HOW WOULD GOD HAVE US VIEW VETERANS? SHOULD CHRISTIANS SERVE IN THE MILITARY? IS IT A SIN TO BE PATRIOTIC?
by Shawn Brasseaux
The following was recently asked: “For all my brothers and sisters in USA, I would like to know what is your attitude toward people who served and fought for your country? I am asking this because many ‘christians’ [sic] here where I live say that believers who give honour to soldiers, flag, homeland have demonic spirit, and that the respect toward these people who fought for freedom is not Christian.”
Here, two primary issues are at hand: (1) wars and (2) nations. We will treat each separately in this study. Indeed, certain groups—even religious and particularly “Christian” ones—express anti-war sentiments for diverse reasons. They do not believe in serving in their country’s armed forces (or military). Such individuals are pacifists (shun all military activity). Some even go so far in saying we should never honor veterans. To them, it is “un-Christian” to be patriotic (salute a flag, celebrate a national holiday, and so on). Pride in country is forbidden on the grounds of being “evil” or “satanic.” Nationalism is viewed as “racist.” Opinions and speculations aside, what does the Bible say?
As we move into every Christmas Season, society tends to sing about and strive for peace. Whether they realize it or not, the Bible has influenced them to some degree. Note the passage describing the night of Jesus Christ’s birth: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:13-14).
The Prophet Isaiah, writing 700 years before Christ, agreed: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
One of Messiah’s titles is “The Prince of Peace.” The cessation of war and hostility characterize His reign. Consequently, the heavenly choir sang shortly after His birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Yet, in the land where the Prince of Peace was born 20 centuries ago, war is (still) the norm. Honestly, the Middle East was violent long before His birth, and it is yet hostile long after. What of God’s plan for peace in the Middle East, especially in light of the aforementioned verses? Are we not to take the Bible literally? It speaks of peace on Earth, and yet, war rages now just as it ever has. Why?
THE CASUALTIES OF WAR
Friend, as you are most painfully aware, war is brutal. Maybe you have firsthand experience with it. You perhaps can testify to the fact that it is devastating, to say the least. War is costly—not just monetarily but physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Limbs and lives are lost. Survivors are mentally scarred. Families are split and burdened beyond imagination. Neighborhoods are flattened. Innocent women and children suffer. The damage is irreversible. Understandably, such adverse conditions and results cause people to oppose war. Pacifists, for example, refuse to engage in physical conflict at all. Still, is pacifism the answer?
THE REALITIES OF WAR
At the very heart of human nature is selfishness. James 4:1-2 relates: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” A war exists in every human heart—and more so in the heart of the Christian. The sin nature, or Adamic nature, is the origin of sins (actions). Sin (the nature) works inside before it is manifested outside in behavior. In the heart of the Christian, there is also the Holy Spirit, and He opposes the working of sin (see Galatians 5:16-26). A Christian, but not a lost person, can be victorious over sin by trusting God’s Word—especially the words of grace found in the Bible Books of Romans through Philemon.
Let us be brutally honest. Our flesh, or sin nature, is avaricious; it loves to “pig out.” Turn to Ephesians chapter 4: “ This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,  Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:  Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” The operative word here is “greediness.” Our sin nature will take, take, take, TAKE! “If it feels good, do it!” “Gimme, gimme, GIMME!” Colossians 3:5 says, “covetousness, which is idolatry.” Here is the war inside that drives the conflict outside.
Wars start among people when one party endeavors to dominate another. At the center of the battle is something valuable—land, money, et cetera. The core of the battle, however, is really power; it is a struggle to see which group can overcome the other. In this fallen world, all physical battles start in the heart. Moreover, there is a combat in the heart because there is one overriding spiritual war. Ephesians 6:12 describes the conflict between God’s allies and Satan’s comrades: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The God of creation has a challenger—His chief creature, Satan. We are all under Satan’s control until we trust Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). After joining God’s team by faith (not by works), we fathom the reality of the crucial battle like never before.
When the LORD God created and put Adam on the Earth, He charged Adam (and, indirectly, Eve): “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28).
God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, created offices of government in Heaven and Earth: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16). Adam—and, by extension, all mankind—was originally designed to be king over the Earth for God’s glory. Man occupied the earthly offices of authority. In chapter 3 of Genesis, however, Satan enticed man (chiefly, Adam) to follow him in his rebellion against Almighty God. Wanting to be “like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14), “possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:19,22), Satan had just led a revolt in Heaven (recruiting many of God’s angels). Now, he was responsible for an uprising on Earth. God’s latest creature, mankind, had left Him as well.
There is a mutiny in creation, friend. God’s will and Word are ignored, and Satan and sinful man following him are active in opposing the Creator. They desire to do their own thing, be their own god, manage their own lives. It is God’s design to have peace with them, but they do not want it. They do not want to live in harmony with Him. They do not want to follow His plan for His creation. It is true on an individual level and a national basis too. (We will get to that a little later in our study.)
For now, we look at Exodus 15:3, “The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.” This sits in the context of JEHOVAH God just destroying Egypt’s armies in the Red Sea. He gave Israel a military victory over the Amalekites in chapter 17, becoming Israel’s deliverer or war hero (gaining the title “Jehovahnissi”). Furthermore, the LORD God purposed Israel to have a strong army. He actually instructed them to number Jewish men for battle. Israel would need to fight to overcome the Gentile powers in the land they were soon to enter and settle.
Numbers chapter 1: “ And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying,  Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls;  From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies….  So were all those that were numbered of the children of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel;  Even all they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty.”
Friend, if we speak of war as “evil” (and some do), and ascribe to the idea that veterans are not worthy of respect (and some do), then we are in fact disparaging the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ will return at His Second Coming to fight the Battle of Armageddon. He is coming to reclaim Earth, to take it back from Satan. It has been rightly said that God’s kingdom will be brought in, not by persuasion (preaching the Gospel and converting souls), but by power (military force—and FORCE it will be!).
Revelation 19:11-13 remarks: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.” (While man may and does engage in wars with evil motives, military conflict can be done “in righteousness” because the God of the Bible encouraged Israel to do it and He Himself will do it in the last days, future from us.)
The Prophet Isaiah, chapter 42, verses 13-15, report of that day: “The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once. I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools.” More could be said about this violent return of Christ, but for brevity’s sake these passages must suffice. Let us move on to the issue of nations.
THE CREATION OF NATIONS
In Noah’s day, worldwide conditions are relayed in Genesis 6:5: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” God thus brought about a Great Flood: “ The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.  And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth….  And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.” The key word in this passage is “violence”—“the earth was filled with violence” (verse 11). What was the extent of that “violence?”
The Great Flood has now cleansed the planet of evil. Noah and his family disembarking, stepping off the Ark into the new world, Genesis chapter 9 starts: “ And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.  And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.  Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.  But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.  And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.  Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”
Never before have we seen this commission in Scripture. The God of the Bible has added the death penalty in the crime of murder. Verse 6 again, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” Capital punishment is not a church institution or government institution. It is a Divine institution, carrying the authority of God Almighty Himself. At this point, someone would object, “But, Brother Shawn, that was the Old Testament. Such a commandment has nothing to do with us!” Oh, dear friend, be sure to read your Bible thoroughly before you make such a careless remark!
The Apostle Paul, writing in New Testament times, says the following in Romans 13:1-8 with respect to human government: “ Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:  For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.  Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.  For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.  Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.  Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”
Pay attention to “the sword” in verse 4. There is a particular “evil” that the “sword” should discourage. Comparing that to Genesis chapter 9, we understand that “the evil” here is murder. Government is meant to deter murder, violence of all sorts but especially murder. Paul is writing with respect to the Roman government, so the “sword” is capital punishment (to be graphic, it is beheading). In Genesis chapter 9, we see the basic groundwork being laid for nations (they will be the major theme throughout chapters 10 and 11).
The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul says in Acts 17:24-28: “ God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;  Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;  And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;  That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:  For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”
God Almighty “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (verse 26). This is Adam’s universal fatherhood of all people—regardless of ethnicity. There are no “superior” nationalities. Verse 26 adds, “and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” These “bounds” are boundaries, national borders, and they serve a special purpose. As with the death penalty, national borders are not man’s creation, but God’s creation. God Himself instituted nations, and He defined them using geographic limits. He created those national boundaries or borders in order to compartmentalize mankind. Why?
Nations themselves do not explicitly appear in the Bible until Genesis chapter 10, after the Great Flood of Noah’s day. This is highly significant. Something happened in connection with the Flood to generate the necessity of nations. What was it? Remember, what caused the Flood to come upon mankind in the first place? It was the spread of wickedness, chiefly violence and murder. These events led to the Great Deluge. After the Flood, with Noah and his family leaving the Ark, God established the death penalty. From Noah’s three sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—all the peoples of the world descended (see the genealogies recorded in Genesis 9:18-19,25-27 and Genesis chapter 10). Nationalism, the advocacy of political independence for countries, patriotic feelings and principles, began right here in human history. God Almighty Himself was responsible for it. If God supports sovereign nations, distinct from each other, what position would Satan take? Of course, he would sponsor the opposite view!
As we come up through the Bible’s record, we can see the LORD God taking a certain action and Satan following it with a counterattack. As soon as God Almighty created nations, Satan was present to advance internationalism. Cooperating with the Devil, sinful man began to unite. This is documented in Genesis chapter 11, what we know of as the construction of and scattering from the Tower of Babel. Man was united politically, socially, and spiritually around Satan himself. God punished the nations by confusing them with new languages:
“ And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.  And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.  And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.  And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.  And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.  And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.  Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.  So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.  Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”
Satan does not like nations; he prefers internationalism or globalism. The Devil wants all people to mingle with each other, having no boundaries, all fellowshipping with one another—regardless of religious, political, and social distinctions. When you hear about denominations or religions gathering today, nations uniting today, and country borders being downplayed and breached, you are seeing a modern manifestation of the attitude that drove the construction of the Tower of Babel. Satan is alive and well, and he is so thrilled to have sinful man working for him… still!
It should be noted that, just as Romans 1:18-32 says, God gave the nations over to the spiritual darkness they so craved at Babel (Genesis chapter 11). He pulled aside Abram (later renamed Abraham) in chapter 12 to form the nation Israel. To what did He turn over the Gentiles, the nations? Deuteronomy 4:16-20 says He gave them over to idols, evil spirits to which those idols corresponded! Now, we return to Acts chapter 17.
National borders restrict Satan’s policy of evil. If one nation is corrupt, that does not affect all nations. Individual sovereignty of nation-states allows God’s truth to be found in pockets or isolated locations. God made the nations and divided them by borders (Acts 17:26), “that [purpose, intent] they should seek the Lord, if haply [perhaps] they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us” (verse 27). The Lord gave the nations of the world over to Satan in Genesis chapter 11 at Babel, but He gave individuals a chance to escape that ignorance and spiritual darkness if they wanted. They could locate the one true God if they sought Him, and national borders (especially Israel’s) allowed the seekers to come to Him. Sadly, Israel did not guard herself, and she permitted her neighbors to contaminate her with false religion, paganism, idolatry!
As a proud natural-born American, this author must say that his nation has truly enjoyed God’s Word for four centuries—when it was but colonies escaping religious persecution in England. Since our immigration policies have been relaxed over the decades, religious ideas of all kinds have flooded our thoughts. America is on a downward spiral morally, and yet, it is far worse in the other countries. We have not yet learned the painful lesson from Israel’s chronicles! Yes, history is repeating itself, and God is not at fault. It is our problem if we refuse to have faith in the revelation He has provided us.
The ability to maintain a strong military is a nation’s God-given right to defend itself, lest evil cross its boundaries and affect it as it has neighboring countries. Veterans go to war, or at least should enter the battlefield, with that mindset. War should be last resort, but it is a Scriptural option nonetheless. Indeed, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). We should certainly not go around looking for fights (both as individuals and nations), but, friend, we must be willing to defend our personal property and ourselves. Indubitably, we should not be the aggressors, but we can rest assured antagonists will come and we must be prepared for them. Someone would reply, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). As we have already seen, friend, there will be no true peace in the world until Jesus Christ returns to usher it in as “the Prince of Peace.” Matthew 5:9 looks to that end. While we certainly should not go around starting wars, conflict is inevitable because attackers are expected, and attackers are expected because of the reality of sin working within our hearts.
Regrettably, people who use the Bible are often quite sciolistic. The vast majority of Bible-quoters and commentators pretend to know what they are talking about, but, upon closer examination, they are seen to be ignorant of the deep things of God. Childish in their thinking, they so misuse and abuse the precious words of God. Friend, may we not be among them!
National pride—patriotism—can be recapped as follows. Our country of origin is part of our makeup, our DNA. It is who we are, whom Almighty God made us. Not that we boast against those of other nationalities, or believe ourselves to be better than they, but rather we encourage them to have the same satisfaction in their own country. Nations and their boundaries are vital to God suppressing Satan’s policy of evil. Believe it or not, evil conditions on our planet could be far worse than they are now if God had not founded nations!
This author has family members and friends, living and deceased, who have actively served or are still serving in various branches of the military. His paternal grandfather (late), uncles, cousins, and various others were or are veterans. War impacted them most painfully in numerous ways. Those living have agonizing memories of friends lost on the battlefield, and are still suffering great emotional and mental distress all these decades later. It would be absolutely foolish (!) for me to ignore the sacrifices they made so I can enjoy what I do today. They should be honored.
It is important that we respect anyone who believes in his or her country’s right to exist and remain independent. The Bible would agree that nations are crucial to this fallen world not being worse than it is. Veterans—whatever nation they serve—certainly do not go to war to hand their country to the enemy. They are fighting to protect and preserve it from foreign threats (bullies). When we realize the depths of the sacrifice veterans make, we cannot help but recognize and appreciate their service. They have scars, visible and invisible. Friend, entering the armed forces is a personal choice. We as Christians are not required to do it, and we are not required not to do it. If we choose not to go to war, let us be careful not to flaunt ourselves as “more pious than others.” “I am holy, I do not believe in fighting.” (This attitude of haughtiness would be evil, satanic, un-Christian—1 Timothy 3:6.)