and restraint and vengeance among the nations.
In all these dire complications it will always give strength to remember that government is an institution of God and the sword power has been instituted by him.
Government is a gift of God. Obedience to it is a recognition of the wise provisions of God. On the other hand rebellion and anarchy is the rejection of the provision of God. Bad government is better than anarchy which spoils the destruction of orderly life.
This also shows us how serious is our walling not to be passive and cynical when we think to see and know the general rule of right and equity also as these apply to government, and as we would urge our government to honor these.
We cannot be passive on-lookers. We are members of the body-politic. We are neighbors one of another. We stand under the will of God and under the law of righteousness also as citizens of the state and as Christian soldiers.