Rockets Downrange for Jesus

Last week I saw this statement on a window sticker. Now, I live and work in a military community, so, it is not unusual to see slogans like this on bumpers and windows, but this one struck me as curious. At first, my “hawkish” gut reaction was to say, “Yes! Do all things for the glory of God, including blowing up bad guys!” I also thought about all of the imprecatory psalms and their outright call for the destruction of the enemies of God, and thought that this slogan was remarkably consistent with God’s call to the Israelites to lay to waste all of the cities of Canaan and the other enemies who flaunted their power against the people of God.

Then, I reflected on Christ’s command that we love our enemies and the irony of this statement really struck me. How is it that those who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior can celebrate the destruction of others? Mind you, I am not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination and I do not believe that God is a pacifist. Jesus made a whip and chased people out of the Temple courts; God is referred to as the Lord of Armies 240 times in the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament writings; and Jesus is depicted returning on a white stallion wielding a great sword to destroy his enemies in the final battle (Revelation 19:11-16). In addition, one of the promises that Christ gives to the faithful church is that we will join him in crushing his enemies (Revelation 2:26-27). There can be no arguing that the God of the Bible is not a God of warfare when it comes to dealing with his enemies.

At the same time, God calls us as believers to be ambassadors of peace. Also, it is impossible to share the gospel with a dead man. Christians, of course, have wrestled with the question of whether they can serve in the Armed Forces for nearly two-thousand years; I am not sure that I add anything original to the conversation. Yet, what do we do with this seeming contradiction. To begin with, God has given the government the power of the sword to punish those who would do evil. Certainly this applies to wicked nations as well as to wicked men. Similarly, we do want godly men and women to serve in the military—we are to be salt in every area of life. Thus, that opens the door to the Christian serving in the Armed Forces. In addition, the Bible does present an argument for righteous anger to be expressed without sin (Ephesians 4:26) as well as a command that God expects believers to work justice in the world around us (Hosea 12:6; Micah 6:8). While working justice in a fallen world can sometimes be worked through diplomacy, often it requires force…and rockets shot downrange.

Which brings us back to where we began. As Christians we hold to what we call a Doctrine of Vocation. Essentially that means that whatever your profession happens to be, from the pastor to the soldier to the mechanic to the lawyer to the politician and to the trash collector, you have been called by God to serve in that profession and thus should do so to the best of your ability and to the glory of God. In short, that means, if your job as a soldier is to send rockets downrange to blow up things, then you ought to do so to the best of your ability and give glory to God in the process. Indeed, Rockets Downrange for Jesus is a sign that a soldier understands that all the things we do is to be done to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Sadly, in a fallen world, such rockets are sometimes necessary, may they be shot well.

One final note…there is a better solution than rockets when it comes to the wickedness of man in the world around us…and that better solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ lived out in Truth and in Love. But until that day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, there will be evil men and evil governments that civil authorities will be forced to contend with, and like the soldier, it is expected that they, too, do so to the glory of God on High.

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Another opinion

    >> As Christians we hold to what we call a Doctrine
    >> of Vocation. Essentially that means that whatever
    >> your profession happens to be, from the pastor to
    >> the soldier to the mechanic to the lawyer to the
    >> politician and to the trash collector, you have
    >> been called by God to serve in that profession
    >> and thus should do so to the best of your ability
    >> and to the glory of God.

    Using such logic you end up with professional hookers and striptease artists remaining in their profession, and doing “tricks” to “the best of their ability and to the glory of God.”

    What comparison is there between a whip of cords to chase animals out of the temple area with sending rockets and missiles and bullets into foreign countries against “enemies” who have never invaded America’s shores? There was no collateral damage when Jesus used a whip, and cleansing a temple of animals and moneychangers has nothing to do with armies or wars.

    >> Jesus is depicted returning on a white stallion
    >> wielding a great sword to destroy his enemies in
    >> the final battle (Revelation 19:11-16).

    What Jesus will do when he returns to the earth does not give Christians the authority to kill enemies “foreign and domestic” in the interim. We are not living in the Old Testament and we are not in the Millennium.

    Your posting only goes to prove Gandhi correct:

    The only people on earth who do not see Christ and his teachings as non-violent are Christians.

    Like

    1. preacherwin

      Not at all. The reason that this logic does not justify hookers doing their jobs to the glory of Christ is because prostitution is clearly identified in scripture as immoral. Being a soldier is not. In fact, Paul for example, uses multiple references to Christians as soldiers in the spiritual sense, which provides legitimacy and nobility to the earthly model that is his starting point. You do not find Paul referring to Christians as prostitutes and making an analogy based on that. It is clear from his writings, that Paul sees the soldier as a man of integrity. Similarly, when Jesus heals the servant of the Centurian, Jesus never once criticizes the man’s profession nor does he tell him to turn from sin as Jesus does with others.

      You are right that we are not in the end times as of yet, though I would argue that we arein the millennial kingdom…a spiritual kingdom under the headship of Christ which we find centered on the church. But your language betrays the discontinuity that you believe is there between the two testaments. Since there is one author of Scripture (God–2 Timothy 3:16) and since God does not change (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 110:4; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 7:21, etc…), we should expect continuity and not discontinuity. Now, does this give us justification to go and commit enemy nations to the ban? No, of course it does not, there are differences in that we are now scattered amongst the nations and there is no longer a nation of God’s people under a theocracy. In addition, the Canon of scripture is closed and thus God is not authoritatively speaking from heaven any longer in the way he did with the Israelites as they entered the land of Canaan as a tool of God’s divine judgment upon the idolaters. At the same time, as I mentioned in my essay, God has given the state the power of the sword to punish wickedness and to promote justice (Romans 13:1-7). A sword’s purpose is to kill, not to subdue, thus in a modern context, to give states the right to send rockets downrange to destroy the wicked and those who would promote injustice is perfectly consistent.

      And, cleansing the temple of money changers and livestock does have a parallel with bullets and war. The first being that there is and has always been a war going on in the spiritual realm that manifests itself in the physical. Any action that Jesus takes is as part of that war, tearing down the gates of the strongholds of hell. Yes, our primary tools are prayer and spiritual armor for the source of the warfare we are in is spiritual, but there is also a physical element to this warfare as Christians have been called to quite literally lay down their lives for the cause of the Gospel. In addition, God used armies (Roman ones, for example) to protect the Apostle Paul from wicked men. And if you think that a bull whip does not leave collateral damage, you clearly do not know the effects of a whip or the magnitude of the temple courts that Jesus cleared. “Collateral Damage” being the killing of innocents or non-combatants has to do with who wielded the whip, not the choice of weapons. Jesus was acting in the reflection of many who had gone before him: Abram who took out 4 kings and their armies with 318 men, Shamgar who slew 600 Philistines with an ox goad, and Samson who slew 1,000 with a jawbone. The temple courts covered 46 acres during Jesus’ day, surely you must imagine that some sought to resist Jesus by restraining him and those that did must have gone back severely injured at least. Remember, a whip is capable of killing and Jesus would have been within his right to do so.

      In terms of Ghandi, I would suggest that you turn to Christian commentators to understand Christian theology, not to pagan ones. God intentionally closes the eyes of those who refuse to honor his Son as his Son ought to be honored.

      Blessings,

      win

      Like

  2. Another opinion

    >> prostitution is clearly identified in
    >> scripture as immoral. Being a soldier is not.

    win,

    That depends upon your definition of the word “immoral” and what you perceive to be the duties of a soldier.

    Christians who kill and/or train to kill others solely because Caesar says “kill” would fall under the same immoral umbrella as the prostitute, for Genesis 9:6 lays down the rule by which God first allowed the taking of another man’s life:

    Whoever kills a human being will be killed by a human being, because God made humans in his own image.

    Travelling halfway across the globe and killing insurgents and supposed “terrorists” and civilians does not fulfil Genesis 9:6. If the violation of the Noahic commandment by Christians doesn’t qualify as an “immoral” act, then I would ask you to provide your definition of the word “immoral.”

    >> God has given the state the power of the sword
    >> to punish wickedness and to promote justice

    I agree; but your blog posting was dealing with CHRISTIANS killing, not Caesar killing. If Caesar desires to kill, let him kill. But Christians are to serve God, not Caesar. You are confusing the two roles. Christians are not to render unto Caesar those things that belong to God. Without question the breath of life of all mankind belongs to God, not Caesar. God is the owner of the lifeblood that He has given to each man, woman and child. Only God can give life, and only He can take life. Therefore, when humans act on their own initiative and slay their fellow men, they have in effect taken possession of something that belongs only to God. Therefore, to lay down one’s life for one’s country or to lay down someone else’s life because Caesar orders (or pays) you to is in fact rendering unto Caesar that which belongs to God.

    >> God has given the state the power of the sword
    >> to punish wickedness and to promote justice

    Christians killing insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan are not punishing wickedness and promoting justice. Romans 13 speaks about CIVIL GOVERNMENT. The first part of that chapter is about obeying laws. Romans 13 is not about forming armies or invading countries or sending rockets downfield. America’s laws have no authority outside of America. Therefore, a Taliban fighter is not a law breaker. An Iraqi insurgent is not a law breaker. Romans 13 does not apply to pre-emptive invasions or military training. It is about civil government…laws in a society. The reference to the sword is the penalty that lawbreakers must face when they break the law. Nothing in Romans 13 has anything to do with Christians being paid by Caesar to kill insurgents on the other side of the globe or lob rockets downfield.

    >> Paul for example, uses multiple references to Christians
    >> as soldiers in the spiritual sense, which provides
    >> legitimacy and nobility to the earthly model that is
    >> his starting point.

    This is faulty logic. Paul likewise makes references to servitude and slavery in the spiritual sense (“slaves to God”), but that does not legitimize Christians participation in the slave trade.

    Paul makes reference to the Olympic games, but this doesn’t give legitimacy for Christians to become professional athletes.

    Moreover, a Christian soldier and a soldier of Caesar are two different things. Just because Paul refers to certain traits of a soldier as admirable does not prove that Paul approved of the profession and deeds of soldiers. Yes, there are certain qualities found in soldiers that are desireable in Christians (preparedness, courage, discipline, obedience, etc.), but just because there are certain traits that can be praised in a soldier does not prove that the profession of a soldier is appropriate for a servant of Christ. Rahab’s faith was praised, but that doesn’t prove that God approved of her profession.

    >> Paul sees the soldier as a man of integrity

    No he does not. Give me one verse that has Paul praising Caesar’s soldiers as men of integrity.

    >> would argue that we are in the millennial kingdom

    So when did this 1000 year period begin, then? I thought only the Jehovah’s Witnesses believed that Christ has already returned and that we have been in the kingdom since 1917(?).

    >> But your language betrays the discontinuity that
    >> you believe is there between the two testaments.

    To the contrary. The consistency lies in obeying God, regardless of what testament you are living in. Christians have been told to put away the sword, to suffer for righteousness sake, to turn the other cheek, to pray for one’s enemies, to imitate Christ, not to be slaves of men…etc. This is what God through Christ and his apostles has taught His saints. If Jesus were to return tomorrow and tell his immortal saints to take up the sword, then that’s what I will do. But that is not what Christians have been instructed to do as we wait his return.

    >> God is not authoritatively speaking from heaven
    >> any longer in the way he did with the Israelites
    >> as they entered the land of Canaan as a tool of
    >> God’s divine judgment upon the idolaters.

    Agreed. So where then do you find God (or Jesus) speaking to Christians instructing them to enter the land of Iraq and Afghanistan and Somalia and etc…for the purpose of bringing judgment upon national enemies?

    >> cleansing the temple of money changers and
    >> livestock does have a parallel with bullets and war

    There is no parallel between a whip and a 5000 pound bunker buster bomb or an Abrams M1 tank! There is no parallel between chasing sheep out of God’s temple and chasing Taliban fighters out of Afghanistan. There is no parallel between throwing over a table and overthrowing Sadam Hussein. There’s just as much parallel between these things as there is between kissing my daughter goodnight and committing adultery with my neighbor’s wife.

    >> if you think that a bull whip does not leave
    >> collateral damage, you clearly do not know
    >> the effects of a whip

    Bull whip? Jesus “made a scourge of small cords,” not a bull whip! And that “scourge” is never described as harming anyone or anything. Provide me with a verse that proves that Jesus hit people with the scourge!

    >> Jesus was acting in the reflection of many who
    >> had gone before him: Abram who took out 4 kings
    >> and their armies with 318 men, Shamgar who slew
    >> 600 Philistines

    Jesus didn’t kill anyone. To compare Jesus using a scourge with Samson slaying 600 Philistines is overreaching. One cannot transform this temple cleansing incident into proof that Jesus blesses Christian participation in military organizations. Jesus was not defending himself nor fighting in an army when his zeal for his Father’s house motivated him to act.

    In his 1940 essay, “Why the Christian Church is not Pacifist,” Reinhold Niebuhr wrote: “Nothing is more futile and pathetic than the effort of some Christian theologians who find it necessary to become involved in the relativities of politics, in resistance to tyranny or in social conflict, to justify themselves by seeking to prove that Christ was also involved in these relativities, that he used whips to drive the money-changers out of the Temple…”

    >> In terms of Ghandi, I would suggest that you
    >> turn to Christian commentators to understand
    >> Christian theology, not to pagan ones

    I did not quote Gandhi thinking that he was a Christian theologian. I quoted him to show what contempt pagans have for Christians who claim to follow a Prince of Peace but who actually train their hands for war and go to war simply because they’re on Caesar’s payroll.

    Like

    1. preacherwin

      Sorry I did not get back to you sooner, life has been a whirlwind over the past few weeks.

      A few thoughts for you in response to your comments.

      First, the overall attitude you are taking toward Christian service within the military and within politics only serves to create an unnecessary and unhealthy dichotomy between the secular and the sacred, something that I would argue that the Bible does not recognize. All is to be done to the glory of God in whatever profession you happen to be called to. The implication of your thoughts is toward a Christian retreat from culture and in many ways we are seeing the negative effects of such a retreat in America today. Surely it is better to have those who know the Truth serve in every area of society that affects us, including the armed forces.

      Let me also state for the record that the armed forces is an honorable profession to pursue and I am proud of the Christian soldiers that I have been given the privilege to serve. They regularly demonstrate Christ to the world around them in a tangible way as they place themselves in the line of fire to protect others. Indeed, these soldiers regularly give up their lives so that others may live, something that our Lord did and I believe that is part of the reason that Paul so regularly makes reference to military analogies when he is speaking of the Christian life.

      In many ways, your starting presuppositions are askew, which leads you to this conclusion. This is a debate held and had by the church fathers, who would end up declaring that what we want in the armed forces are God-fearing Christians to influence the morality of what is done and to restrain the sin that comes with power. Your division robs us of this. Certainly our nations founding fathers also saw no disconnect.

      Let me make a few specific notes on the points you brought up before I close:

      1) Morality is behavior consistent with a standard, as Christians, that standard is the Bible. Individual morality would be summed up in the Ten Commandments. Note along with this that for you to construe that obedience to the Decalogue somehow prohibits participation as a soldier then your reading of the text is entirely inconsistent with the way that Moses understood it and arguably inconsistent with God’s understanding as God would soon thereafter lead the people in war, killing many. There is a difference between murder for personal vengeance and killing in warfare, thus it is not immoral to participate as such.

      2) Romans 13 does speak of civil governments, and that is exactly the point. And Christians ought to participate in governments as one of the ways to fulfill the dominion mandate of Genesis 1. The design of governments is to punish evil and reward good. I do not claim that our own government is perfect, it is far from it, but there is no question in my mind that the Taliban government is evil. If you want to know what it was like to live under the Taliban, I would cite the movie Osama, which was the first film made by Afghan people after the Taliban’s fall. Scary stuff. Our being salt and light will need to take us into these arenas. Civil government extends not only to its governance of its own citizens, but it has a role alongside of other governments and does thus have a responsibility to restrain the wicked governments as well as to protect its own people, something that our soldiers have been doing overseas.

      3) In terms of the millennium, there are a variety of views on the event, so I encourage you to do your homework. I hold to what is called an “a-millennial” view, which means that the Millennium is a spiritual timeframe, not a literal one. It began at the Cross where Satan was bound and where Christ afterward took his seat to reign next to his father. This is the church age, remembering that when Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God he is consistently not speaking about an earthly kingdom and real-estate, but the Church itself. I recognize that there are arguments for and against such a view, but I believe it best reflects the teaching of the whole of the Canon. Please do not lump me in with Jehovah’s witnesses and their cultic views…Ad Hominem arguments are logical fallacies.

      4) You would also argue that it is not right for Christians to be olympic or professional athletes? I have not heard one suggest that view before. My logic here is not faulty.

      5) Actually, there is a correlation between the whip and a missile or rocket in the sense of a comparison of the tools of the day. The difference is simply the distance to which the good guys may stand as they seek to destroy those supporting a wicked government or group.

      6) We are to turn the cheek, etc… but note those are individual matters not civil matters. The government is given the sword where individual man is not. Thus I cannot avenge myself a wrong against my neighbor, but the law has an obligation to do that on my behalf. In turn, if I am a representative of the government, then I then am acting on the government’s authority not my own.

      7) Not that it really makes much difference, but Niebuhr does not get much ground with me, though his treatment of the realm of politics as a realm of sin is clear and consistent in your thought. While we do not know of Jesus killing any during his 3 year ministry, let me remind you of those he will destroy in final judgment…not to mention Ananias and Sapphira.

      A final note on Ghandi and the Prince of Peace. The peace that Ghandi and his ilk were looking for was a kind of civil peace, which when worked out in this world is more of a compromise than anything else. Jesus brought peace, but in doing so he brought a sword. Note what Jesus said in Matthew 10:34.

      Blessings and I hope these thoughts find you well.

      win

      Like

  3. Clarkstone

    You may find the following book of interest to you in light of the recent discussion on Christian involvement in the military machine: Blood Guilt: Christian Responses to America’s War on Terror (New Covenant Press, 2011) http://covenant.nu

    BTW, you may do well to perform a study on the kingdom of God, for your claim that “when Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God he is consistently not speaking about an earthly kingdom and real-estate, but the Church itself” is totally bogus. Just look at Matthew 8:11, “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” So where exactly are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob hiding if we are currently in the kingdom of God as you so claim?

    The Apostle Paul states, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Cor. 15:50). This passage in itself is proof that the kingdom is not the “church”.

    Consider the following:

    + “Flesh and blood” persons presently constitute the “church”.

    + But, “flesh and blood” cannot inherit the kingdom,

    + Therefore, the kingdom cannot be the “church”.

    I could go on and on pointing out the flaws of your belief that “the Church is the kingdom of God” but I suspect you’ve already made up your mind and can’t be convinced that you are wrong.

    Like

    1. preacherwin

      Clarkstone,

      I confess that I came close to not responding given the condescending tone of your comment, but there are several things that you bring up that are worth addressing here, particularly in your narrow view of the Kingdom of Heaven, because when you pick and choose verses as you do, taking them out of the context of the totality of the references to said Kingdom, you sound like you make a convincing case. Yet, when you look at the whole counsel of God, you will clearly see that your view is lacking in significant areas.

      To begin with, regarding what theologians refer to as “Just War Theory,” I do recognize that there are a variety of views on the topic, though I would recommend Jean Bethke Elshtain’s work “Just War Against Terror” as one of the more balanced scholarly treatments of the matter. Scripture clearly points to the principle that there is a proper time and place for the government to use the sword (both against individuals and against groups, like the terrorists). Indeed, we are to love our enemies, but those statements are balanced out with the imprecations that even Jesus himself uses, particularly against the Pharisees, who take the Word of God and use it to further their own power and ends. This is not to make a political statement that the Conservative Right is always justified in the way they use force or in the way they choose not to use force, but the principle of using force is intensely Biblical, and is something God not only condoned but commanded throughout the Old Testament when God’s people existed largely as a nation as well as existing as a “church.”

      Speaking of the church, and the primary reason for my writing a response, there are nearly 100 references to the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven mentioned in the New Testament. And indeed, as you point out, there is a spiritual element to the kingdom. Yet, at the same time, both John the Baptist and Jesus speak of the kingdom as being “here” (Matthew 3:2,4:17).

      In addition, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes repeated references to the kingdom and to whom it belongs:
      -to the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3)
      -to those persecuted for Christ’s name (Matthew 5:10)
      -to those who do not relax the Law or its expectations and are more righteous than the pharisees (implying Jesus himself, who is flesh and blood as well as God (Matthew 5:19&20)
      -In Matthew 6:33, Jesus teaches that to those who seek first the kingdom (presumably in this life) all of the blessings of life (food, provision…) will be added unto you (thus the pursuit of the kingdom is something done by the flesh and blood)

      In Matthew 10:7, just as Jesus himself preached, he commands the disciples to preach that the kingdom is “at hand”

      In Matthew 18:4, Jesus speaks of those humbling themselves as “this child” is the greatest in the kingdom…it is presumed that Jesus is expecting us to strive for humility in this life and not wait for the next. And note that Jesus says “is the greatest” not “will be the greatest”

      In Matthew 19:12, Jesus speaks of those who made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, again a physical reference

      And in Matthew 21:43, Jesus speaks of the kingdom being stripped from the Jewish authorities and given to those bearing fruit worthy of the kingdom, again a reference that speaks of that which takes place in this physical world.

      And that does not even take into account the very many parables that Jesus teaches regarding the nature of the kingdom and its growth, something that is normally taught with language that is very physical.

      So, let’s reconcile what I just stated here with your references above and with my reference to the church being the embodiment of the kingdom of God. But first a principle, the church exists in two places–here on earth (which we often refer to as the “Church Militant”) and in heaven (which we often refer to as the “Church Triumphant”). Thus, when believers are spoken of as sitting down with Abraham, etc… they are doing so in the spiritual realm…but always as the Ekklasia (The called out ones) and the Qahal (the Gathered ones).

      Similarly, when Paul speaks of flesh and blood not inheriting the kingdom, he is not speaking of being a part of the kingdom, he is speaking of the fullness of that inheritance and he is speaking in terms of those who give themselves to the lusts of the flesh and thus are “of this world” rather than born again and “of God.”

      Thus your little syllogism above breaks down because your first premise is false. The Church is indeed comprised of those who are flesh and blood, but are also spiritual. And do not forget that there is a resurrection to come where those who are in spirit with Christ now (Church Triumphant) will be physically present with our Risen Lord, physically, in a new creation (physical again). Remember, the promise is not complete until we are physically raised, without the resurrection, we of all people are to be pitied.

      So, it is your view, my friend, that is lacking. I will refrain from using your term “bogus” and instead just refer to it as rather narrow. I encourage you to look up each and every reference to the Kingdom and draw your conclusions on the whole and not just the part.

      Blessings,

      w

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