The Christian and Military Service — A Paper by Charles H. Mackintosh

Military Service

Our Lord Jesus Christ has left us an example that we should follow His steps. Can we trace His footsteps into a field of battle? We are called to walk even as He walked. Is it walking like Him to go to war? True, we fail in many things, but if we are asked if it be right for a Christian to go to war, we can only answer the question by a reference to Christ. How did He act? What did He teach? Did He ever take the sword? Did He come to destroy men’s lives? Did He not say, “He that takes the sword shall perish by the sword?” And again, “I say to you, that ye resist not evil.” How do such words agree with going to war? But some will say, “What would become of us if all were to adopt such principles?” We reply, If all were to adopt those heavenly principles, there would be no more war and hence we should not need to fight. But it is not our business to reason as to the results of obedience; we have only to obey the Word of our blessed Master and walk in His steps. If we do so, we shall most assuredly not be found going to war.

Persons sometimes quote our Lord’s words, “He that has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one,” as giving sanction for going to war, but anyone can see that they have nothing to do with the question. They refer to the altered condition of things on which the disciples would have to enter when the Lord would be taken. While He was with them, they had lacked nothing, but now they would have to face in His absence the full brunt of the world’s opposition. In short, the words have an entirely spiritual application. Again, much use is sought to be made of the fact that the centurion in Acts 10 was not told to resign his commission. It is not the way of the Spirit of God to put people under a yoke. He does not say to the newly converted soul, “You must give up this or that.” The grace of God meets a man where he is, with a full salvation. Then it teaches him how to walk by presenting the words and ways of Christ in all their sanctifying and formative power.

Again it is said, “Does not the apostle in 1 Corinthians 7 tell us to abide in the calling wherein we are called?” Yes; with this powerfully qualifying clause, “Abide with God.” This makes a great difference. Suppose a hangman is converted, could he abide in his calling? It will be said that this is an extreme case. Granted, but it is a case in point inasmuch as it proves the fallacy of the reasoning on 1 Corinthians 7. It proves there are callings in which one could not possibly “abide with God.” So, as to your question, dear friend, we have simply to inquire, “Is it abiding with God or walking in the footsteps of Christ to go to war?” If it be, let Christians do so; if not, what then?

You have only one question to ask yourself, namely, “Is the profession of arms one which a disciple of Christ can properly follow?” If not, your path is plain. You surely cannot think of placing your son in a position which he must abandon to follow a rejected Christ. No doubt, there are many of the Lord’s beloved people in the army, but the question is not, Can I be saved and yet be in the army? Thousands have gone to heaven who have lived and died in that profession. But the real question for every loyal heart is, Can I follow the footsteps of my Lord while I remain in a position in which, at any moment, I may be called to take the life of my fellow and send a soul into eternity unprepared? This, dear friend, must be your one question. I cannot place my son, be he converted or unconverted, where I could not be myself. As for the discipline of the army being good for the purpose of bracing up the character, we must confess we have not much faith in it. The mess-room is not the place to which we should like to send a youth for discipline or training of any sort.

Charles H. Mackintosh

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