What About When I Have To Shoot Someone?

This is probably the greatest challenge that anyone in the services has to face—that of having to take another life in the line of duty. Throughout history the sixth commandment—“you shall not kill”—has convinced many of the incompatibility of being a Christian whilst serving in the Armed Forces. Surely in signing up to the military, we sign up to kill if we have to. So how can a Christian be a soldier, and how can a Christian be in favour of the military at all?

What the Bible actually says

The first section of the Bible (the Old Testament) was originally written in Hebrew. In Hebrew the translation of the sixth commandment is not “you shall not kill”, but “you shall not murder”.

When Jesus was teaching on this commandment He said this: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement.’”

Jesus was saying this command isn’t simply about taking someone’s life. It’s about our attitude towards each other. Murder comes from selfishness, hate and anger. All of which we can be guilty of on any given day. If we live with these attitudes towards others, even if we don’t murder, we go through the same thought processes that lead to murder, and are still deserving of judgement.

 When it comes to killing in war, in theory it is not for selfish gain, or out of anger or hate. It is out of self-defence for your country, government, family and friends. So killing in war is not murder, and it does not conflict with God’s command.

So in practice . . .

No Christian can be condemned for killing in war, and there is no need to feel guilt. However, that doesn’t mean it is something to take lightly, and it doesn’t mean that it is something that you should not consider whenever you review your role within the military. Killing is a very serious, potentially scarring action. It is right in the context of war, but it can still have long term effects on you personally. You might also want to consider the danger of becoming desensitised to violence and death, which could make it feel ordinary, and something you may even take home with you when you are on leave.

You may support the need to kill in war, without doing so yourself. Revd Hardy was a chaplain in the British army during the First World War. His bravery earned him the Victoria Cross, the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order, making him one of the most decorated non-combatants of WWI. You don’t have to be like Revd Hardy and take on a non-combat role. But it is worth remembering as an option while you serve in the military.

Father God, thank You that You are with me in every decision I have to make. Help me to serve my regiment, my commanding officers and my country to the best of my ability. Please help protect my character and attitude, so that even if I have to kill, I won’t be hindered in showing the same care and love You have for me. Amen.