I know that you must get thousands of emails and I can hardly imagine you have time to read one from me, but if you have any words of wisdom, advice, insight, I would be incredibly grateful.
I'm 20 years old and am just starting a relationship with a guy who is in the military. Besides all the issues of distance and stress and deployment, there is another issue that for the last few days has plagued me. I don't know what I think about him being in the military at all. Please don't get me wrong, I'm so proud of him ... I'm so proud and inspired by his dedication and courage. I'm so grateful to God that I live in a relatively free nation, and history seems to show that you have to stand and fight for that freedom. I've seen the look in his eyes when he wears the uniform. He's wearing it for his family and the children he will someday have, not because of hatred or revenge on his part.
But I hate war. I hate that violence is so glossed over. I hate that this beautiful man will be deployed to kill people. People he doesn't know, people who are no worse sinners than I, people who will never get another chance to hear about Jesus. Under whatever pretense, the outcome is the same. People die. PEOPLE. Real people. Children. The "least of these."
I don't know how to make sense of Israel making war in God's name vs. a peaceful Jesus who would not cast judgment on an adulteress and who used Saul (a terrorist!) to lead the Christian church. The Bible says there is a time for war, but I don't know when that is. It seems to me that war is just the uncreative man's answer to conflict. Goodness knows I haven't found a better solution, but I believe there must be one out there.
This all seemed to be in the background of my life for so long, but last night and tonight (it's 2 a.m. and I can't sleep because of it) I can't get it out of my head. I want to send him off with a kiss and my blessing, but I don't know if I can.
Please. I'm just going in circles here. Please pray.
Thank you for taking the time to write. We rely exclusively on letters from our readers to keep this column going and take the time to read them all. Please keep the questions coming!
You've raised two distinct issues, both of which need answers. The first, about dating a man who has volunteered to serve in the military, is timeless since a woman's ability to support her potential husband's vocation — whatever it is — is essential to forming a biblical marriage. The second, about the necessity and appropriateness of war, is especially timely since there's a good chance he'll be deployed.
You say "I want to send him off with a kiss and my blessing, but I don't know if I can." This is a major dilemma. When God saw that Adam was lonely, He created Eve for the purpose of being his helper. Genesis 2:20-22 says, "But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man."
Men need help and women are specially suited to provide it. A wife who despises, or even doubts, the worth of her husband's work will be a liability to him his whole life long. So much so that Solomon went to great pains to warn us about what marriages under such circumstances look like. Proverbs 21:9 says, "Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife." In case we miss that warning, it says the exact same thing again just four chapters later in Proverbs 25:24, "Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife."
But he doesn't stop there. Consider also (from Proverbs 21:19, 19:13, 27:15, and 12:4):
- "Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife."
- "A foolish son is his father's ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping."
- "A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day;"
- "A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones."
There's nothing so central to a man's identity in life than his work. Any wife who's unhappy about what he does, unsupportive of his calling, unconvinced it's worthwhile or even appropriate will be a source of constant strife and conflict.
I know you're not this young man's wife; that in fact you've just started dating, but dating is all about finding a mate and part of that process is projecting ahead to see if you would be a good fit for marriage. Are you better able to serve God together than you are apart? This is a key question you should be asking and attempting to answer while dating someone. If you cannot support this young man's work as his girlfriend, and a wife's primary role is to help her husband in his "toil in the garden," then you really have no business moving forward in the relationship. That may sound harsh, but to ignore such an obvious qualification for Christian marriage from the start of your relationship is foolish.
The good news is that breaking up with him may not be your only remedy. Your reasons for struggling with what he does are inconsistent even with each other; your thinking on this is muddy. You say you can't make sense of God's instructions to Israel to wage war on her enemies. Later you say "war is just the uncreative man's answer to conflict." It can't be both God's ideas and man's. The best way to clear up your thinking about war and peace, conflict and resolution is to go to Scripture. Only then can you make a fully-informed decision about whether you can support this young man's work, and possibly become his wife.
You're right that Jesus did not cast judgment on the adulteress. He didn't pick up stones to punish her but instead called her out of her life of sin. That, however, has no bearing whatever on His view of a government's use of military force. One does not prove the other.
Romans 13:1-7 is clear. God establishes governing authorities — and Jesus and God are One (John 17:21 and John 8:28) — and governments do wield the legitimate power of the sword:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
This doesn't mean all acts of force by governments are good, or right, simply because they're carried out by government, but that when governments use force within their God-given jurisdiction, they are justified in doing so. Force for the purpose of protection and punishing wrongdoers is a primary purpose of government as it was established by God. Jesus' non-judgmental treatment of the adulteress has no bearing on this matter. Her behavior was not a crime against the state, not a violation of civil law, but of religious law. As such, Jesus was within His jurisdiction as God to forgive her sin and call her to a life of righteous living. The state does not have such power to forgive criminals. That's God's role. It does, however, have the power and duty to punish criminals and keep the rest of us safe from further crimes.
This role of protection applies equally to a single murderer as well as murderous regimes who threaten harm to a whole society.
(You also gave as evidence of Jesus' peace-loving ways the fact that He used "a terrorist" to lead the Church. But you're not telling the whole story. He used a repentant, transformed, former-terrorist. That's no small difference.)
I know I've given you a lot to think about without any easy outs. But I commend you for raising these issues and for recognizing that it is important to settle them before proceeding in a dating relationship with this man. I believe that as you pray and study God's Word, He will open your eyes to Truth and show you how to proceed.
May He bless you in your search,
Copyright 2007 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.