Why should we thank our veterans?  The answer to this question should be obvious.  Veterans of our armed forces have done so much for our country.  Many have risked their lives and fought for our safety and freedom.  Many have even sacrificed their lives for us.  It is only proper that November 11th has been chosen as a special day to thank our veterans for their service and their sacrifice.  This year there has been a movement going around known as “Greenlight A Vet.”  Basically the movement asks people to change one of their lights to green in support and thanks for our veterans (see picture above).  I think most Americans appreciate veterans for their service, yet there are some who say what they are doing is wrong.  They think war in general is wrong and those who fight in wars are doing wrong.  This attitude is not as popular as it was back during the Vietnam War, yet it can still be found.  The reason that I’m writing this post is to show from a biblical standpoint that fighting in a war is not wrong and we should thank our veterans.

Wars and battles are of course a result of sin in this world.  If the world were perfect, there would be no wars, but peace.  People continue to strive for peace, which is good, yet we must understand that it will not be achieved until the last day when sin is done away with.  Jesus confirms this: “You will hear wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.”  (Matthew 24:6-7)  So since wars will continue to happen until the last day, we need to acknowledge that and be prepared for them.

War in itself is not wrong and it is not sinful.  The Bible does not go out and say that war is sinful or not.  But just look through the Old Testament and it seems like God’s people were always at war.  God was behind many of the battles the Israelites fought, especially as they entered the Promised Land.  God used war to bring people to justice for their sins.  If you generalize war and say that it is wrong and sinful, then ultimately you would be calling God a sinner for waging war.  War is not always wrong, but it can be just.

The term “Just War” is an ethical issue that has been discussed very thoroughly.  Many articles, papers, and books have been written on it.  Because of all that is written, I do not want to go in depth with this post.  I just want to highlight a couple necessary points.  A war is sinful only when both sides have done injustice.  Yet often a country goes to war because it has been attacked or has been wronged in some way.  That country is the innocent party and goes to war to bring the offending country to justice.  Sometimes a country goes to war to defend another country that is wrongly under attack.  In those cases, the war would be just.

More specifically people have used certain biblical principles to understand if a war is just.  By using his Christian wisdom and looking at the Bible, the church father, Augustine came up with six points for a just war: “1. The purpose of war is to restore peace. The object of war is to vindicate justice.  2. War should be waged only as a last resort.  3. War is waged only under the authority of the ruler and only those in public life could take life. 4. The conduct of war must be just. Minimum force should be applied. Wanton violence, profanation of temples, looting, vengeance, atrocities, and reprisals are excluded.  5. A just war is always between equals.  6. An underlying assumption is that one party in a war represents “the right” and “the good.”  (For further insight, read an article entitled “The Christians and Unjust War” by Professor James Korthals)  If anyone is forced to go to war, these are godly principles to follow.  Leaders of a country especially would want to look at them, but a soldier would also want to consider if the war is just.  When the waged war is viewed as just, then a soldier does not need to be concerned about serving in it. 

Paul in Romans 13 talks about how the governmental authorities are God’s representative on earth.  God has given them the ability to take someone’s life if it necessary to achieve that goal of peace or justice.  With these words Paul stresses that people need to respect God’s representative as they respect God: “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.”  (Romans 13:1-5)  So often these words are used in reference to capital punishment in our country.  Yet is “the sword” limited to that usage?  Many have rightly expanded that usage.

The sword is not just an electric chair, noose, firing squad, or lethal injection.  It is also the soldier and the army.  The leaders of a country use the men in their armies to bring about justice and peace.  If you are a soldier, it is interesting to think that you are ultimately God’s instrument through his representative to bring justice and peace.  So fighting in a just war is not wrong. 

In Luke 3, John the Baptist preached a message of repentance to all kinds of people—Pharisees, teachers of the law, tax collectors, and even solders.  All of those people had sinned against God in one way or another.  John told them to repent and to produce fruits in keeping with that repentance.  Usually those fruits would consist of doing good things, but also staying away from doing the bad things.  Some soldiers came up to John and asked, “What should we do?”  (in keeping with repentance)  It is interesting to note that John did not say, “Stop being soldiers and stop fighting.”  Instead he said, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”  Much like today, being a soldier was an occupation.  So John told them to be responsible and don’t be greedy and cheat people.  (Luke 3:1-20) Being a soldier is not wrong or sinful just like war in general is not wrong or sinful.  So let us thank our veterans for their service to our country.  They are God’s instruments to bring about peace and justice on earth.  They risk and sacrifice their lives to do so.

On this day let us also thank God for veterans.  Without their service, we would not be able to enjoy the freedoms that we have in this country—especially the freedom to worship and serve our God without hindrance or persecution.  Let us never take that freedom for granted.  Let us never take our armed forces for granted.  Let us always thank both God and our veterans.

Here are the readings for your worship preparation:

The First Lesson – Daniel 12:1-3

   Daniel prophesied that there will be great distress before the world ends.  Yet he also prophesied that those believers who die will rise on the last day to eternal life!

The Second Lesson – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

   The Thessalonians were confused about the resurrection of the dead. So Paul gives comforting words about the resurrection. What wonderful hope we have in Christ!

The Gospel Lesson – Mark 13:24-27

   Great and terrible events will happen on the last day. Yet we look forward to the day Jesus comes to gather us to be with him in heaven.