Nearly 11 years: that is how long the U.S.A. has been at war with extremists/terrorists, according to Wikipedia. Not too long ago, our war in Afghanistan hit the 2 year mark. That is, it reached 2 years longer-lasting than any other war in U.S. history. The fact is significant, seeing there are 12 major U.S. wars spanning the years since 1775. icasualties.org reports 1,946 U.S. persons dead as a result of the war, but that does not include the nearly 3,000 civilians which died in attacks on U.S. territory, precipitating the war.
It doesn’t feel like we’re at war… still. For all the length and drawn out saga, for all the suffering – whether justifiable or not; I cannot remember the Persian Gulf War or the Iraq War (though it is a part of our current war) getting so little news coverage. Sure, Vietnam and the Korean wars were before my time. However, when I talk to others older than myself, nearly everyone agrees that wars are different now than even 40 years ago, especially in the media. Is that a result of quiet, governmental censorship? Are we “being protected” against emotional depression as a nation? Or, is it that war just doesn’t sell like it used to when reporters would heroically dash into the front lines situations, in order to provide us State-siders the stimuli we needed to rally behind our Nation?
Whatever the case, the military and its operations have increasingly become an enigma to me–maybe to others. I have to really dig to find out what is going on with the current war. Then, only sometimes, I hear of a young lad from a neighboring town that lost his life in combat. Suddenly, I am jarred into the reality that, Yes, we are still at war. In the back of my mind, I gather that I am being led on to consider the military as just another job that is going on within American society… a job where the potential work fatality risk is simply higher but no different than other professions.
I may not always agree with war, but I certainly support soldiers, no matter what branch or specialized service. True, some make a career out of being in the military. I don’t understand that completely. Perhaps these individuals go in for the nobility or militaristic romance of it all. I am sure just as many get over that very quickly–it’s called boot camp and other special training. Or, perhaps these individuals enter the ranks, because (above all others) they feel a duty to protect the innocent and have a heightened sense of imminent threat to which they respond. Maybe they are the ones who have a correct view of what it means to keep freedom. However, I can’t help the thought that creeps slyly into my brain. ‘Those thinking about signing up for the military have indeed been mentally conditioned by our culture to consider it “just another job.”‘ I doubt anyone looks forward to war… and if he does, then I am sure that feeling does not last for long. War is unnatural. Everyone knows that.
There are very few sociopaths in the military, who simply WANT to kill for the thrill of it. Many more soldiers are faced with the fact they were forced to kill when they did not want to – for the safety of themselves or their unit, etc. Yet, there are those who feel utterly condemned despite their overarching act of protection for a country as well as protection of their immediate comrades.
Then, our men and women are coming home sick. They are physically sick from who knows what being in the air, the water, the sand. They are mentally and emotionally disturbed from either the hellish scenes or from length of rigor, or from demoralization subsequent to what is for them a less-than-concrete or self-evident & justifiable war. And no wonder. For these reasons among others, many come home with spiritual hang-ups as well.
In an effort to guide any struggling military service member toward peace with self and God, allow me to present the following 7 truths:
1. It is safe to say that since God allows governments, then it is most in keeping with God’s good character that He allows them primarily for domestic, social justice and the safety of national citizens from threats domestic and foreign.
2. Those governments (their officials) “bear the sword” or responsibility of true justice. (In this case: especially in the war they pursue, down to the last man’s life). If the war is unjust, then that is primarily on the government’s “head” (Rom. 13:4).
3. Mankind, especially Christians, are not to despise governments or speak ill of dignitaries or be rebellious against governments, so far as is morally/spiritually sound to be submissive to them–but are rather to pray for them (2 Pet. 2:10, 17, 18; Rom. 13:4; 1 Tim. 2:1-3, etc.).
4. By fact, a soldier is contracted to be an enforcer/executioner of said true and noble governmental justice… and his nation’s leaders pursue that so far as he CAN know. Even so, he/she is also a defender of those needing protection, especially including those who are his immediate comrades in battle.
5. The heart is the source of all possible evils. If one desires to kill, then that is wrong. If one kills because he must, then that is duty [referent to #3]. One must be honest within himself. (Matt. 7:21; 15:19)
6. When faced with a moral dilemma within war time – to kill or not to kill, or the morality of a war/cause (ex. Nazis) – the soldier’s first obligation is to God, not men or governments. But as established in #3, one must navigate his actions properly toward men and government. If he is in active duty, then he must pursue the correct procedures for honorable discharge or reassignment based on conscientious objection. If he must kill in the mean time (while pursuing reassignment or discharge), then God knows the heart… it was duty and defense with pure motives and conscience. If he must face dishonor or other consequences for his objection, then that is the price for a free conscience before God and man. Let him keep that freedom, for it is the dearest of all.
7. For those who have killed unjustly or with murderous desire in their hearts, God will forgive when that wrong is confessed to God as wrong coming out of a sinful heart… and when trust is placed on Jesus Christ as the basis or claim of eternal pardon and spiritual rebirth. He promises to forgive ALL of ALL, if only you will trust Him for it. At that, God, as the God of All Comfort and the God of Peace, promises that he will keep your mind and heart in Christ Jesus. (Ps. 86:5; 103:3; Rom. 3:24; 5:1; 2 Cor. 1:3-5; Phil. 4:7)