“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” Genesis 9:5–6 (ESV).
God said this after Noah exited the ark. Man’s sin had so grieved God that He sent the flood. Sinful as they were, His promise to come as the Seed of the Woman was still on the table. Clearly, God loves every single human life.
What, then, of those whose vocation is to kill? These church members, friends, and family serve in the military and law enforcement. While killing isn’t their only mission, they must always be ready and even have special training for this grim work.
How do God’s children reconcile their killing work with His value of human life? We visited with six ELS & WELS people in this line of work: an Air Force fighter-jet pilot, an Army helicopter pilot (and former Ranger), three Army Special Ops soldiers, and a civilian police officer. We asked if they would be willing to share their thoughts about three questions. Those questions and their candid responses follow and they allow the rest of us to: 1) see the difficult work they do for us, 2) resolve to support them in any and every way we can, and 3) pray “Come quickly Lord Jesus.”
- You are familiar with the command “You shall not kill.” Yet the work you have chosen could easily put you in a position where you are expected to do exactly that. How have you reconciled this seeming contradiction?
Taking life is a terrible thing, dramatized and downplayed by movies, books, etc., which does a disservice to the gravity of the decision. I go back to the ways that taking a life is “ok” either in defense of life or as sanctioned by the state (as taught in confirmation class).
This was one of the first questions I asked when I was going through Bible Information Class. (Pastor said) that God gave the government the sword to defend His people and that being on the tip of that sword is God-pleasing. I haven’t looked back since.
I remember sermons talking about this. In Somalia, I recognized I was sent by the government and that in some cases it was a matter between soldiers on my left and right and them. Often times there isn’t a distinct thought process on the battlefield and the training becomes automatic.
When first joining the service, I did not know how to reconcile the two and had to ask my pastor. I did not want to be joining a profession that was inherently wrong.
- We grant that the cause is just and the actions are justified. Even so, can you comment on challenges or temptations with which a Christian might be confronted?
A temptation in combat is to undervalue the life that I am taking rather than fulfill the responsibility that God has given me. It is a slippery slope for sure. I have been fortunate to be able to turn it on and off when I transition from overseas to home. Some are not so fortunate.
War is ugly, raw, exhausting violence that in some cases turns into moments of survival. We’ve seen American atrocities such as in Abu Ghraib or urinating on enemy bodies. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to address a band of brothers in scenarios like that after all that you have endured together.
Hard situations bring out the best and worst in people. The current enemy our nation faces is pretty evil, but in the end they are sinful human beings (like us). In these extreme situations, a Christian must be aware and manage the feelings of anger, fear, etc., and avoid the temptations that accompany them.
- Even when the cause and the action are just, many warriors—Christian and non-Christian—are haunted with feelings of guilt and remorse. How would you console someone with such feelings?
I think I would try to help them understand that their service was not in vain. Our soldiers over the past 14+ years have seen and done things that no person should have to see or do. Many of them are experiencing these things in their late teens, early twenties. I think the most important thing to do is to listen to them, let them know how important and valued their actions are, and point them to the cross.
I believe most people will have those feelings throughout their lives even if they were justified. One may frequently arm chair quarterback; this goes for bad as well as the right decisions. Whether it’s detaining someone or making the decision to not kill an enemy combatant who surrenders at the last minute, knowing they have caused harm to your organization, there can be many difficult decisions in combat.
Point someone to the Gospel, though, and remind them that Jesus died for everyone’s sins, even theirs. There are also similar stories in the Bible that may be helpful: David, Joshua, etc.
PRAYER: Thank You, Lord God, for giving us men and women willing to carry such heavy burdens for our safety! Help us to help and encourage them. Amen.