Can you serve in a military service and not violate the will of God?

  • @Nick - some folks would have an issue with the kind of submitting to the authority of the Government that the military involves (perhaps something about serving 2 masters).
    – wax eagle
    Sep 14, 2011 at 12:52
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    @Sven If you look at the history you will see that this was already closed and reopened once as a duplicate. The edits have made it a separate question.
    – Richard
    Sep 19, 2011 at 19:25
  • Didn't God ask the Hebrew people to destroy other nations?
    – hookenz
    Nov 5, 2013 at 0:17

7 Answers 7


This is a question on which Christians are divided. The vast majority adhere to the belief that fighting in a war is entirely justifiable for a Christian. They draw on several biblical sources for this, including Paul's writings in Romans that the State is a legitimate authority charged with preserving order, that Christians should submit to; and also the fact that Jesus interacted with several soldiers and yet never commanded them to leave their profession. Most Christians would place limits on what kind of war is allowable, and what conduct is allowable within war, gathered together under the Just War theory.

A significant minority of Christians believe that fighting and killing are entirely incompatible with Christianity. Their basis is that commands such as "love your neighbour as yourself" and "turn the other cheek" cannot be compatible with attempting to kill your neighbour. While acknowleging that the State has the right and power to defend itself, they would say that Christians should play no part in such a war. Denominations that espouse this belief includes the Quakers and the Mennonites. Many of these have refused the draft and gone to jail for their beliefs; others have volunteered for non-combatant (but often still dangerous) war tasks such as stretcher bearers.


There is no consensus among pacifist Christians about whether particular actions in support of the military are unacceptable. As Wolf Mendl notes in Prophets and Reconcilers: Reflections on the Quaker Peace Testimony (1974):

The emphasis on personal action, which in the case of war means abstention, inevitably raises the problem of where one draws the line. In the total wars of the first half of this century, Quakers accepted non-combatant service with the armed forces, served in an independent but uniformed Friends Ambulance Unit, relieved the sufferings of civilian war victims, did alternative civilian service of 'national importance' at home, went to prison for refusing any service which might assist the war effort, even fire-watching. Some refused to pay taxes. There are no formal rules laid down for Quaker conduct in such circumstances, other than to follow the Light of Christ.

He does not mention that some Quakers actually did decide to serve in the armed forces, but that happened too.

In general, most Christians have found no conflict between their faith and active military service. Those who would not be soldiers may still find it acceptable to be involved in some other way (the classic example being service in the medical corps) though other Christians hold that any kind of participation in warlike activity is wrong, including even paying taxes that will go towards the armed forces.

  • I would add that the Bible is not conclusive on this issue. If it were, then a lot more people would agree. As it is, there are several Biblically-based reasons to support a range of positions, and the practical difference comes down to emphasis, interpretation and local circumstances.
    – James T
    Sep 14, 2011 at 18:25
  • Not really an answer to the question. Sep 15, 2011 at 13:45

Yes, absolutely. In fact, in countries that have National Service, it is precisely the will of God that we do so (see other questions about obeying national laws). Military service does not always involve killing. In the instances where it does, your issue is addressed in this question: If the Ten Commandments say “thou shalt not kill” how can a Christian fight in a war?

In my country (the UK), search-and-rescue helicopter services are run by the military, occasionally people are given military titles and membership as honorary rights, military personnel work in our civilian healthcare system, and until recently the army stepped in when our civilian firefighters went on strike - so there are many roles in the military that are little to do with armed conflict.

Finally, there's another scenario to consider. Often when joining the military one does so for a fixed period of time, and "belongs" to the service until that time expires, unless they buy themselves out. It's arguably a voluntary form of slavery, and the Bible specifically deals with what to happen when you become a Christian while a slave in 1 Corinthians 7:20-21 - you stay a slave until you can become free.

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    Last paragraph is a little interesting. Are you saying that if I voluntarily hire myself out to a murderer, that it becomes OK to commit murder if he tells me to? Sep 14, 2011 at 16:55
  • This answer only gives one point of view. Sep 14, 2011 at 17:36
  • @DJClayworth I think there's a whole separate question in there, but the short answer is no, it wouldn't be ok to commit murder.
    – Waggers
    Sep 15, 2011 at 9:53
  • Then if it's not OK to kill people in battle, then it's not OK to join an organization which will order you to kill people in battle. Oct 19, 2011 at 16:23
  • Killing in battle is different from murder. And not every military role involves conflict, as my answer clearly says.
    – Waggers
    Oct 21, 2011 at 6:26

Yes you can serve in the military

How many times did God send Israel to war? Could anybody say that those men are not men of God? Sure Israel has many times, fallen away from God's love, but when have you not?

Judges 3:1-2 (New International Version)

1 These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan

2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience):

Did you catch that? God left nations near Israel to teach the Israelites about war. God is not a weak God, His will is that wicked people are put to shame. If you go to war then you are doing His will, in one way or another.

See my answer here as well.

If the Ten Commandments say “thou shalt not kill” how can a Christian fight in a war?

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    The New Testament way is not necessarily the Old Testament way. Sep 15, 2011 at 15:55

John the Baptist, when asked effectively the same question by a group of soldiers during the transition from Old to New Covenants, answered in the following way (Luke 3:14):

Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And what about us, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages."

He did not tell them to quit their jobs - he told them to be content and not abuse their positions of authority/power.

Jesus told his disciples to make sure they had a sword (they had two) before they went to the Garden of Gethsemane (immediately following the establishment of the New Covenant in the upper room) (Luke 22:35-38):

And He said to them, "When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?" They said, "No, nothing." And He said to them, "But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, 'AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS'; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment." They said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough."


I've personally gone through a year of military service. National service is compulsory here for every male citizen. There's an alternative, non-military service that's also available for those that have ethical or religious objections to military service. So I definitely had to think a lot about this.

A credible defense is important for probably any country, but especially mine. We cannot prevent an invasion no matter what, but we can make it too costly to be practical. The only effective way for a small country to do that is to have a large proportion of the population receive some basic military training. If someone marched in, they'd get all over the country in no time. But then there'd be a million armed men in the forests, just waiting to rid the new overlords of their lives, and to get their fatherland back.

Having a system that actually prevents war is a good thing, even the will of God. I would not fight a war outside our borders. I wouldn't have enlisted to any non-compulsory army. But I certainly am glad to be one of the millions of trained men that make any prospective enemy think twice.

Jeremiah 29:7 (NIV)
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Take the circumstances I describe as a case study of how a person can practically seek the peace. Note that circumstances vary, and this idea doesn't fit with a war-waging military.

I do understand if someone feels being a soldier is wrong. Any possible enemy still consists of human beings, created and loved by God. But there's a great difference between a soldier that fights on a distant front and one that only exists in order not to fight at all.

Background: I live in Finland, a small country neighboring Sweden, Norway, Estonia and Russia. Finland's only been independent since 1917, and was attacked in WWII -- but my grandfather and other Finnish men of that time fought back, and Finland kept its independence. That, I think, was a miracle of God (seriously). They say that each and every man prayed in the trenches. Finland certainly was quite a Christian country back then; nowadays it's very secular.

The Cold War was politically a difficult time for us, too. Maybe you can imagine.

A map showing Finland.
Map by NuclearVacuum. CC-BY-SA 3.0

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    This answer is a really interesting essay, but frankly nothing to do with Christianity and barely anything to do with the question. Sep 15, 2011 at 13:43


Today many people (worldwide) totally condemned the activities of this agencies, the Lord Jesus the not condemned them.

National duties must be separated from religious sentiments.

Matthew 8:8-10 Before reading verses 8-10, this is a little summary from verses 5-7, a centurion (a Roman soldier, may be a group captain) was begging Jesus to come and heal his servant, from palsy. When Jesus decided to come and heal his servant, the centurion said;

Matthew 8:8-10 The centurion replied “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.

Verse 9 for I my self am a man under authority with soldiers under me. I tell this one “Go” and he goes; and that “Come” and he comes. I said to my servant do this and he does it”.

Verse 10 when Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him “I tell you the truth, I have not found any one in Israel with such great faith. Jesus recommended this soldier as the man with great faith.

I need salvation, police need salvation, soldier need salvation, so as Christians all we need to do is to preach the word and not condemn people and we must not mix National duties with religious sentiments.

Therefore, as a Christian, we need to pray for this group of people worldwide, we all knew that the security and live of people is in the hands of God. Yet this people volunteered themselves to render National services to their nations worldwide.


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