Bless “our” troops?

The phrase “Bless our troops” has become a fixture in American culture in recent years. It’s on signs, bumper stickers, car magnets — it’s everywhere. It’s even in our churches and in our prayers. We ask God to “bless our troops.” But, do we ever stop to consider what, exactly, we are saying?

What do we mean by the word “our”?

When I say to my wife, “our children” I am referring to the children that belong to both of us. “Our” two daughters are both hers and mine. They belong to us jointly. So, when we ask God to bless “our” troops, do we mean those troops belong to both Him and us? Do we think these troops are God’s troops?

Why?

Is it because we regard “our” troops as God’s troops, placed on this earth to fight his battles? I know some people do. At the beginning of the Persian Gulf War in 1992 President George Bush made the following statement when he announced to the nation that hostilities against Iraq had begun…

“And so to every sailor, soldier, airman, and marine who is involved in this mission, let me say you’re doing God’s work.”

Really?

How do we make such a determination? I don’t recall seeing it mentioned in Scripture. Throughout history nations and armies have made the same claim for themselves…

  • The Crusaders claimed they were God’s army when they marched against the Muslims.
  • The Muslims claimed they were God’s army when they marched against the Crusaders.
  • The Protestants claimed they were God’s army when they fought against the Catholics during the 30 Years War.
  • The Catholics claimed they were God’s army when they fought against the Protestants during the 30 Years War.
  • Even the Nazis of Germany (the current Gold Standard of evil among history’s nations) made the claim Gott Mit Uns, God with us.

Where does any nation — any army — get the gall to claim divine favor? Is it because of military success and the accumulation of power? Do we really think the construction of an earthly kingdom is a sign of God’s favor? Please recall that Egypt was the world’s most powerful empire for a long, long time. The Israelites lived in slavery under the Egyptians’ rule for 400 years. Yet, God declared that there was one reason Egypt had ascended to its lofty place…

“But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” — Exodus 9:16

God raised up Egypt so that He might display His power when he delivered His people from the clutches of an empire the rest of the world feared. Egypt was far from finding favor with God.

Do we really think the 200-plus years of America’s existence is evidence of His favor?

Perhaps by saying bless “our” troops we are not indicating joint ownership with God. Perhaps we’re merely asking God to bless “our” (American) troops.

OK. So, does that mean we think “our” (American) troops are worthy of God’s blessing? Why? Are they fighting battles consistent with God’s purposes? Are they making the world safe for the spread of the Gospel? I’ve a couple of comments with regard to this reasoning:

Comment Number 1: Making the world safe for the spread of the Gospel is a fallacy. Using the force of arms to conquer another group of people accomplishes no such thing. Charles Haddon Spurgeon dispelled that myth more than 100 years ago. Besides, history has shown that the Gospel can flourish in oppressive environments. God’s Church doesn’t need the permission of earthly governments to grow — we have the Holy Spirit of God…

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” — Romans 8:31-37

God planted His Church amid one of the most oppressive empires in history — Rome. Where did we ever get the notion that we had to first provide political freedom before sharing the Gospel?

Comment Number 2: According to Scripture, God’s purpose for His people is to make disciples of all nations. This necessitates the sharing of the Gospel and the planting of Churches. Not only are “our” troops not doing this, they are actually working against this goal. Consider…

  • When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan there were a number of Christian Churches there. Now, there are none. And the government of the United States vigorously supports the Afghan government responsible for the eradication of Christian Churches.
  • American chaplains, ordained ministers, cooperated in rounding up and destroying Bibles. The Chaplain Corps motto is Pro Deo et Patria  which is Latin for “For God and Country.” Yet Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters.” When there were conflicting orders (spread the Gospel or destroy the Gospel) “our” troops obeyed the orders of an earthly king and disobeyed the orders of the King of kings. In an effort to appease the diplomatic objectives of an earthly kingdom these “men of God” took the Word of God out of the hands of lost men.

Why should God bless “our” efforts in this?

Am I saying there is nothing worth fighting for? No. I think individual liberty and freedom are worth fighting for. I think there are legitimate reasons for a nation to go to war. I firmly subscribe to the Just War Theory — that a nation is justified in going to war in defense of itself.

Am I saying we shouldn’t pray for the troops overseas? No. If you have loved ones overseas I think it is completely appropriate to ask God for their protection and their safe return.

However, when it comes to asking God to accomplish things I think the only way to pray is in the manner our Lord, Himself, outlined for us…

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” — Matthew 6:9-13

When we pray our focus should be entirely on His glory, His kingdom, and His will. Period. But, let’s be honest. When we pray for God to “bless our troops” we are not merely asking for safety and protection. We want God to grant them success in their mission. We are asking him to grant an outcome that we have already determined is appropriate. But what if the failure of American troops overseas is what will further God’s kingdom? What if that is God’s perfect will? What if the utter destruction of the United States is what will most glorify God? What if, like Egypt, God raised up the United States so that by our destruction His power could be known throughout the earth? Are you OK with that?

Can you still honestly pray that His kingdom come and His will be done if those things mean the downfall of America? The thing you want glorified the most is the thing you love the most. If you can’t honestly pray for God’s kingdom and will then ask yourself “why.”

For too long we have believed it possible to serve God and country, despite the fact our Lord said we can’t serve two masters. And it’s nothing new. We’re not the first people to struggle with this. This very dilemma is what prompted Joshua to write…

“…choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” — Joshua 24:15

What about you?

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About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

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