EVEN THOUGH BELIEVERS ARE ADMONISHED TO NON-RESISTANCE, THEY MUST NOT FORGET THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO THE STATE
1. Following immediately upon admonition to separation from the world and non-resistance, believers are reminded of their responsibility to the state (Rom. 13:1-7). This passage has been variously handled. But certain things are clear.
For one thing, believers are commanded to be subject to the powers of the state where they live. And the reason lies in the fact that even those powers, though they do not recognize the source of their power, were permitted of God. And as bad as they may be, they still make a show of trying to promote good and destroy evil. (Although in our day we have seen a complete breakdown of what is defined as good - but we still have truth to decide)
If the state authorities are against evil and seek good then the Christian ought to obey them as the ministers of God for good. Any who break the laws of men that are for good may well expect to be punished? But apart from wrath, a Christian ought to obey the civil authority because he knows that God has put them in the position of power.
It is also implicit in the text that God has put civil authority in positions of power to accomplish good, not evil. If there is anything they promote that is evil, the Christian ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). (And today we are seeing the start of what God calls the end - never forget what government did to Him.)
2. But what can the Christian do to obey the state on the one hand and the Lord on the other in times of war? Obvious this requires a choice on the part of the believer. He cannot shift into neutral. He will make a choice and he must make a choice. This whole matter is complicated by the complete mobilization of nations in times of war.
This was not true in the early days of Christianity. At that time armies were mercenary. Men chose to join the army and served as paid soldiers. Nations were not completly mobilized for war. This was true exclusively up until the time of Constantine. Then the church was partially involved. It was until the time of Napoleon that nations began to mobilize completely. But universal conscription was not practiced until the days of the Civil War. During the days of the Revolutionary war paid substitutes could serve in the Army. This almost completely disappeared at the time of the Civil war. By the time of the First World War this had completely disappeared. Universal conscription was the order of the day.
3. Conscientious objectors suffered dreadful persecution. But the voice of the Church began to be heard in official circles. And gradually the laws were changed, so that by the time of the second World War some leniency was felt. Men were permitted to select service under either military or civil direction and still make a contribution to the service of their country. This is true now in the United States. How far that goes in other countries, I do not know. Non-resistance permits a man to serve under military direction when not being forced to take life. And there are any number of services he can perform without being forced to take life.
4. Since world war two there has been such a revolution in society in general against being forced to serve in the army, that it remains to be seen what will develop in the event of another military emergency. Circumstances alter cases, and it cannot be predicted what will develop if a national disaster threatens the very life of this nation. Nobody knows what a nuclear holocaust would present. But one thing will not change, and that is the responsibility of the Christian to obey the Lord. The only thing non-resistance calls for is conduct that becoming the Christian and that certainly involves the taking of life. The decision not to take life still makes it possible for him to serve his country as well as God.