Can a Christian Consistently Be a Soldier?

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 6
It is clear to me that a Christian, free in the matter, could never be a soldier, unless he were on the very lowest round of the ladder, and ignorant of the christian position. It is another thing when one is forced to it. In such case the question is this: is the conscience so strongly implicated on the negative side of the question, that one could not be a soldier without violating that which is the rule of conscience-the word of God? In that case we endure the consequences; we must be faithful.
What pains me is the manner in which the idea of "country' has taken possession of the hearts of some brothers. I well understand that the sentiment of patriotism may be strong in the heart of a man. I do not think that the heart is capable of affection towards the whole of the world. At the bottom, human affection must have a center, which is "I." I can say, "My country," if it is not that of a stranger; I say, "My children:" "My friend," and that is not a purely selfish "I." One would sacrifice one's life—everything (yet not oneself, or one's honor) for one's country, one's friend. I cannot say, "My world;" there is no appropriation. We appropriate something to ourselves that it may not be ourselves.
But God delivers us from the "I;" He makes of God, and of God in Christ, the center of all; and the Christian, if consistent, declares plainly that he seeks a country, a better, that is a heavenly country. His affections, his links, his citizenship, are above. He withdraws into shadow in this world, as outside the whirlpool which surges there, overflowing all, carrying all away. The Lord is a sanctuary.
That a Christian should hesitate whether he ought to obey or not, I understand—I respect his conscience; but that he should allow himself to be carried away by what is called patriotism that is what is not of heaven. My kingdom, said Jesus, is not of this world, else would my servants fight.
This is the spirit of the world under an honorable and attractive form, but wars come from our lusts which war in our members. As a man, I would have fought obstinately for my country, and would never have given in, God knows; but as a Christian I believe and feel myself to be outside of all that, these things move me no more. The hand of God is there—I recognize it—He has ordered all beforehand. I bow my head before that will. If England were to be invaded to-morrow I would trust in Him. It would be a chastisement upon the people who had never seen war, but I would bend myself to His will.
Many Christians labor on the scene of the war; large sums of money have been sent to them. All this does not attract me. God be praised that so many poor creatures have been relieved; but I would rather see the brethren go through the lanes of the city, and seek the poor where they are found every day. There is far more self-abnegation, more hidden service, in such a work. We are not of the world, but we are the representatives of Christ in the midst of the world.
May God graciously keep His own. 1870. J. N. D.