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A Christian Concept of War

A Christian Concept of War

I’m writing this essay as a favor to someone who’s discussing this topic soon on TV in Canada. They’re comparing the Christian view about war with Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist perspectives.

My credentials for writing this article:

  • Vietnam combat veteranA Christian Concept of War
  • Retired US military field-grade officer; graduate of the USAF Air Command and Staff College
  • Doctor of Ministry, Christian Leadership University
  • 40 years of Christian discipleship

Over time my perspective on war has changed drastically. I’ve held views ranging all the way from flag-waving hawk (like John McCain) to being a vegetarian pacifist (Gandhi). Now, I hold both extremes at the same time, as you’ll see below.

For a Christian, I think there are two kinds of war:

  1. Fighting for one’s home and country
  2. Fighting for one’s God.

1.  Fighting for One’s Home and Country

The Bible says people (including Christians) may use necessary force to defend their home from invasion. I’m defining ‘home’ at both a personal and a national level.  Basically, the use of force in self-defense is justified, according to the threat level.

If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. (Ex 22:2)

I’m an ex-Marine, I hunt, and I have guns in my home. I’m also licensed by my state to carry a concealed weapon—but I haven’t actually done so. If threatened, I’ve pre-decided to only use my weapons as a last resort, to prevent life-threatening violence from being inflicted against myself, my family, or an innocent victim. I won’t use a weapon to protect property.

Everyone, including soldiers, will have to give an account to God for the blood they spill. God said:

I will certainly demand an accounting regarding bloodshed, from every animal and from every human being. I’ll demand an accounting from every human being for the life of another human being. (Gen 9:5)

For this reason, I don’t believe any army should have to fight simply to advance their A Christian Concept of Warpolitical leader’s ‘national interests’ over another nation’s. If my country isn’t being invaded, my country’s military shouldn’t be involved.

I don’t care if our foreign oil supply is threatened. Oil is not a good-enough reason to kill another human being. Instead of pouring
trillions of dollars into the military-industrial complex, the right thing to do would be to put that money into becoming energy self-sufficient.

All nations’ militaries should be patterned after the Swiss, Japanese, or Israeli models—all of which have capable defensive forces, but very limited offensive capability.

So, when fighting for one’s home and country, we should seek peace; only use force defensively; and only use the amount of force needed to neutralize the threat. We will all give an account to God for the harm we cause others.

2.  Fighting for One’s God

War in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, it’s common knowledge that God told Israel to kill everything in the promise land, including men, women, children, and even the animals. Here are a couple examples:

Before they entered the land:

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. (Deut 7:1-2)

At Jericho:

So the people shouted, and priests blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city. They utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword. (Joshua 6:20-21)

War in the New Testament

Then Jesus, the Lamb of God, came onto the scene. He taught us to love our enemies, and gave us a living example of non-violent martyrdom for the benefit of others.

Is God Schizophrenic?

The Bible teaches that ‘God is one’ (Deut 6:4) and that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8).

So, is the God of the Old Testament the same God as Jesus in the New Testament? How can we reconcile the pitiless, warring God of the Old Testament with the non-violent, suffering Savior of the gospels?

There’s a big clue toward solving this dilemma in the Gospel of John:

Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:33-38)

Notice that Jesus didn’t think it would be wrong for His followers to fight if it would’ve done any good. But since His kingdom was in another realm of existence, earthly violence would’ve been ineffective, so that’s why they weren’t fighting.

Return of the KingIn our near future, the Book of Revelation teaches that when Jesus returns He will be coming with a sword, to claim His right to rule all the nations of the earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He won’t be the non-violent, suffering Savior of the gospels. He’ll be a warrior, and the armies of heaven will follow Him to win the battle of Armageddon. Multitudes will be slain, so that the blood will be up to the horses bridle.

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

      Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.”

      And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.

      And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.

So, the God of the Old Testament and the returning King of kings both wage bloody war against the rebellious, immoral nations of mankind.

God isn’t schizophrenic. In the gospels Jesus was waging another A Christian Concept of Warkind of war—a spiritual war against the principalities and powers in heaven. He won that war on the cross. (See my book God’s Deep Magic for a complete description of this spiritual battle.)

At the second coming of Christ, He’ll be a warrior, forcibly subjugating all earthly nations, and then He’ll be earth’s sovereign King of kings for the next thousand years.

In contrast to what Jesus told Pilate, when He returns at the end of this age Jesus’ kingdom will be ‘of this world’ and therefore His servants will be commissioned to fight.

Conclusion – Fighting for One’s God

Until the Antichrist makes a 7-year covenant with Israel, we’re still
A Christian Concept of War in the ‘times of the gentiles’ and so the rules of the ‘age of grace’ still apply. Therefore, until the end of the ‘age of grace’ we’re to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us.

By loving our enemies, even unto our own death, we’re completing Christ’s spiritual war against the principalities and powers of heaven, resulting in ‘the powers of the heavens being shaken’ and them being cast down to earth.

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah.

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb,

and by the word of their testimony;

they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Rev 12:10-11 NIV)

(This war is explained in God’s Deep Magic.)

During the 7-year period known as Daniel’s 70th week, the Two Witnesses of Revelation chapter 11 will prophesy and pronounce judgments against the nations. Faithful disciples of Christ on earth will be persecuted and martyred, and many professing believers will fall into apostasy—accepting the mark of the beast. This 7-year period is a transition period between the ‘age of grace’ and Christ’s ‘rod of iron’ rule of the coming Millennium.

At the end of Daniel’s 7 year period, Christ will return, resurrecting and transforming His disciple’s bodies with immortality. They’ll meet Him in the sky, becoming the armies of heaven, who then follow Him to the Battle of Armageddon.

A Christian Concept of War
Behold, I make all things new!

So, in conclusion:

  • Until Christ returns, Christians are to wage war against the celestial principalities and powers as Jesus did in His first coming—through faith, love, and sacrificial suffering.
  • At Christ’s second coming, Christians will follow Christ’s lead in forcibly subjugating the rebellious nations of the earth.

A veteran’s opinion — What’s worth dying for?

Dying for the Mission, or Glory?

World War II is the last time an enemy threatened to invade American territory.

Since 1945, Americans have fought and died in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other places, in support of politically-directed, propaganda-driven, “national interest” conflicts.

What’s worth dying for?

Cobra
Cobra Gunship

I was 20 years old when I arrived in Vietnam on December 4, 1971. I was a Cobra copilot/gunner, flying combat missions over Cambodia.

After two almost-catastrophic experiences due to in-flight mechanical failures during combat, I volunteered to fly light observation helicopters (LOH), scouting enemy positions at low (treetop) level.

LOH
LOH

People called them ‘bush-bait’ and their mission was known as ‘recon by sacrifice’.

In early March, I was piloting a low-level scouting mission when my inexperienced back-seat gunner caused a tear gas grenade to explode in my cockpit, causing our LOH to crash upside-down into a hillside.crashed loach

My two gunners survived and escaped with hardly a scratch. I was pinned against the ground, unconscious, with the chopper’s turbine engine still running erratically,  in death throes; the stubby main rotor blade remnants throw continuous geysers of dirt into the air. When I didn’t respond to their shouts and tugs, they assumed I was dead. Expecting the dying LOH to explode at any second, they ran away from the throbbing wreckage, leaving me in it.

I awoke, dazed, sometime after they left. My face was lying against dirt and leaves. The wreckage vibrated as the rotors dug into the hillside.  My Crashed Loach 001As you can see in the photo, my seat was twisted rearward, and I couldn’t unlatch my shoulder harness and seat belt. I was trapped. The bloodstains were from minor shrapnel cuts.

After repeatedly trying to unlatch my seat belt, I remember realizing that my death was imminent—if the tear gas didn’t kill me, the struggling turbine engine was sure to start a fire at any moment. I was tempted to lose hope and give up, but I kept trying. Blinded by the tear gas, and gasping desperately for air, I was finally able to free myself from the seat belt. Then, still blinded and completely disoriented, I escaped through the missing front windscreen and crawled away from the noise, hoping not to get hit by the spinning rotor. As soon as I got away from the gas I started regaining my sight and my bearings. I gathered my crew, who were surprised to see me, and a Huey helicopter picked us up a few minutes later. They took us straight to the hospital, where we were treated and released. I spent the next few weeks recuperating from a concussion, a few stitches, and some very severe bruises before I was medically cleared to fly again.

 Dying for Others?

After crashing my LOH in March ‘72, I was assigned to copilot duties in the Huey platoon. Although this was a demotion of responsibility, I welcomed it. Crashing my LOH had shaken my confidence; I needed some time to get my ‘edge’ back.UH-1_Huey Vietnam

During the entire month of April ‘72 the North Vietnamese invaded South Vietnam with tanks and tens of thousands of troops. The last American infantry had already left Vietnam by 1972, so our South Vietnamese Army ground troop allies were forced to retreat, losing a lot of territory to the communists.

Remember, times were much different in 1972 than now. The rebellion and cynicism of that generation is exemplified in movies such as: “Born on the 4th of July, Easy Rider, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Rambo, The Deer Hunter, and Apocalypse Now.

  • In the US, soldiers were taunted as ‘baby killers’ and spit at when they walked through airports.  As a result, few wanted to wear their uniform in public, and some soldiers even bought wigs to conceal their military haircut.
  • Politicians in Washington and Hanoi were in ‘peace talks’ so that America could disengage itself totally from Southeast Asia. Nixon called it “Peace with honor.” Nixon had already withdrawn all American ground troops, leaving aviation units to keep the pressure on Hanoi until Kissinger could negotiate our complete exit from Vietnam and the return of our POWs.
  • Knowing we were fighting an unpopular, lost cause didn’t help morale. Drug use, especially heroin and marijuana, was rampant in American units at the time.  Nobody wanted to be ‘the last one to die.’

On May 2, 1972 my flight school classmate Dan Miller and I were flying a Huey on a routine resupply mission when we heard a frantic emergency radio call from Air Force F-4 jet fighter crew, r_seaman@hotmail.comsaying they’d been hit by a missile and were ejecting near the coastline—just a few miles East from our position.

We immediately turned our Huey to rescue them, but then we heard another classmate, John Joseph “JJ” Petrilla, who was copiloting another Huey.  JJ said he had the chutes in sight, so we returned to our planned route, but continued to monitor the rescue on our  radio. We heard JJ say they saw where the F-4 pilots’ chutes landed…then, that they’d picked them up…then, that they were ‘climbing out’ with the rescued pilots aboard.

Then, one of our Cobra pilot’s shouted, “Break Right! Break Right! SAM!!” Then…stunned silence.  JJ’s Huey had been hit by a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missile, exploding their Huey in mid-air at 700 feet.hueyhit

JJ’s fellow crew members, CW2 Jesse Clifton, SP4 Morgan Vernon, and SP4 Porterfield Kyette also died that day. After machine gun fire shot down another Huey nearby (the crew was rescued) commanders decided the area was too hot to extract the bodies. (We recovered their bodily remains two months later, after allied ground forces recaptured the territory.)

That night, back at our small island base, I felt like my life’s potential was being wasted for nothing, and I was sorry that I’d never live to see my grandchildren. I remember consciously and seriously considering shooting myself in the foot, in order to escape the war alive. But the risk of dying couldn’t overcome the certain shame of being a coward.

I walked out onto the beach and prayed. “God, I don’t know you, and I know I’m not worthy, but if you get me out of this I’ll serve you.”

 So, What’s Worth Dying For?

If I had died when I crashed my LOH, would my death have been worth it? What good would I have achieved? I’d say “None.” At the time, I was trying to find and kill ‘enemy’ human beings, whom I didn’t know or dislike, because some US government policy bureaucrats (had previously) wanted to make a point about stopping communist expansion in Southeast Asia. I emphasized “had previously” because by 1972 they knew their point wasn’t going to be made, but they were having trouble extricating themselves from the quagmire they’d created.  In the meantime, good people were dying on both sides. So, dying ‘for the cause’ was meaningless.

Or, do you think God would give me credit for patriotically supporting my country’s national interests at the expense of my fellow man? No, I don’t think so. When I stand before Almighty God at the final judgment, I would’ve been speechless.

In contrast, JJ and his crew risked their lives to save others. Even though the dice rolled against them and they were killed, they died in the selfless act of trying to save strangers.

In Conclusion

What’s worth dying for?

You have only one life to give, and nobody knows when you’ll be called upon to risk your life, so I suggest you pre-decide what you’re willing to sacrifice your life for.

  1. Will you risk your life following orders to achieve the current ‘interests’ of incumbent politicians?
  • Isn’t that what Hitler’s henchmen did? Wasn’t “I was just following orders” their excuse?
  • The realization that I could no longer support “national interest” as justification for the government’s use of military force caused me to exit my military career.
  • Every nation’s propaganda machine paints a patriotic picture, waves the flag, and calls its troops heroes, but the Bible says all earthly nations will be destroyed because of their evil practices when the Messiah returns. There are no moral nations on the earth; all are corrupt in varying degrees.
  1. Will you risk your life to save others? I suggest that this is the only valid reason to risk your physical life.
  • Policemen and firemen (and everyone else) should risk themselves only to preserve life; not to preserve or protect property. No property is worth your life.
  • Soldiers should only risk their lives (or use force against others) to defend their nation’s territory against invasion, or to save lives. At the final judgment before God, every soldier must account for what they’ve done.     Regarding God’s final judgment:

Overcoming PTSD

Like many combat veterans, I did things that I’m now ashamed of. But, full forgiveness is available now through repentance and the blood of Jesus. I’m not ‘a shrink,’ but from experience and observation I believe PTSD is caused by a combination of (1) guilt and (2) fear.

  • There’s no reason to be tormented by guilt. Repent of your sins and receive forgiveness by the blood of Jesus.
  • After you receive God’s forgiveness, and start walking in His Spirit, there’s nothing to fear. If you’re injured or die while walking in God’s will, you’ll be rewarded by God; so there’s nothing left to fear, from God or man.
  1. Will you give your life as a disciple of the Messiah, Jesus?

Jesus doesn’t just call us to risk our lives; Christian disciples are called to give themselves as living sacrifices, as the Lord Jesus did for us.

  • Soldiers, policemen, and firemen risk their lives to help others, but they hope to survive through each dangerous situation.
  • Disciples of Jesus are to be like the ancient samurai, reckoning themselves already dead in this world. We are to “reckon ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” so that the Spirit of Christ can be revealed through us. (Romans 6:8-11)

I think of it this way…I believe I ‘died’ in 1972 in that LOH crash. My life since then is a gift, and I owe it to the Lord Jesus Christ—who loves us and gave Himself for us. He is the perfect human model to emulate in my life, and (I hope) yours.

He gave His life, His soul, and His blood for me; He is the only one worthy to give my life to.

Sileet warrior about the crucified Jesus