In this concluding article in the series: God and the War, it is my intention to deal specifically with one very real aspect of the soldier’s life. This is something to which the government itself gives a large measure of attention and time. While the soldier is in training it is required that he shall be indoctrinated regularly (at least once every six months) by his officers as to proper sex behavior. The government is interested in this matter not first of all as a moral problem, but because many man-hours are lost each month due to venereal disease. Secondly, the commanding officer is also aware of the fact that immorality makes for poor morale.
Therefore, the line officer first of all must tell the soldier that he will be punished for contracting venereal disease, that he may not disregard the safeguards that have been established for his health. Next comes the medical officer, who tells the soldier about the physical disability and suffering such disease entails. And to make it stick he usually shows a motion picture depicting the ugliness and the repulsiveness of the diseases contracted by promiscuous sexual intercourse. After that the chaplain has his turn to speak to the men concerning the moral evil of promiscuity and to point out its exceeding sinfulness.
The sad part of it is that there is among the chaplaincy such a noticeable lack of unanimity in the approach to the problem. Especially deplorable is the fact that so few attack the problem on the basis of the law of God. Many of them, true to their moralistic modernism, simply point to the evil result of such sin for society and the individual. Actually they simply repeat what the medical officer has already said.
The following is a sample of a sex-morality lecture such as I have delivered during my service as chaplain literally hundreds of times. The unusual frequency of my addressing soldiers on this matter was due to the circumstance that for some time I was stationed at an embarkation point, and that later I was assigned to a convalescent hospital. At both of these places it was my duty to give the required instruction in sex-morality. I felt that this was one way of impressing upon the entire command the demands of God’s law. Since I could never hope to see all these men at the chapel services it gave me a golden opportunity to present the claims of the Gospel. Although the men at the outset often seemed sullen and disinterested, invariably the response was enthusiastic. I would welcome comment on this talk by any of our boys now in the service or active chaplains in today’s armed forces.
This sex-morality lecture does have a textual basis. As a rule I never divulged it, however, until the last five minutes of the talk. The text may be found in Romans 13:10, these words: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.”
We are living in a universe of law. The starry heavens and the planetary systems together with the less impressive facts which we daily observe proclaim that the world in its basic structure conforms to law. Familiar examples are these facts: water runs downhill, apples fall to the ground when shaker, from the tree, airplanes hit the earth in the event of motor failure—all these separate instances testify to a regularity which we call the law of gravity. No man in his right sense would argue with that law. As matter of course we obey it.
Another illustration there is this business of sowing and reaping it, too, works according to set pattern or law. We sow spinach and hardly expect to bundle radishes. We sow wheat and the thought never occurs to us to go out with a corn binder to harvest the wheat. In the animal world God’s glory is again made evident by order and law. Here we deal with psychical as well as physical laws. The animal as a living organism is governed by the laws of biology, living to a great extent by instinct. Thus life is preserved and reproduced and the animal world serves the ends appointed by the Creator.
These instincts may be biological or psychical, whereby mating and reproduction take place and attachment to the young is manifested: however, these instincts do not involve moral choice. An animal does not function as subject (that is, a thinking, choosing agent out of which the action proceeds) beyond the psychical (the sphere of feeling). He does not have the ability to analyze logically, neither is he subject to the norms of the moral sphere.
Consequently a farmer does not take his herd sire to task for wandering into the neighbor’s pasture, since the animal is simply following a God-given instinct in the rutting season. Neither does the city-bred dog-owner take Pluto, the hound, and upbraid him for moral delinquency when he returns from his nocturnal escapades. Both farmer and city-dweller take measures to restrict the freedom of their animals by appropriate fences or kennels. Promiscuous mating among animals may have undesirable consequences but it involves no moral implications. Human Mortality But what about man? Is there no law for his being, thinking, and acting? To see the promiscuity and sin in which some soldiers wallow one would think not. Further, the precautions taken by the government to protect the health and to insure the effective combat power of a military outfit would tend to support the impression that a soldier may live a careless, premiscuous sex life with assured freedom from punishment, harm, or loss. As a matter of fact each soldier is given a prophylactic1 kit with instructions for its use before leaving camp so that he may secure immunity from venereal disease.
It seems as if the ordinary soldier is quite willing to follow his instinct and to trust in the adequacy of the government’s preventive measures. And usually his commanding officer is more interested in morale than in morality.
But what does the Word of God have to say on this issue? Is not man made in the image of God ? Is he not a moral, spiritual being, that is, so constituted that he can exercise choice and be responsible for his choices? Are there not spiritual and moral laws beyond the laws governing body and mind equally normative for man’s life? Indeed, the Word of God gives us a true summary of these laws in the ten words of the Decalogue given at Sinai and reaffirmed by Jesus in this sentence: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength and thy neighbor as thyself.”
Now, there is no such thing as professional immunity from God’s ordinances. A soldier is under the law of God as wall as under military law. The law of God at no place has been abolished for those who are in military service!
“Thou shalt not commit adultery”
With respect to the law for man’s sex life the Bible is very explicit. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is the simple statement of the seventh commandment. All fornication is condemned outright as excluding the perpetrator from the kingdom of God. God has given a law for man as a physical, psychological, moral, and spiritual being with regard to his sexual expression. The positive teaching of this law is that the sex act of man shall come to expression as he gives his heart’s love to another in marriage.
This was affirmed at the dawn of history when God himself brought to the first man a wife—not: many wives—and when man responded with prophetic wisdom: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The Lord Jesus reaffirmed this basic ordinance when he inveighed against the practice of divorce as breaking asunder what God had put together. He also pronounced guilt upon every man who by adultery broke the marriage bond or even looked upon another to lust after her. This basic position of the Bible is further elucidated and honored by the apostles as they instructed the early Christians in the way of righteousness.
Well, what is your reaction to all this as a soldier?
Impossible! Indeed, if we look at it from the standpoint of the natural man and his sinful state it is impossible. For the carnal mind is enmity against God. But for those who love the Lord there is true liberty in this law as well as in all God’s laws. In fact, the secret of true liberty is to be found in that little four-lettered word: L O V E !
Even upon the lower, levels of existence, as we have intimated, there is liberty within law. The old example of the locomotive on the rails is still valid. As long as that powerful locomotive remains within the confinement of the rails it is able to serve man admirably. But suppose that the big, black locomotive should become balky and say, “I’m tired of pulling these cattle-cars to the Chicago stockyards.” Now suppose that the engine jumps the track while passing over the Mississippi. We all know what would happen. The power of that mighty engine would be gone. It could not budge a pound, or even move itself.
So too the fish are free in water and the birds are free as they move through the air, that is, in the natural element which God has made for them. The story of My Friend Flicka comes to my mind. The book deals with the story of a colt that had grown up in the wilds of Wyoming untouched by human hands. One day the ranch man decided that his cowhands should bring in Flicka’s recalcitrant mother and her untamed offspring. Flicka did not like the restrictions of the corral and went sailing over the fence the first time. However, after they put the barbed wire a lot higher and recaptured her, she became hopelessly entangled in the wire while attempting to escape and was cut badly. The boy, Kenny, nursed her back to life after she had almost died of loss of blood. The result was that Flicka no longer had the urge to run away, but now followed her young master around like a dog. She ate oats and hay and behaved herself.
What was the reason for this change? Flicka had learned to love her master and therefore the fence or the stall no longer seemed so odious and confining. She could now be given freedom without fear that she would once again run off to the wildness of the mountains.
Love Thy Neighbor
It is dearly man’s prerogative—the Bible tells us that God has given man dominion over all the works of his hands—to tame the horse and to make the animal would serve him. How much more is the great God of heaven and earth our absolute master, since he has created us for himself and to his glory! And this great God has given certain restrictions for our conduct. He has made fences beyond which we may not go. One of those restrictions delimits man’s sexual behavior.
We speak of sex-morality because sexual behavior is not merely a matter of physical law, biological urge, or aesthetic emotion. It is primarily a moral consideration because man is basically a moral-spiritual being. Morality is the sphere in which we deal with our fellow man. The law of God for that realm is: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
The Christian Gospel does not abolish that law. h does not put love in the place of law, but it teaches us to fulfill the law in love. If we truly love God we shall want to observe his law with respect to our neighbor.
This is also true on the moral level. If we truly love our neighbor we shall not wish to harm him (her). If you love your neighbor as yourself, you will not want to dishonor your neighbor’s wife, or sister, or sweetheart anymore than you would want to dishonor anyone whom you love. If you as a soldier truly love your neighbor you will lose all appetite for using him (her) to benefit yourself or gratify your fleshly lusts. Love of the neighbor precludes using him as a tool, as a means unto an end: for our neighbor, created in the image of God, is himself an end that we must seek to honor, that is, to bring to his highest possible estate. Christ said: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” And Paul reminds us that every commandment is fulfilled in this one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor, for love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Key to Liberty
It is clear, is it not, that within a universe of law we can have true liberty only through love. That is the key to the perfect liberty of the sons of God. Permit me to use one more illustration from life to clarify this point. Listen! The wedding bells are ringing the bride is coming down the aisle. Now the minister is asking her to promise that she will love her husband. That promise is freely and gladly given. There is no compulsion. There is no consciousness of constraint.
However, that is the law of matrimony: both the law of God and of the state demands that a woman shall love her own husband within the bonds of marriage. As long as there is love in the heart, perfect liberty under the law is known. But alas! when love departs, then the law begins to bind and to coerce. So it is with the law of God. Love is the secret by which the law of God is fulfilled. That love can only fill our hearts if we give ourselves to Jesus Christ. For it is only through Jesus Christ that true love can possibly come into our hearts.
Well, soldiers,* what do you think of this approach to your problem? I know that for many it is the same old story that you heard back home, but then, there is no special set of ethics for men away from home. God’s spiritual universe is a unity. Wherever we are, we cannot break his moral laws without being punished.
I trust there won’t be anyone reading this article with the same attitude as a young lieutenant who came to see me in my office during my time in New Orleans. He related for me a tragic story of terrible sin in fornication and lewdness.When I reminded him of the moral law in God’s spiritual universe his reply was that he was just sowing a few wild oats. What a sad mistake! He was hoping desperately for a crop failure, but there are no crop failures in God’s spiritual universe. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh heap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:7, 8).
Let us then walk in the Spirit while we fulfill our military mission, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof!
It is hoped by the author that many of our readers will send their relatives and friends in the military service a copy of this article. The Reformed Fellowship will send an additional copy free of charge with every new subscription or renewal. Send us the name and address of your soldier or sailor friend at once, before our supply runs out.
1. Anything used to prevent disease. In his case a combination of mechanical and medicinal aids and instructions therewith.