When Serving Two Masters - The Warrior's Journey®

When Serving Two Masters

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

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“Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’” (Acts 5:29)  

All Christian men and women of the military face a constant dilemma. On the one hand, they are under the authority of the officers appointed over them, whom they swore an oath to obey. The Bible acknowledges this obligation to obey those whom God has placed in authority (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Romans 13:2, Paul sternly warns us, “whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” If this is true for civilian believers, then how much more for believers in the military? 

On the other hand, all believers – military and civilian – have an obligation to obey God. What happens, then, when the authorities which God has put in power command the believer to do what God clearly forbids (e.g. Daniel 6:4-10)? In such cases, we must follow Peter’s lead here in Acts 5:29. Whenever the authorities which God has established clash with God Himself, then we must obey God rather than mere mortals. 

Unfortunately, the clash between God and government is rarely so obvious. Often Christians feel pressured to do things that merely have the appearance of evil. Sometimes believers are required to participate in activities which they fear may be viewed as an endorsement of those activities or of lifestyles which the Scripture condemns. Sometimes Christian soldiers feel their religious expression is suppressed when they are told to remove religious symbols or are forbidden from using verbal expressions like, “Have a blessed day!”   

How do we respond to these dilemmas? Hopefully with heavenly wisdom and guidance from God’s word. In some of these cases there are clear violations of a Christian’s constitutional right to the free exercise of their faith. The First Amendment of the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” No believer should be forced to act in such a way that violates his religious beliefs or offends his conscience. 

In all things, Christian service members should seek to glorify God, show love to all people, and behave humbly. A Christian’s behavior brings no credit to God’s kingdom if he or she is haughty, hateful, or is a chronic complainer. Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do,  do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). 


  • Are you facing such a moral dilemma or a conflict of conscience? 
  • What does the Bible have to say about the matter (e.g. 2 Kings 5:18-19)?
  • Can you reach an agreement with your supervisors that allows you to obey them, yet not violate your faith or conscience? 

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