The Sword of Government - The Warrior's Journey®

The Sword of Government

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

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“For (the governing powers) are a servant of God to you for good. Therefore, if you do what is evil, then be afraid. For it does not bear the sword for nothing. It is God’s servant and avenger that brings wrath upon those who practice evil.” (Romans 13:4) 

As members of the military, we are an extension of the God-instituted human government (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Along with those in law-enforcement and corrections, the military constitutes the sword which God has placed in the hand of government. Ultimately, the justice which our government administers is divine justice. Failure to administer this justice – both on behalf of the innocent and against the wicked – will “pollute” a nation and bring God’s judgment upon it (Numbers 35:30-34). 

Some Christians denounce the military and crusade against both war and capital punishment. They cite God’s Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). This commandment uses the Hebrew word reserved for “murder,” ratsach.  Ratsach must be distinguished from the Hebrew words shachat and harag, which both refer to the slaying of animals for sacrifice and for the slaying of men in war. The Sixth Commandment more accurately means, “You must not murder.” Capital punishment is demanded in the Bible against all murderers (Numbers 35:16-21, 30-34). 

The very founding of human government in Genesis 9:6 was precipitated by God’s refusal to punish human violence with cataclysmic judgments. God acknowledge that humanity was hopelessly sinful and could not keep from sinning (Genesis 8:21). So God placed the task of punishing murderers with death squarely in the hands of human government. Therefore, it is God’s punishment that human government administers. 

Divine justice through human government extends through the use of the military as well – but only when military action is taken to defend and deliver the oppressed and to punish the wicked. Saint Augustine formulated the Christian view of warfare in the just war theory (Latin jus bellum justum). It states that just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the government. Second, just war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than for self-gain. Therefore, war cannot be waged simply in the interests of the nation – unless in self-defense when the nation is attacked. Empire building through war is prohibited. Third, peace must be the central motive for war.  Fourth, the military response must be commensurate with the evil. Excess violence or settling old scores violates this guidance. Fifth, war should only be waged against combatants. Innocents and hostages should not be harmed. 


  • Can you think of unjust wars in the past that soldiers were forced to fight? 
  • Can you think of unjust laws that the police were ordered to enforce and punish? 
  • Let’s pray for America, that its laws and wars will always be righteous, so that we may do God’s will by serving as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. 

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