9 years ago today I took a vow. Now, every vow is taken before God and God definitely holds us accountable for our words (Matt 12:36). A vow has the power to direct our lives for good or bad and creates a strong spiritual push in a specific direction that limits our choices in that our words obligate us to fulfill them. I can think of a number of people I have ministered to who have been obligated to do something completely unhealthy because of a vow taken. I don’t think God wants us to live out of obligation, but out of desire. But, the vow stands until you either fulfill it,
A man who makes a vow to the LORD or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do.
… or our Father in heaven releases you from it. (Numbers 30:5)
Jesus Himself taught his followers not to make vows at all.
“You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’But I say, do not make any vows!… Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”
But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned.
So, what was my vow? It was to the kingdom of the United States of America and state of Minnesota when I enlisted in the Air National Guard. It went something like this:
I, Nathan Banker, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of Minnesota against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Governor of Minnesota and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So help me God.
Today is the first day after having completed two enlistment terms under that vow. I was obligated, before God, and under the power of my own words to fulfill this vow even to the point of death. Also, as a member of the US military, I am not allowed to serve in any other military. I had pledged my allegiance to the earthly kingdom of the United States and I was bound to it by oath before God.
At what point do I think it’s okay to swear an oath of service to an earthly kingdom and think that I can simultaneously swear allegiance to the Kingdom of Heaven? The US certainly provides for dual citizenship, but does not provide for dual military service at the same time. It’s a direct conflict of interest.
Then again, is the Kingdom of God a real kingdom? Yes. I’m banking my life on it.
No one can serve to masters.
Was it a sin to serve in the military? Maybe, but in my case, I doubt it. I never had to kill anyone and I fulfilled my vow completely. But, I was divided. In a similar way to how Paul suggested a life of singleness because it could mean a life more singularly devoted to Christ, I had to serve two masters. I had to obey my commanding officers even if it conflicted with my Kingdom values of self-sacrificial love, and I did. I was a servant of the state.
Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to His name.
Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.
2 Timothy 2:4
I now serve one master in one army. I have one commander in chief. It isn’t the President. It isn’t democracy. It isn’t capitalism. It isn’t America. I pledge my allegiance to Jesus.
I am indivisible.