In a recent post I made a broad Scriptural case for the use of force by governments, which have a God-given responsibility to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. This doesn’t answer all questions or guarantee that war is justified in a given situation, but it means that it is not necessarily wrong for a government to use force, whether in internal law enforcement or against a foreign enemy.
There are also some smaller indications that Jesus and the NT authors did not assume war or military service was always wrong in all circumstances. For example, when John the Baptist gives ethical instructions to different groups of people, soldiers (that is, Roman soldiers, like the ones who carried out the emperor’s orders, crucified Jesus, etc) ask him, “And we, what shall we do?” His answer: “Do not extort money from anyone by threats of by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14). Now, John the Baptist had no problem telling people what he thought– if the soldiers were sinning simply by being soldiers, he certainly would have answered their question, “Get out of the army!” He has the perfect opportunity to do that, but doesn’t take it.
We see a similar case with Jesus and the centurion in Matthew 8. Jesus heals the man’s son and commends him for his faith, holding him up as a model to Israel, who by and large did not have faith in Christ. At no point does Jesus suggest there’s anything wrong with his occupation. Of course, that doesn’t mean the man wasn’t a sinner. My point is that Jesus, like John, had no problem rebuking people who needed to be rebuked. He called the Samaritan woman out for her sexual immorality in John 4, and told the paralytic in John 5, “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” If pacifists are correct and the use of force is always wrong in God’s eyes, it’s strange to see Jesus interacting with this professional soldier without a loving warning to get into a different business.
I’m not trying to use an argument from silence here, but simply to show that instances like these make complete sense if the soldiers weren’t doing anything wrong simply by serving in the military. There seems to have been a way for them to be godly soldiers, that is, godly men who use legitimate force to accomplish the God-given tasks of human governments.