Reading 4 – Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Ten Commandments and Military Service

By Francesco Caputo, Italy

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends, and dear readers, in this Week of Prayer, I would like to share with you a subject that is very important for all of us: The law of God in connection with military service and war. As believers, we have a solid and stable foundation for spiritual growth–the faith of Jesus and unconditional obedience to His Ten Commandments. Revelation 14:12. We also have privileges and responsibilities before God and men.

Wonderful privileges have been granted to us, including God’s love expressed in the immeasurable gift of His Son on the cross of Calvary. John 3:16. This undeserved love enables us to love, as the apostle John says in his first epistle: “We love Him, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19. This divine love permits us to love even our enemies; we will return to this point again in this Reading.

Our sacred duties are expressed unequivocally in the letter of the apostle Paul to the Hebrews: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14. When we speak of sanctification, we are referring to wearing the divine nature or, if you prefer, the holy and perfect character of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Followers of the Prince of Peace

In prophecy, He is called “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:5), and it is quite logical that His followers have the same characteristics, purposes, and virtues as He does. In the sermon on the mount, He spoke of those who are considered “blessed” and said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9.

Today, when bombs are dropped, the consciences of the people are appeased with the assertion that such things are necessary to maintain peace among nations, as if to say that “the end justifies the means.” The truth is that bombs are dropped to defend the interests of the few at the expense of the many. Thousands and thousands of people lose their lives every year on our planet through such things, and the excuse is given that soldiers are sent to those places on a “mission of peace.” It is a peace of terror and fear, peace obtained by terrifying miserable people.

I wonder, How can one who calls himself a Christian take up arms– launching bombs, killing his own kind, disabling people for life?

Not included in the census

Every person who accepts Jesus as his personal Saviour and Lord belongs to a special group: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” 1 Peter 2:9. The Levites and priests in the Old Testament were not to be involved with ordinary secular matters; they did not participate in war, because they were wholly consecrated to the service of God.

In the book of Numbers, a census was taken of those who were twenty years old and upward and able to go to war. But God’s command was to exclude the Levites from this count: “But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them. For the Lord had spoken unto Moses, saying, Only thou shalt not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel: But thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle.” Numbers 1:47-50.

My dear brethren, my dear friends, we know very well that each of us is part of a royal priesthood, therefore we have a sacred duty to instruct the people according to God’s law, just as the Levites in the Old Testament did. Therefore, we cannot take part in preparations for war or go to the battlefront. In such places, under such circumstances, it is impossible to obey God’s law.

God’s children are to love their enemies

How can one be willing to kill people he has never known–human beings who have never mistreated him? This is contrary to Jesus’ instructions: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48.

Anger should not be indulged

In the same chapter, the Master clearly explains the meaning and spiritual depth of the sixth commandment; the precept is broken when one expresses hatred or bad thoughts. “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” Matthew 5:21, 22.

The Spirit of prophecy writes the following: “The spirit of hatred and revenge originated with Satan, and it led him to put to death the Son of God. Whoever cherishes malice or unkindness is cherishing the same spirit, and its fruit will be unto death. In the revengeful thought the evil deed lies enfolded, as the plant in the seed. ‘Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.’ 1 John 3:15.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 56.

If God’s law is violated when one does these things, how can we even think of going to war or of giving freedom to our members to participate in such things by following the dictates of their own consciences?

Jesus clearly said: “That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:39. The servant of the Lord writes: “The Father’s presence encircled Christ, and nothing befell Him but that which infinite love permitted for the blessing of the world. Here was His source of comfort, and it is for us. He who is imbued with the Spirit of Christ abides in Christ. The blow that is aimed at him falls upon the Saviour, who surrounds him with His presence. Whatever comes to him comes from Christ. He has no need to resist evil, for Christ is his defense. Nothing can touch him except by our Lord’s permission, and ‘all things’ that are permitted ‘work together for good to them that love God.’ Romans 8:28.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 71.

No part in carnal conflict

Before his conversion, Saul persecuted the church of Christ unmercifully; that means that he used violence. But when he was converted and became the apostle Paul, his thinking changed completely on this issue, and he wrote: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;).” 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4. A Christian has a spiritual armor that protects him from attack, and he does not attack anyone, because he is a servant of the living God, a “Levite” of our day.

Taking the armor of God

A Christian is one who wants to dress according to the Pauline counsel, bearing the “armor of God.” A true believer is one who wants to obey just one Leader, the One who guides the angelic courts, 2014 the King of kings and Lord of lords. In the letter to the Ephesians, we are given the following counsel: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Ephesians 6:10-18.

The Saviour was opposed and slandered

Psalm 119 uis known as the Psalm which extols the law of God, but it also contains prophetic teachings portraying the life and sufferings of the Messiah because of His loyalty to the divine precepts. The following verse describes Saviour’s suffering: “Consider Mine affliction, and deliver Me: for I do not forget Thy law.” “Princes have persecuted Me without a cause: but My heart standeth in awe of Thy word.” Psalm 119:153, 161.

The mission and testimony of Jesus on this earth were wonderful; fidelity to the law of God was His daily bread. All this increased Satan’s hatred of Him, and he used the power of Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod, to persecute the Son of God. The Saviour learned obedience through the things that He suffered, and God’s children have been treated that same way for centuries. They also, like their Master, will be sanctified by their trials and difficulties, and their obedience will be obvious to the whole universe.

Seeing what His disciples would suffer in the future, Jesus said: “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Matthew 5:12. Sister Ellen G. White, commenting on this verse, writes: “Ever since his fall, Satan has worked by means of deception. As he has misrepresented God, so, through his agents, he misrepresents the children of God. The Saviour says, ‘The reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon Me.’ Psalm 69:9. In like manner they fall upon His disciples. There was never one who walked among men more cruelly slandered than the Son of man. He was derided and mocked because of His unswerving obedience to the principles of God’s holy law. They hated Him without a cause. Yet He stood calmly before His enemies, declaring that reproach is a part of the Christian’s legacy, counseling His followers how to meet the arrows of malice, bidding them not to faint under persecution. While slander may blacken the reputation, it cannot stain the character. That is in God’s keeping. So long as we do not consent to sin, there is no power, whether human or satanic, that can bring a stain upon the soul.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 31, 32.

His people were opposed, slandered, and disfellowshiped

During World War I (1914-1918), those who were faithful to God’s law were opposed, slandered, and finally disfellowshipped from the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This can be confirmed from an internal organ of dialogue of the association of Italian university graduates (August 16, 1982, p. 8): “The movement that we call Adventist Reform or Reformists– I will not here enter into the merits of the controversy between it and the official Adventist Movement–is a movement with which I hope we can hold a fraternal dialogue, but it is certain–and this is historically accurate–that the split was produced around the problem of ‘military policy’ of the Adventist Church; and if I am well informed, the Reform Movement, which has its General Conference in Germany, originated from a controversy during the First World War and because of the rejection, within the official Adventist Church, of those who chose conscientious objection.”

During World War II (1939-1945), some brothers were executed by theNazis, who were incited by Satan. Other believers were jailed under various totalitarian regimes in different countries around the world, but their testimony was an encouragement to others to be faithful to the principles of heaven.

Not free to depart from God’s requirements

The prophecies of Revelation describe a time when there will be persecution of God’s church everywhere in the world, and the central point will be His holy law. “No man might buy or sell” unless he bends to the will of political and religious authorities. Revelation 13:15-17. Will we at that time act according to our consciences or according to the consciousness of Jesus within us, in complete adherence to His sacred law?

Concerning the question of conscience, we read: “Were men free to depart from the Lord’s requirements and to set up a standard of duty for themselves, there would be a variety of standards to suit different minds and the government would be taken out of the Lord’s hands. The will of man would be made supreme, and the high and holy will of God–His purpose of love toward His creatures–would be dishonored, disrespected.

“Whenever men choose their own way, they place themselves in controversy with God. They will have no place in the kingdom of heaven, for they are at war with the very principles of heaven. In disregarding the will of God, they are placing themselves on the side of Satan, the enemy of God and man. Not by one word, not by many words, but by every word that God has spoken, shall man live. We cannot disregard one word, however trifling it may seem to us, and be safe. There is not a commandment of the law that is not for the good and happiness of man, both in this life and in the life to come. In obedience to God’s law, man is surrounded as with a hedge and kept from the evil. He who breaks down this divinely erected barrier at one point has destroyed its power to protect him; for he has opened a way by which the enemy can enter to waste and ruin.

“By venturing to disregard the will of God upon one point, our first parents opened the floodgates of woe upon the world. And every individual who follows their example will reap a similar result. The love of God underlies every precept of His law, and he who departs from the commandment is working his own unhappiness and ruin.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 51, 52.

The battle is very difficult–beyond our own strength–but we are not left to fight it alone. Even if an army should encamp against us, an innumerable host of majestic angels will be with us. We must have the courage and faith of the many reformers of every age who were able to face every difficulty, every danger, due to the fact that they trusted God; their faith did not waver, because they relied fully on God’s promises.

My dear brothers and sisters, we do not have much time; our life is short. We must prepare today; today we need to show that we are the remnant people, who defend the principles of heaven. At this time, we have to give the right sound to the trumpet. The apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, explained how to live in the church of God: “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15.

On the Lord’s side

And, writing to the Romans, he said: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39.

A special kingdom

My dear brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of a passage spoken by our beloved Saviour and recorded by the “apostle of love”: “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence.” John 18:36.

It is wonderful to read that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world–especially that it is not similar to the kingdoms of this world. It is the kingdom of love, peace, understanding, health, joy, and harmony, which we will truly understand only when are in the Father’s house. In that kingdom, there is no place for weapons, war, or death, but only supreme life. Who can live in that realm?

Note this important testimony: “The children of God are those who are partakers of His nature. It is not earthly rank, nor birth, nor nationality, nor religious privilege, which proves that we are members of the family of God; it is love, a love that embraces all humanity. Even sinners whose hearts are not utterly closed to God’s Spirit will respond to kindness; while they may give hate for hate, they will also give love for love. But it is only the Spirit of God that gives love for hatred. To be kind to the unthankful and to the evil, to do good hoping for nothing again, is the insignia of the royalty of heaven, the sure token by which the children of the Highest reveal their high estate.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 75.

Live this way, and you will be in the kingdom of heaven!

Dear brothers and sisters, dear young people, dear children, another year has passed, but we still have a little time of grace. Let us live it in full harmony with God and His holy will, because nothing can separate us from Him and His love except sin. Isaiah 59:2. Let us make this week a special time of prayer and consecration; let us renew our covenant with God and overcome every sin through the power of the Holy Spirit so that our unity with Jesus will be perfect and we can hear the beautiful words: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8. This is my desire and prayer for everyone. God bless you and grant you a happy 2015, full of spiritual blessings!