A QUESTION OF
Messianic Evangelical Thoughts About
Serving in the Armed Forces
Q. A question that is on the mind of are youth a lot these days is our position on Military Service especially in countries where conscription is the rule. Could you give us some guidance on this matter?
A. NCAY has always held to the position that warfare is immoral and that its members should not take up arms save as a last resort in defence of home and country. Stated in this way our position leaves quite a lot of room for interpretation and we have tended to leave these matters to personal conscience.
Q. I believe that we have made more definite stands on such things as making the military a profession?
A. Yes, and this because we believe killing should not be the profession of any believer. There is, of course, a good case for a professional army in the modern world as Great Britain learned after the First Word War but this is a worldly perspective. The Tribal Confederacy of ancient Israel had no professional army but the tribes were called to bear arms whenever their territorial boundaries were threatened. This, however, was a theocratic society where 'Church and State' were one; such a situation does not exist for us as Messianic Evangelicals, however. So it has always been the policy of NCAY to prohibit its members from taking up the military as a career.
Q. So we wouldn't, for example, take the position of some groups which refuse to take up arms in any situation at all?
A. No, we wouldn't, because every soul must answer to his own conscience. We do, of course, respect people who out of their own conscience refuse to take up arms. Warfare is a matter of personal conscience and it is wrong for a fellowship to act as a 'collective conscience' for all the people in this matter. I stress the word 'this', incidentally, because there are many areas of Besorah (Gospel) morality which are dependent upon a collective conscience of sorts, such as in sexual morality.
Q. What would the Chavurat Bekorot's position be in this regard?
A. As NCAY's Priesthood organisation, it is essentially the same though the sense of a 'collective conscience' if, of course, much stronger.
Q. Perhaps we should return to the theme of military service....What should our young people do?
A. For a young person to make a choice he must have a pretty good grounding in the Besorah (Gospel). As a general rule I would say that our youth should avoid, if at all possible, serving in any military unit that bears arms. The army in general is a pretty immoral environment and the level of light is appallingly low. On the other hand, there are believers from other churches and assemblies in the army, and the army is a fertile missionary ground in many countries. So I would not recommend any youth joining the army in order to evangalise unless they are particularly strong in their testimony of Messiah and are willing to endure hardship. I have followed, over the years, the experience of young Christians in the Soviet Army and have been made aware of the enormous price they have had to pay - sometimes that price has been permanent injury and even death.
Q. Thus the question depends, in part, on which army our people may be made to serve in?
A. Yes, abolutely. Some armies are the instruments of terrible oppression and evil and should be avoided at all costs. It may, in certain circumstances, even be necessary to immigrate. Here a tremendous exercise of spiritual sensitivity must be exercised so that the Word of Yahweh is heard and then obeyed.
Q. But no matter where you are, it is not always possible to predict what armies may be called to do, or where?
A. That is true. Here, in Norway, since the last world war, I believe the army has only ever been used as part of the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces in, for example, Lebanon. But conscripts are not required to serve in this unit. Last year (1996), though, you will recall there was a war in the Middle East, against Iraq, and Norwegian forces served there albeit only in a medical capacity. But there was a real fear here that fighting troops might be sent as part of Norway's commitment. Had the war gone on I suspect Norway would have sent soldiers and that could well have included one of our members who was then doing his National Service in the military.
Q. Where would you recommend that our people serve if forced to do military service?
A. In some civilian capacity where their time can be fuitfully used in developing skills for the Kingdom. Others may prefer to serve in the Medical Corps which is, of course, a worthy profession indeed but one requiring great dedication and fortitude.
Q. What about conscientious objectors?
A. If a member of NCAY really feels in his heart that participating in the military in any capacity is wrong, then he has the right to register himself as a conscientious objector and obtain the support of the ministry. But he must really be convinced that this is right and that he is obeying Elohim's (God's) will. I can see that this would be right for some people, especially those who are very sensitive or of a nervous disposition.
Q. What should NCAY's rôle be in all of this?
A. To give sound counsel. And here it is the duty of every young member facing Military Service to seek an appointment with his pastors for advice. The decision to respond to military call up should not be done superficially or casually but must be given earnest prayer. The Mission or Local Assembly should be alerted to such questions so that the congregation can pray for such individuals and strengthen them both while our youth are pondering their options and while they are serving.
I would especially ask young people to consider this question: It may be that they have no objection in their conscience to serving in the military, but what if Yahweh's will is something completely different? Or the reverse may be true - they may not wish to serve in the military but Yahweh may want them to. What if one of the elect is to be in the army at the same time and the conditions for conversion to the Besorah (Gospel) can only be met for this person whilst in the military? It may be right to serve in the military for how ever many years it is for the sake of this one soul. That, I would suggest, is true ahavah (love) and sacrifice. But of course no one can get this sort of revelation unless he is living close to Yahweh. And that really is the bottom line of everything that I have been saying.
This interview was given in about 1991
This page was created on 5 July 1998
Last updated on 23 May 2017
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