Monday, May 2, 2011

Reacting to Osama Bin Laden

Ten years ago today I was an active duty Navy SEAL deployed to the Middle East, today I am the Senior Pastor of Valley Baptist Church contemplating the death of Osama Bin Laden. Every now and again I have these moments where my two worlds sort of collide. Today is one of them. The internet is a furry with news, Facebook status updates, and blogs all reporting on this historical event. The chatter has inspired me to blog on a topic that is near and dear to my heart--The Christian and Combat.

First, let me begin by stating that I am writing this on my own behalf. My views are my own and do not necessarily reflect any group that I represent. These are my thoughts in progress and I do not claim to be an expert...although, I probably could. :)

Second, I have had many discussions with Christian pacifists over the years. I love the majority of them dearly. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ and we just don't agree on this one issue. Some have accused me of not being able to see the Scriptures clearly because my background distorts my ability to listen to the Bible's teaching. I admit that this really bothers me. They are simply wrong and assume my inclination is to hold a "pro war/violence position" because of my military background. In all honesty, the opposite is true. I have had to draw my gun on people (although I have never actually had to kill someone) and I have lost a number of very close friends in battle and have seen the after affects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to take a pacifist position on this subject, but the Scriptures will not allow me to do that (in my humble opinion). Violence of any sort is horrible and I long for the day when God scraps this world and starts a new, but for now I am here living in a sinful fallen world faced with horrible things where there is no simple answer.

"The Christian and Combat" was the title of my Master of Divinity thesis. As a former Navy SEAL who is now a pastor and law enforcement chaplain, I feel I need to get to work and convert it into a user friendly format for publication as I am often asked for my thoughts on this subject. One of these days, one of these days...

My first combat mission was on September 9, 1999--my 25th birthday. At this point in my life, I had spent the last seven years preparing for this moment and had been a Christian for about 3 years. It was dark, pitch black dark, in the Northern Arabian Gulf off the coast of Iraq, my adrenaline was flowing, and I distinctly remember thinking, "Gunnar, how did you get yourself into this one?" I know the feeling that many soldiers and cops experience...my prayer is that I can help those who protect us answer these deep theological questions prior to finding themselves in combat.

There is no way for me to blog about this in its entirety--I need to write that book. But I will attempt to answer a couple of questions: 1) the need for warriors, 2) the authority of the warrior, and 3) the Christians response to violence.

The need for warriors. There is a story in the Old Testament that inspired the writing of my thesis and it is found in 1 Samuel 23:1-5. David and his mighty men are on the run from Saul when David gets word that the Philistines are plundering the people of Keilah. My first point against the pacifist argument is evil is happening all around us. You can be a totally passive person (which I feel like I am) and find yourself witnessing one person or group that is violently attacking another. I love what Dietrich Bonhoeffer says about this reality, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." David and his men were exposed to an evil situation, their initial reaction was not to respond because they weren't in the best position to help. David asked God a second time if this is what he was to do. God's desire was for David to proceed onward using violence to stop this evil that was already in progress. Today is no different. Evil is everywhere. Men and women everywhere are doing evil to all sorts of people. Are Christians simply not to intervene? I don't think so.

The authority of the warrior--military, cop, or individual. The clearest teaching anywhere in the Bible on this subject is found in Romans 12:9-13:4. This passage is pretty intriguing to me this week as it is very similar the Sermon on the Mount which I am preaching on through the month of May. Romans 12:9-17 has all of the verses that pacifists love to quote like: "Bless those who persecute you", "Never pay back evil for evil", etc, etc. Yes, I believe this all applies to the Christian and I take these verses literally, but a literal interpretation forces one to look at the whole context--one cannot study Scripture in isolation of the whole.

Romans 12:18-19 begins to shed some light on how we as Christians are able to do this. First, the Bible says we are to be at peace with other people if it is possible and as much as it depends on our own actions. Then it says, "leave room for the wrath of God." Okay so this is very interesting. We are not to take our own vengeance because God's wrath is more effective than our own wrath (okay, the text doesn't say why, that is my opinion). In my Bible I have drawn from "wrath of God" in Romans 12:19 down to Romans 13:4 where the thought carries through. Here the Bible essentially says that "it" (i.e. the authorities or government) "does not bear the sword for nothing" and that it is a "minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil."

I have met a number of pacifists that I respect. Concerning these verses in Romans 13 they would agree that the government is responsible to bear the sword, but would say based on Romans 12 that there is no place for the follower of Christ to function in this capacity of authority as the one bearing the sword. Biblically speaking, the wrath of the government is the wrath of God (for the record, I am not defending all government actions, time does not allow me to unpack this, but I do think God judges nations Isaiah 34-35 this will be in the book). So to say that the Christian cannot function in this capacity is in essence to say that they Christian is holier than God and this responsibility should be left the the unregenerate.

Every soldier and cop must understand the concept of being under authority. There was one such soldier who encountered Jesus in Capernaum who understood this concept and expressed it to Jesus (Luke 7:1-10). Jesus' response to this man was, "I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith." This is a pretty incredible statement if you stop and consider it for a moment. The point is that when life is taken it must be under the proper authority of God and the government and right circumstances--whether you are a soldier, cop, or individual defending yourself or others.

The Christian's response to violence. Yesterday I started preaching through Luke's account of the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20-49). One verse stuck out to me (v.21), "Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh." Am I happy that Osama Bin Laden is dead? Yes and no. Yes because a man who promotes evil and destruction to many people is gone. "Relief" is probably a better word than "happy." Many of us in the West are not fully aware of the evil this man inflicted in the world. He killed many innocent people brutally. I am sad for what he represented because another will arise in due time...there are many already doing evil to the innocent even as you read this. He is dead, but many died along the way. One peer of mine calculated that some 40 SEALs have died fighting the war against terrorism. I know a few widows and children who are left behind...Osama Bin Laden's death doesn't undo this or the attacks that have been committed during his lifetime. But there is pleasure in knowing that the government is following through with God's command to bring "wrath on the one who practices evil" (Rom. 13:4).

There is so much more I could write on regarding this subject, but I am running out of steam and I would like to post this tonight. Regardless of your theological bent regarding pacifism, I think we all agree on Paul's instructions to Timothy, "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

We should be on our knees this day praying as Paul tells us to above. I am thankful for the sacrifice of soldiers, cops, and good Samaritans who put their lives at risk in the calling of restraining evil.

59 comments:

Rick said...

Well said...thanks G

Anonymous said...

Great perspective Gunnar. As a Christian I struggle with mixed emotions. Thanks for helping me work through the issues.

Anonymous said...

Guunar, so many days I have tried to express what you have written, thank God for giving you clarity of thought and the ability to put it on paper. I still carry the memories of the task given to me so long ago... God Bless!

Rich said...

The need for warriors...

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When you wrote "Today is no different. Evil is everywhere. Men and women everywhere are doing evil to all sorts of people. Are Christians simply not to intervene? I don't think so"

My heart jumped!
We feed, and we free, the oppressed.

Thank you.
Rich Donnell

john said...
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john said...

Great article Gunnar. Your book is more needed than ever! You have some great insight to offer.
jeh

Joyce said...

Dear Gunnar,

Loved the article! Thank you so much for your service, not only to our country, but especially your service to God, we need more men such as yourself.

It is hard to realize for most people there is true evil in this world. Ben Laden was an evil man. Most Americans tend to forget what happened on 9/11. I am glad he is dead, but you are right, someone else will take his place.

This past Friday I had the honor of meeting many of the 25 Gold Star Families. For those that don't know a Gold Star represents a family of a Serviceman that was killed in action. Bin Laden's death will not bring back their sons, or the deaths of innocent men, women and children that he murdered. As one of my Marine's put it, will I get back my legs now?

Took a vacation day yesterday(who said being retired was not hard work!) and spent the day in Coronado. Was able to pick up two Navy Seal 6 patches, which we will proudly wear on our Patriot Guard vests.

May God be with us all, I pray daily he comes quickly.

Hugs
Joyce Orrell
Valley Center

Pris said...

Thank you for this! Very thoughtful and well put! May the Lord continue to bless your ministry.

Tony said...

Wow. Good stuff Gunnar. Like lots of others I've been pretty conflicted on the issue. You crystallized a lot of truth. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for your service.

Anonymous said...

Gunnar, great incite. I have always contended I would rather have a military and police force filled with Godly men then one devoid of them. I support your stance 100% and thank you for voicing it. Your unique position of the Christian soldier adds the credibility this conversation needs. Thanks. James Allen.

Tina Schipper said...

So well said! Truth in love! Thank you! Would love to read your book too.

peskemom said...

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt I just read this awesome post. Thanks. Gunnar for your thoughts. As a mom &wife of a USNA grad...it. was a very mixed set of emotions I experienced watching cheers erupt across our land at this news. I was teaching a class last night ( I'm a Catholic catechist) on Social Justice...so the issues of justice/charity/mercy/human dignity were running in my head. Plus our best friends son is a Seal Team member....I told my husband: "tonight OBL met Jesus face to face. Not 72 virgins but the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And he had to bend his knee and proclaim:"Jesus Christ is Lord"...and THAT thought was what I have held on to for my memory of this event. God bless you Gunnar! Please write your book!

rich said...

As a retired Navy combat (FMF) corpsman, I thank you shipmate for your words. I tire sometimes of trying to convey that pacifism is not necessarily scriptural. As a matter of fact, God has given "kill orders" before (Joshua 6). I appreciate your candor and would love it if you wrote a book. I'd stand in line to buy it, that's for sure. Fair winds and following seas.

Don C. said...

Gunnar: GREAT ARTICLE! The conflict of a Christian Warrior I believe is a misunderstood dilemma which I think many servicemen would be informed and comforted by a book on this subject. You must write it!

Josh said...

Hey brother, great article. I have really benefited personally from all of our discussions on this topic. Always love your insites. I definitely want to be one of your first readers when you publish "The Christian and Combat." Gunnar, by His grace you are a "...good soldier of Jesus Christ!" Praising Him for you.

Andy Mills said...

Gunnar...well said and a balanced view. While no follower of Christ wants vioence, justice demands that it is selectively used to prevent more violence. Well said, and thanks for your years of service in both jobs/ministries.

Anonymous said...

well done.I spent time in Korea 1951-1953 signal Corps.

Anonymous said...

GOOD WORD GUNNAR...AS A FELLOW LAW ENFORCEMENT CHAPLAIN, LIVING ON THE EDGE OF A MILITARY INSTALLATION I CONCUR WITH YOUR BLOG. JESUS DID REMIND US THE TIME IS COMING WHERE WE ARE TO PURCHASE A SWORD IF WE DON'T HAVE ONE, BUT I TEMPER THAT REALITY WITH ISAIAH 33:22...THE LORD IS OUR JUDGE...THE LORD IS OUR LAWGIVER...THE LORD IS OUR KING...HE WILL SAVE US!!!

LBOOTH, CHAPLAIN
SATELLITE BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT
SATELLITE BEACH, FL

Anonymous said...

Well said Gustav

Joe Arnett said...

Guunar,
Thanks for your blog. I just want to say, YOU HAVE GOT TO WRITE THE BOOK. Many of us strugle with this subject and you bring a lot of clarity.
May God bless all your work.
Also, thanks to Hugh for linking your post.
Joe Arnett

Anonymous said...

I believe life is sacred.That being said, I would protect my life, the lives of those I love, the helpless and the innocent from those that would attempt to take life.

Eric Burd said...

Gunnar,
Great word, brother! I believe you are "dead" on.
As an active pastor and former Airborne Ranger with the 82nd, I can remember sitting in a C-141 ready to drop in on North Korea after a Captain and Lieutenant were butchered by the North Koreans in the DMZ in 1976.
I, too, was wondering how I got myself into that situation.
Though the battle never occured, it has caused me, as a believer, to evaluate the believers role in combat. I have come the same conclusions as have you, my brother.
I have often been challenged by good-willed believers who do not understand how we, as believers, can "kill" others. There are several things to consider in this vein, and you have done a great job of addressing the central issues.
Gunnar, you nailed Romans 13... When we act under the authority of our government, which is compelled by God to protect its citizens, it is not our hand, but the hand of the God-ordained authority that has brought justice. "Thou shalt not kill" speaks of murder, not justice.
I would hate to think that all of our soldiers, policement, secret service, CIA, FBI, etc., were unbelievers. Praise God for believers who have the courage to risk thier lives to protect the citizens of our nation.
The question is: "Can a godly man, submitted to the cross of Jesus Christ, raise his hand against the enemy and kill him, when necessary, without it being driven by anger and hatred?"
This can often become the challenge for the Christian soldier.
Can we fight without malice. Can we seperate our natural responsibility, and even the reality of our enemy's atrocities, from the fact that those we kill will be cast forever into hopeless darkness.
I was glad that justice was done with Saddam. But, I wept when he died. I would not wish his fate on any man...Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden. No one!
Except for the grace of God, there go I.

Susan said...

Thank you for your perspective. This is a struggle for many of us.

Prof said...

Gunnar: I am teaching a terrorism course at William Jessup University in Rocklin, California. This post has just given me the inspiration for a perfect final exam question. Thanks. Prof

sej222 said...

Great post.
John 15:13 came to mind:
"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."
I respect Christian pacifists, but have little patience for the "peace movement". Making "peace" the highest objective simply means you have nothing you believe is worth fighting for. Pathetic indeed.

rich anderssohn(freak4life) said...

"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him."
— G.K. Chesterton

Gunnar, you sir are a true soldier,both for our country and our God. I am honored to be your brother.Thanks for all your service both to our country and our God. May he bless you greatly.

Kevin James Bywater said...

Your thoughts are much appreciated, Gunnar. With many Christian pacifists, I see peace as a most desirable and good end. But one must not confuse ends with means, lest one's moral sensibilities be disordered.

Perhaps a bit more 'tongue in cheek', I've tended to see a difference between peace makers and pacifists. The former are willing to lay down their lives for the well being of others; the latter willingly permit others' lives to be taken.

Thanks again for your good thoughts. Cheers, from England. (I found you blog through Hugh Hewitt's blog.)

Kevin James Bywater said...

Your thoughts are much appreciated, Gunnar. With many Christian pacifists, I see peace as a most desirable and good end. But one must not confuse ends with means, lest one's moral sensibilities be disordered.

Perhaps a bit more 'tongue in cheek', I've tended to see a difference between peace makers and pacifists. The former are willing to lay down their lives for the well being of others; the latter willingly permit others' lives to be taken.

Thanks again for your good thoughts. Cheers, from England. (I found you blog through Hugh Hewitt's blog.)

RightWingNutter said...

I'm glad you included the Bonhoffer quote as well as 1Sa 30.

I can respect the conviction (if not the Biblical exegesis) of a pacifist who would allow and his/her family to be tortured and murdered in front of them without attempting a violet response. Once one makes scriptural allowance for using violence in response to a situation like that there's an unbroken chain of logic that leads from there to 1Sa 30. And to the assassination of a monster like Hitler or Osama bin Laden.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Gunnar. Well written, perspective expanding, and a blessing. Peace of Christ be on you.

Kate Pitrone said...

Oh yes. You lay this out beautifully. I wish I had been able to work my way through such good arguments even half as well.

DC said...

Great words! Thanks for your military and ministry service. I agree with your basic conclusions.

My challenge: how to apply principles of protecting the innocent against abortion.

How do I resist the very God-ordained institution supposed to "bear the sword" for good when it protects evil?

I don't grieve or gloat over the death of OBL. God's wrath rightfully applied against this wicked man.

But I am conflicted: while I can't condone violence against abortionists, and can pray they may find mercy through Christ before they die, I find I do not grieve their death when they do die or when their mills are destroyed. Abortionists murder thousands just like OBL.

Hope you can unpack in your book additional thoughts related to this dilemma. How is one to fight against legalized murder? Say nothing? Do nothing? Wonder what Bonhoeffer would do...

DC

Steve said...

Great post and blog. I came across your blog on Hugh Hewitt's page. I wonder if you have read Martin Luther's "That a soldier too can be saved??"

Continuus said...
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Continuus said...
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Gunnar Hanson said...

Thank you all for your comments. Very humbling. DC, great thoughts and I do think the abortion fits well in this discussion. In fact, that was going to be the topic of my dissertation, but this has taken priority. I serve on the board of directors for www.awc-ca.org

Andy McIntosh said...

Gunnar; Great piece and so timely. Thanks for sharing with me and the rest of the first responders ministry. See you soon.
Andy

Jim said...

i remember in the garden Jesus told Peter to put back his sword (an apostle with a sword around Jesus!) but He did not say: "Get rid of that thing!"

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post! Perfectly explains what I have been feeling. I too, am tired of the inaccurate teaching of Christian pacificism that I have heard from my friends and relatives since this news broke.

Anonymous said...

Hey bro.

As a pastor and an ex-warrior (as well as an ex-police chaplain) I could not agree more with your balanced approach to this issue.

One of my favorite quotes anywhere is: "The things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first, the love of soft living and the get rich quick theory of life." - Theodore Roosevelt.

It seems like a lot of folks are willing to have peace at any price, and I just don't think that's what the Lord would want. This freedom we all so easily take for granted continues to come at a very steep price - and we must be willing to pay that price.

May the Lord bless and keep you as you continue to serve Him.

-Ray OKC, OK

Stephen Hanna said...

Gunner - I don't think pacifists for the most part are facing reality. King Saul did not follow God's orders to kill the foreign king Agag after defeating him and Samuel had to hack him to pieces!
(I Sam. 15:33. I wonder if all these pacifist clergymen, who are mostly rank liberals just hiding behind their clerical robes, would have the guts to do that?

Also it is rummored that a Quaker preacher stumbled on General Washington, kneeling at prayer at Valley Forge. After listening to the general in prayer, the Quaker pacifist went home and exclaimed to his wife, " our cause is all but lost! Almighty God can not but answer such prayers as I have heard from the general's heart" Stephen Hanna, Sarasota, Florida

Brad said...

Heard part of your interview on Hugh Hewitt. I am also an ex SeAL (though I only did one enlistment). I disagree with some things you say (I agree with your side and the pacifist side at once), but I couldn't agree more with you when you say (words to the effect) that the you really don't see *any other* role for government other than punishment of evildoers.
To the extent that a government goes beyond that God given role (which may manifest itself in many ways) is the extent that a government has a negative effect on it's people.

Allan Blackman said...

Your May 2 blog would be helpful and interesting to many people. I'd encourage you to polish it and publish it as a essay. It can become a chapter in a book manana.
The sentences after your citation of Romans 12:9-17 have two indefinite references and are the only part of your blog I find unclear. Allan Blackman

Terry said...

Dear Pastor

As a Navy man myself I felt great pride in the SEAL team.I had friend joint in 63 and I took training with the Marines there
in SD Cal. Isa what what the SEAL's were going through. Worked with SF, Rangers and SEAL's in Nam. Your bolg posit is great for us all. I hope you do writ that book for as I see it in this time it is needed.
God bless

THBarb said...

BZ Pastor - Seal from a retired Senior Chief.

I am glad Hugh Hewitt linked your blog today.

I believe the "enemy" is a victim of ungodly philosophies and God's gift of salvation is offered to them as well as everybody else. But we error if we let these victims force their victim-hood on others. King David praised God for training his hands for war. We cannot defend the poor if we are not ready for war.

Brian the old man said...

Thanks for this post. I have struggled with this issue and I really appreciate the insight. Thank you!

scott and marian said...

Some people have committed atrocities so horrible that their executions are indeed valid. Bin Laden was definitely one of them, as were folks like Saddam and Eichmann. I doubt many people would have shed tears if Hitler had been executed. He was a coward and poisoned himself when he knew he was cornered. Our nation and our world needs people with the guts and training to do these necessary jobs. No, it's not pretty, but a lot of hard work is not pretty.
Thank you, Gunnar

Marian Kissinger

R J Talley said...

The Scripture is clear..it is NOT a sin to kill, it IS a sin to MURDER! Some times a person or persons is so filled with violence and hate that the ony recourse is to destroy them and return them to their creator for His judgment. As a Christian, former pastor and former airman I have never struggled with the concept of a "just" war. It makes perfect Christian sense considering what we must struggle with in this fallen world.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a strong commitment in your service and research from both perspectives as a pastor and the military. My husband is a former DEA agent and has been in undercover narcotics his entire career of over 25 years. I did not understand the ramifications of his job until we were married of course which made me rethink my opinion on death by way of taking someones life. My husband and I are both preachers kids ( which you would think would change my mind immediately living under the same roof :) j/k ) However, knowing the great compassion my husband has for each person he has come across in his line of work undeniably is pure love and passion to serve and protect, not only suvilians but also to protect the people doing the unthinkable from themselves which gives me great admiration for anyone who is protecting out of love! Whether it be for our country or family. I am a true pacifist but also believe the love God has for man is the most powerful force in the universe that was proven on the cross. I truly wish in a kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven we could all love each other. But until that day I am respectful to those who lay down there lives so I can love freely. I almost wish religion was non existent and only Gods love existed sometimes. But as it is now I thank you for bringing clarity to the subject and appreciate your dedication. My husband and you would have a lot to talk about. Sincerley, Preacher's Daughter

Gunnar Hanson said...

Pastor's Daughter, thank you for your family's service and leaving a comment. I appreciated what you said, clearly someone who understands the tension of living between these two worlds. You guys are in my prayers.

Zekef15 said...

As an Air Fighter pilot I've also thought through the issue. Someone must be willing to stand up against evil. Like local cops who must be prepared to use violence to keep the peace, our government must be willing to punish evil governments and even civilians with violence. Don't agree with your use of the David example though. He was given specific instruction by God for a God ordained purpose. Can't make that claim today. The US military is not a holy force. In fact with the slippery moral slope we are on (e.g. DADT repeal) we stand to lose our heretofore moral platform to intervene.

Louis said...

Dear Gunnar,

I grew up the son of A SEAL in San Diego, more specifically a Christian SEAL. Not sure what team you served with, he was with Team 3 before being moved to Guam after 9/11 but maybe you knew him GMC Cass? Anyways, my Dad spoke many times of the struggles of being a SEAL and a Christian growing up, he was the Deacon of our Baptist church and served the Lord to the best of his ability. He still does today in Indonesia. Just thought I would let you know you're not alone in a being Former SEAL and a Christian. I love my Dad and greatly respect his service to the Lord and his country. God Bless.

innermore said...

I doubt if the SEAL that shot BIn Laden hated him personally. It is the American cooperative ethic which he defends that caused his action. I'm confident that as a soldier, you know the importance of maintaining a disciplined distinction between the "moral actions" of a collective body and the moral consciences of each member. With that in mind, why do your well-intentioned points apparently use a mingling of these two importantly differentiated values as a frame of reference? Jesus taught that the border between individual morality and the collective ethic must remain clearly marked. Those who would obscure and manipulate that line for the sake of vindication either know better while pushing an agenda, or they are ignorant. But I guess that's just how imperfect societies roll.

Analogies supporting everything from pacifism to war-mongering have, for centuries, been drawn from infallible scripture. It is the accidental or purposeful mixing of the two aforementioned contexts that have made almost any "biblically supported" moral argument valid or invalid. As I read it, Jesus did not care so much for common interests, but Paul did. I'd take that for what it is, and form an opinion based on personal faith and experience more than traditionally combined shaky theologies if I were you.

Margaret said...

I am a retired emergency/trauma nurse and I've seen many examples of man's inhumanity to man. The world has much evil in it. I thank God for you warriors who stand between it and us and shield us with your protection until the judgment comes. Thank you all.
Margaret Simonsen, R.N.
Valley Center

Anonymous said...

i can never understand the confusion on this issue of "eye for an eye" (ie justice meted out to evil doers)vs the "love your enemies" injunction. the former is god's civil code for the state authorities and the latter is to be the christian's personal code of conduct. god describes himself as a warrior "the lord of heavenly armies" who pays back evildoers for their deeds.
romans 13 tells us the civil authorities do not bear the sword in vain. the sword was idiomatic for capital punishment.
where is the confusion here for christians???

Rev. Matt said...

At a point during your article, my mind remembered that Jesus healed the servant of a centurion (Mt. 8). This also seems to show that even our Lord saw the importance of the vocation of those who serve in military and law enforcement. Good stuff Gunnar!

David said...

Gunnar, I would appreciate getting a copy of "The Christian and Combat." My mom heard you speak at the SDCC graduation and was impressed by your perspective. My dad, Art Peters, was one of the founders. Thanks for your perspective. Although we would disagree on many points, I’m glad you are engaging people in conversation on this issue. You mentioned that you don't see the U.S. government as infallible in its administration of God's wrath, but you said you didn't have the time to develop the issue in this blog. I would be very interested in hearing your perspective, because for the Christian, doesn’t it need to be central to the discussion?

I believe the church in America has done a poor job in discussing the tension that has to exist when a follower of Jesus swears allegiance to a nation- state and goes to war to defend it. History has shown us that our country has been involved in grave injustice as we have sought to defend it. If there is such a thing as a just war, then there must be the possibility of an unjust war. This raises the startling question for a Christian: what if America goes to war and when they apply the just war principles it comes up short. Are all of America's wars just? For example, are we sure we are comfortable as Christians participating in the war in Iraq where the main presenting reason for going in proved false. Should we accept that God's wrath is part and parcel with the killing of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and displacing over 1.5 million others. Our own government is deeply divided over this war, but I hear few pastors questioning it.

You have presented a very tidy Biblical perspective, but haven't you left out the huge complexities that exists in war that must have the thoughtful attention of every Christian. You have declared that when America goes to war it is a holy war, we are dispensing the wrath of God on our/His enemies, but what if a particular war isn't just or lawful? For example, as of today America, by constitution law, is in violation of the War Powers Act with its involvement in Lybia. Congressional leaders are calling President Obama to address this. What is a Christian in the military supposed to do if they believe that is true and that if asked to enter combat would be violating not only law, but their conscience?

I'm sure you are aware of the unprecedented numbers of soldiers and veterans committing suicide. More have died by suicide than on the battlefield. Ptsd's is at all time highs. Some soldiers are finding it almost impossible to re-enter normal life. They were put in environments for months at a time where they were not sure who the enemy was and had to shoot first and ask questions later, if they wanted to survive. They have watched families grieve over a father wrongly killed.

I feel these types of issues are completely ignored by the church. We cheer on our troops and fail to help protect their moral conscience. I was like you who has put a lot of thought and Biblical research into the subject, I couldn't recommend it more.

I’m glad you spoke up on this issue and gave a responsible perspective on how a Christian should respond to Osama’s death. I would encourage you to discuss the deep complexities of war for the Christian so we can not only protect the moral conscience of our brave young men and women in the military, but also protect the way of Jesus.

my email its globalstory2@gmail.com

mellifera said...

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I am so appreciative. I have been on a journey searching for God's heart on this issue and you have beautifully stated it.

Thank you for your sacrifice and service to all of us. I am truly grateful. And I am even more grateful that you are directing and leading our current servicemen. Thank you for standing as a man of God and loving Him. It's so encouraging to know that there are people like you all throughout our nation laying down their lives and serving God faithfully.

I am grateful that I ran across your blog this evening! I won't forget this.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Gunnar,

I heard your testimony on "unshakled" and I'm again moved how God invades the life of a person, even a Navy Seal and causes him to love the God he once hated.

I'm a police officer and a Christian and in one sense I am glad OBL is dead because of his evil heart and the descruction he has done but on another note I feel bad because he is suffering an eternity in hell.

Thank you for service to our country and to His sheep.
I look forward to reading your book.

Grace and Peace,
J.Edmunds