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Is Military Killing Wrong? Part Two


I’ve enlisted in the military, and I’m about to go to boot camp. Someday I might end up on the front lines and have to kill somebody. I know the Ten Commandments say, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13, KJV). But the Bible also has stories about battles in which lots of people were killed. Will God look down on me if I have to kill someone?

Steve Answers:

You’re right! The Bible does say not to kill people.

Two weeks ago we talked about the seven different Hebrew words in the Old Testament for our English word "kill." The Hebrew word used in the Ten Commandments–ratsach–refers to premeditated killing, or what we’d call first-degree murder.

Now, people in the military aren’t the only professionals who have to wrestle with this issue. Law enforcement personnel deal with it too.

Although police officers don’t kill criminals nearly as often as is depicted on TV, there are times they might be faced with killing another human being. Does that mean we shouldn’t have a police force? And should we not have a military?

Most people accept the need for a military and a police force. Of course, they want a humane force rather than an aggressive one.

Now unfortunately, most of life isn’t as simple as outright hostility or peaceful retreat. Things get mixed up–whether it’s bombing a country because they’re increasing their military might, or shooting a man of a different race when he reaches for his wallet ("I thought he was going to pull a gun"), or invading a foreign country to protect our financial interests.

Yet God is for life. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

Jesus also said, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). Each person must face death–both death on this planet and the possibility of an eternal death (or eternal life). Both count.

But strangely, in promoting life sometimes you must kill. If a crazy man goes on a shooting spree, it might require shooting him so that he won’t kill any more people. In a war killing people is done to put an end to the war. Indeed, killing to save life can be very strange.

If you go into the military, you’ll be trained to kill and to do it efficiently. You will take orders from a superior officer rather than making those kinds of decisions for yourself. A military doesn’t work if each person decides for himself or herself what to do. You must obey orders.

I applaud you for asking yourself these hard questions that don’t have nice and easy answers. Just remember that God is for life. And I’d be interested to hear from you how you are trained to respect and promote life. That’s what I’d want my military and police force to do. How about you? 

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