Military Service and War

We believe that Christians are forbidden by the commandments of God from taking human life directly or indirectly and that bearing arms is contrary to this fundamental belief. Therefore, we believe that Christians should not voluntarily become engaged in military service. If they are involuntarily engaged in military service, we believe they should refuse conscientiously to bear arms and, to the extent possible, refuse to come under military authority.

The way of God is the way of love, sacrifice and sharing (Romans 12:1, 10). The teaching of God for an individual regarding the taking of human life is summed up in the Sixth Commandment, which says, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). Jesus Christ repeated a great principle when He said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). And the apostle Paul said, "Love does no harm to a neighbor" (Romans 13:10). (See the chapter titled God's Law and Sin.).

Jesus stated, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight . . ." (John 18:36). In the Old Testament period, Israel was a kingdom of this world yet with God as King. It exercised civil authority at God's command—including the power of earthly warfare. That time and situation has ended.

The Church of God today is a spiritual nation—spiritual Israel. (See the chapter titled The Church.) As Christians, we have come out of darkness, from the power of Satan to the power of the Kingdom of God (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:11-13).

That Kingdom is not found in any national governments today. Rather, we now have our citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20), being ambassadors of a kingdom that is yet to be established throughout this earth. Therefore we do not fight in earthly warfare.

Consider that if Christians had the responsibility of taking up arms for their respective countries, then a war between these countries would have Christians fighting other Christians—an obviously untenable circumstance, as Christ's disciples are to be characterized by their love for one another (John 13:34-35). And that, as already pointed out, means doing no harm (Romans 13:10).

We are to emulate the actions of Jesus (1 Peter 4:1, 13-16). He did not respond in kind when He was reviled, and He did not threaten when He suffered. He suffered for doing good and endured it patiently because of His desire to please God (1 Peter 2:19-24). He taught that to be angry with our brother can result in sin (Matthew 5:21-22). We are to love even our enemies and do good to those who hate us (verses 43-44). We are not to avenge ourselves; vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:19).

Our warfare as Christians is in the spiritual arena (Ephesians 6:10-20). We do not war against flesh (2 Corinthians 10:3) but against wicked spirits in high places (Ephesians 6:12). We are to be faithful spiritual soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-4). This is our calling in life. As such, a Christian must at times face a conflict between man's laws and the laws of Almighty God. When that happens, the Christian must obey the laws of God, which always take precedence (Acts 5:29; 1 Peter 2:13-14).

In fact, we should try to avoid conflicts if we can (Romans 12:18), and joining the military is not conducive to that. In most countries, the military has its own rules and regulations. A person in the military is not free to decide what he or she can do, but is under the authority of superiors and must do what they say or risk severe consequences.

The wisest course of action is to refrain from putting oneself in such a position, since a person in the military is subject to its authority and may be called upon to take human life or violate other areas or principles of God's law. Paul tells us not to become slaves of men (1 Corinthians 7:23).

Therefore, the United Church of God, an International Association, supports the conscientious objection of its members to military service and war.


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