I have been reading in Titus lately, as well as reading commentary in the Believer’s Bible Commentary, a gift to me from a respected friend. Today I came across a section titled “The Christian and This World” under Titus 3:1:
Believers should obey the laws, including traffic laws, and pay their taxes and other levies. In general they should be law-abiding, respectful, obedient subjects. However, there are three areas in which Christians differ considerably as to their proper responsibility. These are the matters of voting, of seeking elected office, and of going to war with the armed forces. With regard to the first two, the following helpful guidelines are laid down in the Bible:
- Christians are in the world but are not of it (John 17:14-16).
- The whole world system is in the hands of the wicked one, and has been condemned by God (1 John 5:19b; 2:17; John 12:31)
- The Christian’s mission is not to improve the world, but to see men saved out of it.
- While the believer is almost unavoidably a citizen of some earthly country, his primary citizenship is from heaven — so much so that he is to look upon himself as a pilgrim and an alien down here (Phil 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11)
- No soldier on active duty should entangle himself with the affairs of this life, lest he displease the one who has enlisted him (2 Timothy 2:4).
- The Lord Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). As His ambassadors, we should represent this truth to the world.
- Politics tend to become corrupt by their very nature. Christians should separate themselves from iniquity (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).
- In voting, a Christian would normally vote for a man thought to be upright and honest. But sometimes it is God’s will to exalt the lowest of men (Daniel 4:17). How could we know and obey the will of God in such cases?
The other question is whether a believer should go to war when ordered by his country. There are strong arguments on both sides, but it seems to me that the balance of evidence is against participating. The principles listed above bear on the problem, but there are additional ones. (1) Our Lord said, “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight” (John 18:36). (2) He also said, “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). (3) The whole idea of taking human life is opposed to the teaching of Him who said, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).
Those who are opposed to bearing arms can be grateful if they live in a country where they are allowed to register as conscientious objectors or noncombatants.
On the other hand, many Christian men have served in combat with honor. They have noted that the New Testament presents centurions (e.g. Cornelius and Julius) in a very favorable light. Also, figures of speech from military life are used to illustrate the Christian warefare (e.g. Ephesians 6:10-17). If soldiering were inherently wrong it is hard to see how Paul could call on us to be “good soldiers of Jesus Christ.” Whichever view a person holds, he should not judge or condemn those who disagree. There is room for differing opinions.
Many of these thoughts are thoughts I have been struggling with, not only because we are in the midst of the great presidential election, but also because of local political issues, such as whether homeschoolers in Nebraska should be subjected to standardized testing, something I personally vehemently oppose. In the midst of dealing with this local issue, we visited the state capitol and talked with our senator and heard a speech from our governor, in which the governor vowed to veto the bill if it ever made it to his desk. All very reassuring stuff. But while there in the capitol building, I pondered what I could possibly do to make a bigger difference than to pray for the government. If I engage the governor or senator in a conversation, am I not just as likely to push them away from my cause as I am to persuade them to see things my way? I am troubled by all this because I have been trained since I was a small child that a good citizen is involved and votes, writes letters to representatives, etc.
Another point I would make about seeking elected office is, to my knowledge, there are no instructions anywhere in the New Testament that cover how to behave if you are an elected official. There are many Old Testament examples, but few (if any) New Testament directions.
And I still don’t know what to make of a Christian serving in the military, despite my own service record and my attempts at continuing my service as a reservist. I enjoyed my service to my country. And it was very rewarding, financially. But it is a grave entanglement in the affairs of this world. And as a commissioned officer, I have set myself up as an ambassador of the United States. I cannot be an ambassador of both the Lord and the United States.