I am interested in your Church’s stand on conscientious objection and details regarding your founder’s opposition to war.
As a Church we are conscientious objectors to war.
What is the basis for our position? Our founder, Rev. L.T. Nichols devoted many years of his life to earnest Bible study. He found in the Bible, that once, a group of soldiers came to John the Baptist and asked “What shall we do?” John the Baptist answered them, “Do violence to no man” (Luke 3:14 KJV). Indeed, a strange directive to issue to soldiers, but John was teaching a Divine principle.
Additionally Rev. Nichols found that, on the night Jesus was betrayed, the apostle Peter raised his sword and cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus said to Peter “Put your sword in its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52).
Paul wrote that Christians do not “war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God” (2 Cor. 10:3-4). Paul wrote, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12).
Because of the commands he found in the Bible, Rev. Nichols took the position it was not right for followers of Christ to bear arms. He took this position more than a century ago, as a soldier during the Civil War, at a time when the United States did not protect conscientious objectors. As such, firmly standing for his convictions nearly cost him his life. An over-zealous sergeant took it upon himself to act as judge, jury and execution concerning Mr. Nichol’s refusal to bear arms and placed him before a firing squad. Had it not been for the timely intervention of a superior office, Mr. Nichols would have been executed.
During World War I, our then pastor, Rev. Maud Hembree, appealed to the president of the United States, asking that our Church be recognized as conscientiously objecting to war. Also, a delegation from our Church appealed to the Selective Service headquarters in Washington. The request was granted and since then our Church’s position has been recognized.
Today, our position remains the same—we do not bear arms. Christians and non-Christians alike, lack the ability to judge who is worthy to live and to die. To kill in war is to make a judgment we are not qualified to make. But this is not the only reason war is forbidden to Christians. Christians are prohibited from harboring, to even the smallest degree, any and all feelings that underlie a war: anger, hate, greed, jealousy, pride, resentment, revenge, etc. These are caveman-like and dangerous in the site of God, and absolutely forbidden. The law is plan “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath”—no exceptions. Believing that one’s own nation is superior and should be recognized and respected as such; believing that offensive action can be justified as defensive, are contrary to God’s manner of judging both men and nations.
Notwithstanding, we do not take a position of non-cooperation when and if our country should involve itself in acts of war. Although war under human direction is wrong, it is sometimes a necessary evil. War cannot be surprising in a world where individuals and entire nations do not follow the Biblical laws of kindness, compassion and love and do not sincerely want to work for the good of others.
In accordance with our stance, we are still willing to serve our country in areas of national import: forestry, hospitals, civilian duties and other work that is, if at all possible, under civilian direction. Although it would not violate our conscience to perform non-combatant duties under military supervision, in that environment we could never be sure that we wouldn’t be summoned to bear arms. Thus, we prefer alternative civilian duties and are grateful that our government allows conscientious objects to serve in these ways.
Does that mean that we are pacifists? No. Are we against all war? No. Do we support war? No. Do we protest our government’s involvement in war? No.
There are three Bible principles which govern our attitude toward our government in a time of war:
- We are commanded to be subject to the government under which we live. “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Rom. 13:1-2).Even though we may not at all times agree with the actions of our government, we are not to protest or be uncooperative. If we resist our government, we resist God. If our government should require us to bear arms, we would have to accept the penalty without resistance in order to be loyal to God.
- Even though we cannot take an action which might endanger, threaten, or kill our fellowmen; neither are we to take judgment into our own hands and try to resist those who do. Jesus never taught His disciples to resist the actions of the government under which they lived, but only to behave in such a way that they themselves would be blameless, as far as possible, both before men and before God.We do not oppose or condemn our country for going to war, because our nation and its leaders are not under the Law of God. And because we are committed to God, it is not our place to advise, direct, or be concerned with our government’s decisions. We are to leave all matters of the state to the state. God has set up the governments of earth for this purpose: to keep law and order. Our duty is to obey God, to live by His Laws, and to let the officials of our country take whatever actions they deem necessary as rulers in the kingdom of men (Dan. 4:25).
- We cannot be entangled in “the affairs of this life” and expect to please our Captain Christ. We have chosen to serve a higher cause, to be Christ’s soldiers, and we cannot serve two armies at a time. This is what the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier”(2 Tim. 2:4).
We are grateful to our government for administering its national and international affairs so as to give us political security and freedom from strife and war, so that, in the words of the apostle Paul, “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Tim. 2:2). God has arranged this, and we should thank Him, and show our appreciation by serving Him wholeheartedly.