God loves the warrior.
It’s true, he loves soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors and coast guardsmen. They all matter.
Every once in a while I run into military members who are struggling with how to reconcile their faith with being part of the profession of arms.
Aren’t people of faith supposed to be “peacemakers?”
Aren’t we required to “turn the other cheek” in conflict? How can we truly love and forgive our enemies if we are planning their death and destruction?
Most religions, at their core, are built on a foundation of peace.
The Eastern religions of Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism are known as communities of non-violence.
The three largest monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, each share recurring concepts in their sacred texts about the priority of peace — regardless of how poorly or misguided their adherents live out these priorities.
For example, Judaism describes a future messianic period when people will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore,” (Micah 4:3).
The Hebrew word for “peace” is Shalom, derived from root words denoting perfection (shelemut) or completeness.
Likewise, in Islam, there are numerous verses in the Qur’an and the Hadith that emphasize peace over war, and mercy over hatred.
For example, Surah 41:34 tells Muslims to make a friend out of a foe as “the power of peace is stronger than power of violence.”
Also, “if the enemy is inclined towards peace, you should also incline towards peace and trust in God,” (Surah 8:61).
And those who share my own Christian faith know very well the admonition of Jesus to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44).
Paul wrote “the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way,” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
Yet, while peace and harmony are pinnacle ideals worth striving for, it remains that God loves the warrior.
Two of the highest compliments found in my Bible were given to warriors.
In the Old Testament, King David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Lord in Jerusalem.
But because he was a man of war, a warrior, he would not build the temple.
The Lord told him, “You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood,” (1 Chronicles 28:3).
This warrior-king was too familiar with battle.
Too familiar with conflict and death.
Yet when God chose David to rule over the children of Israel, he did not compliment him on his military experience, his pedigree or résumé.
Rather David was chosen because God said that he was “a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do,” (Acts 13:22).
What a powerful compliment.
Likewise, in Matthew 8, we read about a Roman centurion, a commander who would have led at least 100 soldiers.
In first century Palestine, the Israelites despised the Romans who occupied their land.
They would just as soon thrust a knife in the back of a Roman soldier than offer help.
Yet when this Roman centurion heard about this miracle-worker from Nazareth, one who could cure leprosy and sickness, he made arrangements to meet him.
The Centurion did meet Jesus and asked if he would heal his own servant who was lying paralyzed at home.
Jesus told him, “I’ll come with you and heal him,” (Matthew 8:7).
But the Roman warrior stopped him, “Lord, I’m not worthy to have you come to my house…just say the word and I know he’ll be healed…You see I too am a man of authority and under authority. I give commands to people to go and they go. Come here and they come. Do this, and they obey,” (Matthew 8:9).
Matthew then records that Jesus was amazed and marveled at this.
Jesus then turned to the crowd and said, “This is the greatest example of faith I have seen in all of Israel,” (8:10).
The servant was healed.
The Centurion was given the highest compliment and praise for his faith.
Two of the highest compliments in the Bible were given to warriors, people acquainted with war.
Warriors matter to God.
God is loving and merciful, it’s true, but the Lord is also a “warrior who gives victory,” (Zephaniah 3:17) and “Strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle,” (Psalms 24:8).
So I’ll continue to pray and strive for peace.
I’ll continue to pray for our military leaders, and troops of all ranks and services.
I will thank the Lord for being loving and merciful, but also for being a defender of the oppressed.
Finally, I will thank God for loving warriors, those who have gone before, and those who serve today.
It’s true, God loves the warrior.