May a Christian fight in a war?
Questions Listed Under Social issues
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Moses, Joshua, and David all led God's people Israel in war according to God's command. In the New Testament when John the Baptist told the people to bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance, he was asked by some Roman soldiers what they should do. John didn't tell them that they could no longer be soldiers. He told them, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay" (Luke 3:14).
The Lutheran Augsburg Confession puts it this way: "Our churches teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God and that it is right for Christians to hold civil office, to sit as judges, to decide matters by the imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to swear oaths when required by magistrates, to marry, to be given in marriage" (Augsburg Confession, XVI:1,2).
Are homosexuals accepted in WELS?
It depends on what the question implies. Could a church member experience homosexual feelings or temptation? The answer is yes. Our society loves to debate whether an inclination toward homosexuality is due to hereditary or environmental factors, but this is utterly beside the point. The devil, the world, and our inherited sinful nature assault each one of us in different ways. One believer struggles with gambling, another with alcohol, another with a quick temper, another with indifference toward those in need, etc. The fact that a person experiences temptation in one form and not in another does not put him or her out of the kingdom of God.
Is it possible for a church member to stumble and fall into the sin of homosexuality? The answer again is yes. Scripture does not classify sinful actions into "sins that believers commit" and "sins that only unbelievers commit." The fact that someone sinned sexually with a person of the same gender does not, all by itself, mean that the person isn't a believer, any more than would an act of heterosexual immorality, drunkenness, reckless driving, or cheating on one's taxes.
Can a person remain a practicing homosexual in defiance of God's Word and also be a believing member of the church? The answer is no. Believers agree that what God calls "sin" is sin. They turn from their sin, receive God's forgiveness, and battle against the sin in their lives with the help of God's Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:9,10 are perhaps the key passages on this subject in Scripture. First, note that it includes homosexuality in a catalogue of other sins, with no indication that it is any worse (or any less bad) than greed, slander, or cheating someone. Then, speaking to Christians, Paul says, "That is what some of you were" (1 Corinthians 6:11). The past tense is significant.
What does the Bible teach about dissent or protests against authorities if official policies and practices go against the Bible? Should we be good patriots, vote, go to war for our country, and go along with all policies?
On the one hand the Bible clearly instructs us to respect and obey civil authorities as representatives of God in our lives. Read and ponder Romans 13:1-7 and parallel passages on this subject. Do this remembering that the authorities Paul was referring to in his letter to the Romans were among the more godless in history, including people like the Emperor Nero.
On the other hand, the Bible makes it equally clear that when we are specifically told to do something that is contrary to God's revealed will for us, we are to respectfully disobey. Read Acts 5:29 for the principle stated and review the events that are recorded in that context. Our highest allegiance and obedience is always to God, and when necessary we may become "conscientious objectors" to civil authorities on certain issues, namely if we are commanded to disobey God's will as our consciences understand God's will. This can result in suffering civil punishments as the (erring) civil authorities have the right to inflict. (Recall how most of the apostles died—as victims of civil authorities who were using their power in misguided ways.)
In applying these principles, attention needs to be given to each situation and circumstance one at a time. Sweeping statements in application are not helpful or wise when dealing with the many diverse questions and challenges confronting a Christian citizen in a pluralistic country like the United States. Better to get firmly grounded on the principles, examine thoroughly the situation in mind, and then make a responsible decision.
I recommend a thorough review of Bible teachings regarding the role (and limitations) of civil government and citizens, through materials like God's Other Kingdom, available through Northwestern Publishing House.
How should Christians respond to those who condemn us as "haters" when we profess what the Bible says about the sin of homosexuality?
When love is such a central part of our convictions, it is disheartening to be so regularly accused of being haters. Yet this happens a lot. Whether the accusation is leveled against us because of misunderstanding, ignorance, as malicious slander, or as a retort to our inadequate professions of faith, we owe people a response.
Start with self-examination. The fact that many in our culture have negative impressions of conservative Christians has, in part, been linked to inadequate attitudes or statements by Christians. Is our primary focus on lifestyle and "sin-management" as the core measurement of spirituality? Is "trying hard to do what God commands" what others are led to see as the heart of our religion? Do we too often live for mutual approval within our own ranks while decrying the sins of others that we appear to have forgotten about grace? Have we allowed being anti-gay or anti-abortion, etc., to be seen as a kind of spiritual "badge of honor" or "credential" of vibrant Christianity rather than understood as a fruit derived from a Christ-centered and grace-dominated faith?
The preceding questions are not charges, but invitations for self-appraisal. Sometimes a damaged reputation is partially self-inflicted.
Have reasonable expectations. True Christianity is always counter-cultural. "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world . . . That is why the world hates you" (John 15:18,19). Many who charge us with hatred are biased and not interested in what we really want or why. They have (correctly) determined that conservative Christians will never accept or tolerate their principles or lifestyle patterns, so they fiercely oppose us through the media, ill-defined "hate crimes" legislation, or whatever means at their disposal. Bottom line: "Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you . . . If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" (1 Peter 4:12-16).
This counsel does not solve the problem but puts it into a healthy perspective.
Maintain biblical balance. A major ongoing challenge is keeping our biblical convictions and biblical compassion in balance as we reach out to others. God-given convictions are not negotiable. But we are also not interested in sharing the truth in ways that unnecessarily invite ridicule or caricature. Humble compassion and Christlike sympathy remain important. To quote the old adage: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." While testifying to truth, our tone of voice and facial expression are maybe more important than we think.
Maintaining balance in our speech patterns is invariably linked to inner spiritual strength. Are we still amazed at and captivated by God's grace for us sinners? Do we actively pray for those whose brand of sin disgusts us or who maliciously slander us? Are we willing to put ourselves and reputations at risk by seeking discussions with opponents to try to tear down stereotypes and erase misconceptions about our Lord and his people?
Our answers to these kinds of questions will reflect our relationship with Christ more than anything else. "When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree . . . " (1 Peter 2:23ff). Let us respond to hate—and accusations of hatred—with love flowing from God in Christ.
In a society that stresses equality between men and women, why do most confessional Lutherans and other conservative churches choose to limit leadership and authority roles in congregations to men?
We do believe and teach that men and women enjoy equal status and importance before God. Both men and women were created in the perfect holiness of the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Although that was lost in the fall into sin when as both men and women we became equally sinful before God (Romans 3:23), yet in Christ's life, death, and resurrection for us God has restored to us our position as his justified and holy children (Romans 3:24). As far as our status and importance before him as dearly loved children and heirs of heaven, whether we are female or male makes absolutely no difference (Galatians 3:26-29).
However, Scripture is also clear that while we are equal in status and importance before him, God has not made us duplicates or clones of each other in how we carry out our various God-given callings. Already in the perfection of the Garden of Eden he assigned unique callings or roles to the man and the woman when God made her to be helper suitable for the man and created her right from the man (Genesis 2:18ff). God gave to the man the unique calling of being a loving head and to his wife the unique calling of being a loving helper to him. In the New Testament, the inspired Apostle Paul assures us that these unique callings were indeed found already in the perfection of Eden when he writes, "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3). Later Paul reminds us that what we read in Genesis 2 is indeed where this was established when he says, "For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man" (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).
While man's headship is intended by God to be lived out in loving servant humility like Christ for us (Ephesians 5:25), yet headship also includes the God-given authority to lead (Hebrews 13:17). That is why one part of the unique calling of helper is to respect and yield (submit) to that leadership (Ephesians 5:22).
In the church, one of the places that those charged with leadership in our congregations exercise such authority is in the voters' assembly. There those charged with setting the direction of the congregation set that path in the debate and voting that takes place. Just as Paul reminds us that teaching the Word with authority is an expression of the headship principle (1 Timothy 2:12), so also it is an exercise of authority when the governing bodies of our congregations set the direction for that congregation.
Of course, wise heads know that God has given them helpers for a reason. The wisdom and insights, the questions and concerns of everyone in the congregation, men and women, are important. Especially when a woman may have no husband in her home, it is very important that the congregation look for ways to gain her input.
Does WELS stand out as different among other Lutheran church bodies in so honoring the principle of head and helper? Yes. But does that mean we are closed minded and old fashioned, or does that mean others have been more affected by the culture around them than they may know? The question is never what the culture demands, but what the Scriptures teach.
Is abortion a sin?
The Holy Scriptures clearly teach that the living, yet unborn, are persons in the sight of God (Job 10:9-11, Psalm 139:13, Psalm 51:5, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:41-44) and are under the protection of his commandment against murder (Exodus 20:13, Matthew 5:21, Genesis 9:6).
Therefore, abortion is a sin unless it is medically necessary in order to save the life of the mother. But even when a medical abortion appears needed to preserve a mother's life, the Christian will always proceed with the intent to preserve all human life whenever possible.
It is the degenerating result of sin in our world that creates such dilemmas in our lives. But these challenges spur us to search God’s Word and to make decisions consistent with his will. In the very sad circumstance of having to choose to preserve one life rather than lose two lives, the weight of Scripture’s message telling us to protect life compels us to try to preserve both lives, or at least one life, whichever is possible.
All other reasons for abortion fail to reflect God's high regard for human life and our responsibility to protect it.
Since the majority of abortions currently performed show disregard for God’s gift of life, we as Christians want to express concern and compassion for distressed, pregnant women by supporting the development of God-pleasing alternatives to abortion programs.
If a Christian is on life-support and wants to "pull the plug," is that a sin?
To arrive at an answer we must clarify some points.
1. Our role. As Christian stewards who wrestle with how to manage our time, talents, and resources to the glory of God, so also we make decisions regarding the care of life (1 Corinthians 10:31). Even decisions like "pulling the plug" are a question of managing God's blessings to his glory.
2. God gets his way. Since our times are in God's hands (Psalm 31:15), we are not the final authority over life and death. There are times when plugs have been pulled and the patient lived, or when all the right medical things were done and the patient died. God has a time of grace for us to come to faith and to live that faith (Hebrews 9:27; Philippians 1:23,24) including caring for each other (Philippians 2:1-5).
3. Pain. Today most pain can be managed. A standard mantra in medical circles is, "If your doctor cannot control the pain then find another doctor." It is increasingly rare that pain cannot be managed.
4. Life support technology. Many people whose lives we enjoy are living because of the blessing of life support technology. This is one more blessing God gives to help us in our stewardship of life.
5. How far do we go? This is the BIG question. The doctor may advise that ventilator support makes it easier for your loved one to breathe, but his kidneys and liver have begun to fail, and this is adding strain to his weakened heart. Progressive organ failure strongly suggests that a person's time on earth is coming to an end.
6. Quality of life. What increasingly becomes the issue is concern about the quality of life a patient has because of brain damage or the need for tube feeding. We are not permitted to hurry life's end simply because life has lost quality. Even for the bedridden person who cannot communicate there is purpose to life. Sometimes that purpose is to show acceptance of challenges that have come (Psalm 46:10), and sometimes it is to receive the concern and care of others who demonstrate their love for God by caring for the patient and sharing their faith in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).
There is no simple answer to "plug pulling" questions because medical circumstances vary greatly. In each case, though, Christians are stewards over God’s gift of life.
Why do some people say that homosexuality was not in God's plan for us, and that it’s a sin. I ask this question because there are a lot of individuals, men and women, who say that they've always been attracted to the same sex since they were kids. If it is a sin as some have preached and stated, why would God allow that to happen if he knew us before he came to be as he states in Jeremiah 1:5?
We say that homosexuality is not in God's plan for us and that it is a sin because that is what the Bible says. Jeremiah 1:5 is about God knowing his plan to call Jeremiah as his prophet. It says nothing about God approving every one as they are. Sin has made people into something God never intended them to be. The following statement summarizes our view on homosexuality on the basis of the Bible.
The dispute over whether homosexuality is an inborn disposition or a free choice, the national debate over the legalization of same-sex marriages, the conflict that is rising in many denominations over the ordination of practicing homosexuals, and the sharp disagreement about the blessing of same sex marriages by the church are among the current issues that may lead people to ask, “What is WELS’ stance on these issues?” WELS does not have an official statement on these issues, but our public teaching and practice is based on what the Bible teaches concerning homosexuality.
The best place to begin a discussion of the issue is with 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, because this passage emphasizes both the law and the gospel elements of addressing this issue.
"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
On the basis of this and other passages of Scripture we must draw the following conclusions about homosexuality.
Scripture declares that homosexuality is a sin, which is contrary to God's intention in creating man and woman. Sinful resistance to the revealed will of God is a factor in this sin. People may become slaves to this sin (Romans 1:18-31, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Many factors contribute to individual acts of sin: the sinful nature we are born with, the weaknesses of our bodies, evil influences in our environment, temptations and encouragement from other sinners, and our own sinful choice join together lead us into sin. All of these factors contribute to homosexual sin. The proportionate role of these various factors may very from case to case.
We must warn the impenitent that homosexuality, like all sins, excludes people from eternal life (1 Cor 6:9-10).
We are happy to assure the repentant who are struggling against this sin that they have complete forgiveness through the blood of Christ. When Christ died for all of the sins of the whole world, he gained forgiveness for homosexual deeds, for homosexual desires, and for the inborn sinful nature which produces these sins (1 Cor 6:11).
We should sympathize with all who are struggling against this sin, remembering that we too have "pet sins" which may have a strong hold on us. We warn against a “selective morality” which harshly condemns homosexuality or other sins which we observe in others while treating those sins which are present in our own lives more lightly (Mt 7:1-5). We should be impartial and unbiased in warning against all sins.
We all look forward to the resurrection of the body. Then all the weaknesses of body and soul which now lead us into sin will disappear forever. Then all of us will be able to serve God perfectly and purely in everything we do.
Note on Homosexuality as Innate or Chosen:
Some advocates of legal and religious tolerance of homosexuality claim that homosexuality has a genetic cause. Some reports claim that some homosexual men share a particular pattern in the X sex-chromosome which they received from their mother. Other researchers have claimed the existence of other types of biological similarities between homosexual men. These researchers acknowledge that their discovery cannot account for all homosexuality and may merely be associated with homosexuality rather than being a direct cause of it. Most researchers conclude that the origins of homosexuality are complex and varied and may never be fully understood.
How should we evaluate such claims in the light of the biblical teaching of sin? Is homosexuality a free choice or an inborn tendency?
Like many such either-or questions, this question poses a false dilemma. Every sin is both a choice of the will and the expression of an inborn tendency to sin. Our sinful will is guilty of consent whenever we sin in thought, word, or deed. As a result of our sinful nature we take pleasure in our sins and defend them. This universal tendency is apparent also in the efforts of gay rights activists to condone their homosexuality and to deny that anything is wrong with it.
Although the consent of our sinful will is present in every sin, it is also true that we are born as slaves of sin. We may also yield to a particular sin so often that we no longer control the sin, but the sin controls us. We may find ourselves yielding to sin even when we don't want to.
Sin infects both our body and our soul. The body we now have is not the perfect body which God created for Adam and Eve. It has been contaminated by the effects of sin. There is no reason to maintain that the specific effects of sin have been identical in each one of us or that we are all equally susceptible to every sin. Our individual degree of susceptibility to some specific sins may be due in part to differences in our bodies. Abuse of alcohol and a hot temper are just two examples of sins which may be affected by the chemistry of our bodies. Few would deny that the pressure to sexual sin is greater at 18 than it is at 8 or at 88 and that a primary reason for this is the changing chemistry of our bodies. It may well be that a person's susceptibility to homosexuality or to certain other sins depends in part on bodily differences.
Even though the weakness of our own body may be one factor which leads us to sin, God holds us responsible for all of our sins, even those sins which enslave us and those sins which we are not aware of. We need God's forgiveness even for those sinful desires which we resist and do not act upon. These desires too are sin. (Read Romans 7 for a treatment of slavery to sin).
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