An Agent of the Government
Some point out that a Christian has obligations to his country as well as obligations to God. They suggest that a Christian may participate in war and even kill for the good of his country but may not commit such acts for his own personal welfare. Those who advocate this position interpret the Bible passages that deal with a Christian and his enemies as referring only to personal enemies. If someone is the enemy of the nation, then it is admissible to join hands with your fellow citizens and destroy that enemy, without incurring any disfavor from God for such an action.
This may be termed “collective action.” Because every human being is part of a nation, country, tribe or society he is bound by this association to participate in every activity deemed wise or necessary by that nation. If a personal moral issue is involved or if the community action has religious or spiritual implications a person is not to consider them because he cannot possibly be held accountable since he is acting merely as part of a collective group whose responsibility is to carry out the decisions of those in charge. The nation decides who is the enemy, how he is to be dealt with and when and where such treatment is to be inflicted. According to this argument, the Christian has no other recourse than to comply with such decisions. He has no other Source of authority or allegiance to which he is obligated which might affect his conduct. He can do no personal wrong because he is not acting personally.
When involved in such collective actions of his nation he is in a virtual state of immunity from responsibility to God. If, in the nation’s view, its best interests were served by killing, the Christian should kill, and there would be no wrong involved. If national security called for the cessation of all other activities of a spiritual nature, such as Bible study, prayer, partaking of the Lord’s supper, etc., the Christian may dispense with these religious duties indefinitely without it affecting his relationship with God. In essence, whatever is required or sanctioned by the government under which one lives becomes proper to engage in so long as it is done collectively under the direction of the government.
The Point Illustrated
Before proceeding any further let it be reemphasized that we are not advocating disregard for law. We are not suggesting disrespect for the duly constituted governmental authorities. The Christian has definite obligations to be an obedient citizen of his nation. He is to cheerfully comply with all laws and regulations imposed upon him by his government except where to do so would involve a breach of his obligation to God according to the teaching of the Bible. When such a conflict arises the Christian must submit to the will of God first and foremost. In so doing there are times that he might be required to decline participating in an activity required, sponsored or sanctioned by the government. Such a case would be that of war.
This may best be illustrated by referring to a few specific incidents encountered by the author during his period of service in the United States Navy during World War II. While aboard ship in the Inland Sea of Japan, on mine sweeping and demolition duty there, beer was brought aboard ship and served to the crew. This was not done by an individual sailor but was provided by the Navy and was not sold but served, just as the regular meals, at no cost. Would a Christian, who held the conviction that drinking alcoholic beverages was wrong, have been justified in joining in with the other sailors in their beer-drinking just because it was under the auspices of the government? If we admit that his personal convictions could have and should have been exercised in refusing to partake of the beer, then this same principle holds true in a Christian refusing to partake in war when it stems from a sincere conviction based upon the Bible. Just because a government sanctions an action does not require God to sanction it. Participating in it as a member of a national unit or group does not release one from the personal responsibility for his action. Then, of course, all ex-servicemen can recall the distribution of cigarettes to the personnel of the armed forces. While these may have been donated by private organizations, they were distributed with the cooperation and sanction of the government. To accept and use tobacco does not become proper for the Christian just because it is given to him by his government.
A final incident will demonstrate that one is not justified in an action just because he engages in it collectively as part of the armed forces. Following World War II a number of Army units were transported to Japan to serve as occupation forces. In one city the author visited, the Army secured a large two-story frame building and furnished it to the troops as a house of prostitution. Japanese girls were procured and given small rooms in the building. Just outside of the building a soldier was stationed in a small booth where he sold tickets to the servicemen to be presented to the prostitutes of their choice inside the building for illicit purposes. To insure protection against the spread of disease the building was furnished, at government expense, with rooms where precautionary medical treatment could be self-administered by the military personnel who frequented the place. And even though all this went on in broad daylight, the Army added one more precaution to insure that orderliness was kept. Armed Military Police patrolled the halls inside the building.
We simply ask, could a Christian participate in the activities of such a set-up, sponsored by the military, without committing the sin of fornication? While we recognize the difference between being offered something and being commanded something, the same principle holds true. Collective action, under governmental supervision and sanction, does not remove the sin of the one committing it.
But what does the Bible say about the Christian’s responsibility for his actions? Regardless of whether an act is performed individually or collectively, the person committing the act will be judged for it personally, not as an agent of the government. The Bible says that God’s judgment “will render to every man according to his works” (Rom. 2:6). Notice that each man will face God to be judged according to HIS own works, that is, the things he did as an individual. In referring to the return of Christ we are told, “Then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds” (Matt. 16:27). This is again emphasized in Rom. 14:12: “So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Notice that judgment will be on an individual basis. This truth is repeatedly taught in the
Scriptures. Another clear passage says, “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Other Scripture passages that bear out the same teaching are the following: Eph. 6:8, Col. 3:25, Rev. 20:12,22:12.
Thus the objection that one may kill as an agent of the government and not be held accountable for his action is not upheld by the Bible. As close as the husband and wife relationship is, each one will be judged individually (Matt. 10:34-36). As close as members of the same congregation are, each one will face God for his own actions (Rev. 3:1,4). If this is true of the members of a home and the church, it would certainly be true of the citizens of a nation.
Let no one conclude that killing as a representative of the government will be excused in judgment, for God shall judge each person’s life individually and not as part of any group.
The Light, March, 2006