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Should I Join the Military


Should I join the military? Would God approve of me doing that?

Steve Answers:

You’ve asked two questions. My answer to both is Yes! But I should probably explain my answer.

If I were limited to one passage from the Bible to answer your question, I’d choose Matthew 4:18-20. In the New International Version it reads: “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”

I don’t know if you’re a student right now, or if you’re drawn to war, or if you feel patriotic, or if you feel threatened by terrorists. I don’t know the name of the country where you live. I’m guessing it’s a country that provides a choice to join the military (as the United States does at this time).

Here’s what I do know: recruiters for the military promise excitement, travel, self-discipline, teammates, warfare, education, a potential career, and more. If you join, you give up your personal rights, and you become the property of the country you are serving. You give up your will and replace it with the will of the country, which gets explained to you by the officers above you in rank.

Should you join?

When I said Yes, I wasn’t referring to the military for your country of residence. God’s got an army! He’s looking for recruits. His assignments involve excitement, travel, self-discipline, teammates, warfare, education, a potential career, and more. You’re invited to join! You might die. There will be battles. Sometimes it will seem like a lot of sweat and drills. You will need to submit to those who have authority over you.

Would God approve of you joining His army? Of course! That’s why He came to earth and died for you! But you’re probably wondering about joining your country’s military. The Old Testament provides quite a variety of examples of God’s people in the military. Here are a few you can check out:

•    Genesis 14:14-16—Abram quickly pulled together 318 people from his household to pursue four kings that had taken his nephew, Lot, and his household captive.
•    Numbers 21:1-3—The Israelites completely destroyed the towns of those who attacked them (read the rest of Numbers 21 too).
•    Deuteronomy 20:1-9—God promised to fight for the Israelites. But those who had just built a new house, planted a new vineyard, gotten engaged or married, or who were afraid were not to go into battle.
•    Joshua 6:1-27—The Israelites totally destroyed everything and everyone in Jericho, except Rahab and her family, after a supernatural collapse of Jericho’s protective walls.
•    Judges 7:21, 22—In a most bizarre battle, 300 soldiers with Gideon watched their enemies—120,000 soldiers—panic and kill each other.
•    2 Samuel 8:1-14—David led the Israelites to kill, capture, or rule over all the nations around them.
•    2 Chronicles 36:17-20—God’s people were either destroyed or taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar after they repeatedly followed pagan gods instead of Yahweh, their God.

By the time Jesus was born, God’s people were under the control of Rome, with Roman soldiers all around them. In fact, it was the Roman decree for a census (a count of the people for charging them taxes) that prompted Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem, the city prophesied as the birthplace of the Messiah.

But instead of overthrowing the Romans through a military conquest, Jesus made it plain on many occasions that He didn’t come to fight political battles, He came to fight the bigger forces of evil between God and Satan. Consider these statements by Jesus:

“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). A legion was the largest collection of Roman soldiers. Jesus referred to 12 legions, not only to outnumber the largest Roman group of soldiers 12:1 or to provide one legion for each disciple, but because 12 is the symbolic number for the kingdom of God (see Revelation 21).

“At once the Spirit sent him [Jesus] out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him” (Mark 1:12, 13).

“I am not an earthly king. If I were, my followers would have fought when I was arrested by the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36, NLT).*

After Jesus’ resurrection and just before He ascended to heaven, here’s how He responded when His disciples asked Him: “Lord, are you going to free Israel now and restore our kingdom?” (Acts 1:6). Jesus replied: “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NLT).

Should you join the military? First of all, join God’s military. Then you can go on assignment anywhere in the world, doing all different kinds of things (Navy, business leader, janitor, nurse practitioner, movie producer, farmer, athlete, designer, etc.). You can even be a “fisherman.” But, like Peter and Andrew, you are first of all called to be a “fisher of men,” to go after others who need Jesus.

In other words, whatever decision you make about the military needs to first be asked in relation to whether or not you’re part of God’s army. If you are part of God’s army, ask yourself how you can best serve God in that role. Outside of that, it really doesn’t matter.

If you’re not part of God’s army, then you’re left with how the military might help you with your own goals or those of your country. Outside of that, it really doesn’t matter.

If this doesn’t make sense to you, I’d recommend that you read and meditate on Ephesians 6:10-18. If you haven’t done so yet, I invite you to join God’s military!

*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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