Tim Bates answers Steve Lumbley
Thank you for responding to my assumption that I believe I heard you communicate 2x that as Christians if we are in the armed forces and are put into a position where by we may have to kill another, that it was the right thing to do, to which you agreed you did state. Now your reasoning was "But I also said that the preferable position would be to believe God to keep you out of any situation in which you were required to take a life". Brother I have a major problem with such reasoning because the premise is that believing God to keep us out of any such situation would be his only will. Could it possibly be God's will to take a Christian up to that point to see what decision they might make, and that possibly they might even have to suffer for Christ and "suffer" the consequences of not killing another? I am reminded of the situation when Jesus was arrested to be ultimately crucified ("killed"). When the soldiers came and arrested Jesus, the disciples that were with him already knew that he was going to lose his life because it was God's will, and as such should not try and stop it. But as you know one of them did by taking out a sword and cutting off the ear of a soldier who was the enemy of God's kingdom. Jesus immediately responded by telling that disciple that "If you live by the sword, you must die by the sword". That statement tells me that when confronted by the enemy in which you may possibly lose your life, that one may indeed live without the sword.
You stated, "I am not going to put myself in the position of telling someone who is in a life or death situation what they should or should not do". I first would like to point out that as one who puts himself in position of teaching the Word of God, that you should only exhort and encourage others as to what the Word says and not what your personal rationalization is. As a believer we all make decisions everyday and hopefully they align with the Word. That is why we need to renew our mind with the Word of God each day, and as we do this we will be transformed into the image of Christ.
You continued by stating, "Certainly we as Christians are called to be non violent. However let me pose a hypothetical situation to you". Yes we as Christians are called to be non violent when confronted with the enemy, for as Jesus said "If your enemy takes your coat, to give him your cloak also. And if your enemy hits (violence) on the cheek to turn your other cheek (only to be hit again)".
Now in your hypothetical situation to me you state, "Let's say you are a brand new believer who is also a member in the U.S. armed forces and you are in a front line combat unit in Iraq. You find yourself in the middle of a firefight and you are forced to defend yourself and those around you. What do you do? Do you put your weapon down and pray? Do you refuse for conscience sake to do what you've been trained to do? Do you fire in a way that ensures you do not actually hit anyone? Perhaps. Or do you fire your weapon and take out the enemy?" Let me first start off by saying that how God's word is to be applied to our lives has no bearing as to how long we have been a Christian or not, as you know God is not a respecter of persons. Secondly by saying that one may be forced to defend himself and those around him is to walk by sight and not by faith. Now as to your question "What do you do? Do you put your weapon down and pray?" My answer is absolutely Yes, because God is sovereign and can do the miraculous in that situation assuming that be his will. I am reminded of when Jesus was in the garden sweating drops of blood, who prayed for deliverance from what was about to happen to him, but understood when calling out to his father "Not my will (wish or prayer), but thine be done".
When stating, "Do you refuse for conscience sake to do what you've been trained to do? Do you fire in a way that ensures you do not actually hit anyone? Perhaps. Or do you fire your weapon and take out the enemy?" My answer is yes I refuse and since I refuse there is no need to shoot aimlessly so as not to hit anyone. My reasoning has already been outlined above. I would like to also add that the Word says, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell".
When stating, "Romans 13 says that governments have been granted authority by God to bear the sword against evil doers. If you are in the military you are an instrument of that authority". While I can agree with your supposition in general, it can only apply for non believers. When someone becomes a Christian the Word says, "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men". So since for the reasons stated already, anything that the government or military requires me to do that goes against God's word is not to be followed. Can you imagine that if one as a Christian who believes that being implanted with a chip in his forehead or hand was the mark of the beast, but was told that a military directive requires it, in the same way that dog tags have been used in the past? And was told that this chip had the ability to track them for their security. Would your counsel be for that soldier to observe and obey that authority?
When stating, "I am not saying that violence is to be encouraged in any way. But I do not believe the answer is entirely clear as it relates to those already bearing arms in war". I agree violence is never an option, but as to bearing arms, the Word of God is very clear for it says, "If you live by the sword, you must die by the sword".
When stating, "John's instruction to soldiers included 'do violence to no man' but as I explained the word that the KJV translates as violence is actually a Greek word that means to extort money by intimidation. I do not believe there is any place in scripture which completely forbids using a weapon in self defense or in certain military situations", I can agree with the supposition, but the problem here is that Jesus stated "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence". Brother when we become Christians we have been called (invited) to be about our father's kingdom and not of any worldly kingdom, including military warfare, this is confirmed by Paul when he stated For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. Also Jesus said, "(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.)"
When stating, "Again, I do not believe I was recommending this course of action but I cannot be another man's judge in every situation". Well brother you may have not been recommending this course of action, but it was your words that were justifying this kind of behavior, and as to judging another who chooses to act in the manner you condone, I believe that it would not be inappropriate to judge conduct or to instruct another regarding a moral issue for Jesus said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye". So when it comes to judging other brethren I believe there is an order of sequence that is to be followed.
When stating, " I believed strongly (and still do) in the right to use a weapon in self defense. As I matured in the things of God I made the decision to trust in the Lord as my protector and not a gun". I must repeat what I stated earlier in quoting what Jesus said which was, "If your enemy takes your coat, to give him your cloak also. And if your enemy hits (violence) on the cheek to turn your other cheek (only to be hit again)". So our only defense is to trust the Lord and his Word. Also when we become Christians we lose all rights, and that is because, "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men".
Now when you stated, "That is my decision. I am not going to judge someone else who may not be where I am spiritually. I see this as being weak to the weak". I believe there is a big difference in judging someone else after they have chosen to respond in what could be construed as self defense, and declaring through teaching the Word of God what God would have us do in such a situation. When quoting being weak to the weak, I believe you have used scripture out of context. When looking at 1 Cor 9:22 it says, "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some". This scripture was about being able to relate with people for the gospel's sake, and definitely not about judging another brother as to whether or not they are as spiritual as you in making decisions in life.
Steve, I personally feel that if one (believer) is ever put in such a horrible position our God would give his merciful grace to that person to obey the Word of God and not their own reasoning, I mean after all we as Christians are called (invited) to walk by faith and not by sight. As you know Eph. 1:11 says, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will".
Brother Steve, I pray that God speaks to your heart and that you reconsider your position.
Also read Don't Fight with the Government.