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Written by Reg Wright
Today ANZAC Day dawn services are taking place across the nation as tens of thousands of people gather to mark 100 years since the first Gallipoli landings by Australian and New Zealand troops.
From time to time, I have been asked questions from Christians who sincerely want to understand what the Bible teaches about war and therefore how should Christians think about war and the commemoration of war. They ask: Is it all right for a Christian to attend war memorial services such as those held on ANZAC Day.
As a Christian and an Elder I believe that the commandments of God forbid Christians from taking human life directly or indirectly and that bearing arms is contrary to this fundamental teaching of the Bible. Therefore my advice to other Christians is according to my understanding of what the Bible teaches on this subject. I believe the Bible makes it clear that Christians should not voluntarily become engaged in military service. If they are involuntarily engaged in military service, then they should pursue whatever officially permitted means are available in order to respectfully decline conscientiously to bear arms and, to the extent possible, avoid coming under military authority (Exodus 20:13; Matthew 5:21-22; Acts 5:29).
I recall a speech that was made some decades ago before the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations). The following excerpt from this speech summarizes a principal point of Christ's teachings.
"War is the most colossal and ruinous social sin that afflicts mankind; it is utterly and irremediably unchristian; in its total method and effect it means everything that Jesus did not mean and it means nothing that He did mean; it is a more blatant denial of every Christian doctrine about God and man than all the theoretical atheists on earth ever could devise" (Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, minister and professor).
From a human point of view, many consider serving in the military to be an honourable act, but there is a better way for a Christian. When on earth Jesus said His disciples would fight to prevent His capture and arrest -- if His Kingdom was of the world at that time (John 18:36). But it wasn't, and they didn't. The Christian, a citizen of that Kingdom, still awaits its establishment (Philippians 3:20).
Christ will fight when the time for God's Kingdom to be established comes (Revelation 19:11-14); but, again, God has the authority to order that righteous war. Additionally, He will soon thereafter order an end to all weapon production, the breakdown of existing weapons, as well as cessation of military training altogether (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3).
In the meantime, we continue to live in this age of human rule under Satan's influence. And the reality is the freedoms that we enjoy can be largely attributed to the sacrifice of many of our country men and women in defending our nation against invasion. Some gave the ultimate sacrifice – they gave their lives. Not to give thankfulness for this sacrifice would be expressing ingratitude and disrespect. Attending a war memorial service on such days as ANZAC Day – not to glorify war -- but to honour those who gave their lives in defence of our country – many of whom are family members, relatives and friends – is one way of showing this gratitude and respect.
I believe attending or not attending a war memorial service is a matter of personal conscience and the decision is left to the individual.
Remembering the fallen.
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