As a member of a Bible college choir in Pasadena, CA., in the mid 1980’s, a hymn I always sang was, Onward Christian Soldiers. It was composed in 1865 by Sabine Baring-Gould and Arthur Sullivan.
I often sang it when we visited churches throughout southern California. It became one of my favorite hymns which I, of course, eventually sang by memory.
The above 3-minute, YouTube song is the very famous hymn about Christians being soldiers for Christ. It is about soldiers going into battle with the cross of Jesus. It is about not being divided, but being one body of Christ. It is a great hymn.
But now, as I hear this hymn, I ask myself: In what way are Christians like soldiers?
Look at the image to your right. Are we Christians supposed to be fighting in wars with armaments that forcibly control or kill others? If so, how?
I read the church history about the Crusades and how these so called “Christian soldiers” fought under the banner of Christianity bearing the symbol of the cross on their shields and marching across nations to take
control of territories such as the Holy Land in Palestine.
Is that what Jesus Christ said we are to do? What
does it mean to be a Christian soldier? And if we
are now at war, what war are we fighting?
Another question: Did not Christ say we are NOT to fight?
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)
Answer: Note, it says His “servants”. His disciples were not to fight to prevent Christ from being physically arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ had legions of angels at His disposal at that moment in time. He did not want anyone, human or angelic, to fight for Him to save His life.
But, when He returns, Christ will be fighting the nations who will be waging war against Him as a Conqueror. His supernatural power will decimate the armies fighting in the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16).
But, didn’t Jesus tell us we are turn the other cheek when we are struck? Matthew 5:
38 You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. (NKJV)
What Jesus is saying here is we should not retaliate or employ revenge against someone who has done us wrong. This is not a military situation where we are commanded to “charge full ahead” and fight back. It is instead “fighting back” by being a good witness of Jesus Christ and taking advantage of the great opportunity that ever presents itself to us.
It does not mean you cannot defend yourself and your families who need you. You need to protect them as you protect yourself.
Most of us Christians know we are constantly under spiritual attack. God said He will fight our battles for us. And, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Deut. 32:35; Romans 12:19)
Therefore, as Christian soldiers, what are we in this age to do?
As Christian soldiers, we are to wear a helmet, breastplate,
and shield (Ephesians 6:10-18). Almost all of these are
Is the Bible as the sword of God to be used to kill or harm anyone? No, it is:
1) to be used mostly to feed on and grow spiritually,
2) to prepare ourselves for Jesus Christ,
3) to protect yourself and your spiritual family from harmful, false doctrines
4) to train others in the importance and the use of it.
(Huge topic here!)
But, historically speaking, what have we seen? There have been imprisonments and inquisitions – the torture of so called “heretics” whose beliefs differed from the dominating, aggressor church. These and other methods of control were practiced in the name of the Christian religion.
Many Jews in Europe and in the indigent cultures of other continents were burned at the stake by “Christians” carrying the banner of the church. Is that what being Christian soldiers is all about? Sorry, I do not believe so.
There are better ways for Christians to be soldiers who fight. For example:
* Prayer is a good arsenal to deploy against our enemies.
* The voting booth in countries that providentially offer that right to her citizens is another way to fight.
* Holding public office and being a voice of influence as a Christian is a way to fight. Moses, Joshua, Daniel, Esther and Nehemiah come into mind as examples here.
Many of you ask, should a Christian join the military? Should a Christian, let’s say one who is a citizen of the United states, join the armed forces and fight for his country? Some of you believe this is sinful and wrong. What are my thoughts on this? Well here are two of several possible responses:
First, the church is not a physical, worldwide nation at this time! It is the body of Jesus Christ! So, why did a church, for example, the Roman Catholic Church, begin controlling kings, queens, lords, vassals, kingdoms and nations of men? Is the Church a kingdom on earth that is suppose to rule other kingdoms at this time? No, it is not. It is the body of Christ.
Christ told His disciples to make disciples of – FROM WITHIN – the nations of the world (Matthew 28:19-20). He did not command the church make all countries of the world become disciples – NOT FOR THIS PRESENT AGE!
The United States armed forces are not the armies of the kingdom of God, either. So, if a Christian joins the military to preserve our freedoms and our liberties, there is no sin with that!
Second, if men and women, being Christians, voluntarily join the military of a regime that is ruthless against its neighbors, that is another story altogether. I would not enroll as a soldier in it.
Some of you argue that there were Christians who have been on the other side – who were our enemies. You give the example of WWII where two countries of the Axis Powers, Germany and Italy, contained Christian soldiers who battled against the Allied Forces – who also had Christians in uniform. Again, we must be careful here. God knows the full circumstances, hearts and pressures the men and women of those countries were under.
If a Christian, however, voluntarily joins the military of a nation that wants to covetously conquer the cultures of other nations just for the sake of dominating and forcing her views on them, that is another story. I believe it is wrong to be a soldier being a Christian in this scenario. Soldiers in this case are not initially defending their homeland from aggression, but are being the aggressor. (Just my thoughts here – you may disagree, of course.)
Nevertheless, I believe it is not our duty to look at any brother or sister of the Christian faith as sinners if they are serving, for example, a freedom-loving nation and a nation that has given him/her the freedoms to practice their Christian faith and who has not impeded them in the spreading of the gospel.
I do, however, respect any of you who are conscientious objectors. If you believe you cannot fight or bear arms in combat, that is OKAY with me. But it should not be your mission to condemn others, especially Christians, who are or want to be in the armed forces.
I saw this great movie (click on trailer) around Veterans Day (US), Remembrance Day (CAN) 2016, related to this: [CAUTION: rated R]
We Christian soldiers are now mostly in defense of the body of Christ, not pridefully parading ourselves onto the streets as conquerors – when we are not. Not yet, in this life.
Yes, God is battling our battles today. And yes, we are battling Satan and his minions by also being aware of his devices and fiery darts (Ephesians 6:16).
And one day we will be in battle with Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. Whatever will be fought alongside Him will be awesome to behold and engage in.
So, let’s now go onward as good soldiers of Christ with the assignment and ministry He has given us to do.