The Biblical Basis For Women In Combat

[From the archives.]


Female vets cheer new era for women in combat: ‘It’s about time!’ said the headline yesterday. The U.S. military is dropping the prohibition on women in combat assignments, opening these up for all qualified members of the armed services. Just what “qualified” means remains to be worked out, but the days of meaningless distinctions – arguments like “A woman can’t do a man’s job, any man’s job” – are over.

Women in Combat (Department of Defense)

Women in Combat
(Department of Defense)

This announcement follows other changes in the way our armed forces look on their members. In late 2010, Congress set in motion the repeal of the ban on openly gay people serving in the military, with the judiciary then ruling that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in fact unenforceable and the President formally announcing its repeal soon after. Even earlier, President Truman ordered the military to desegregate the ranks so that African Americans and other minority personnel could serve in all capacities alongside all other members.

Of course, all these formal actions in some way merely reflect reality. African Americans have been serving in the military throughout this country’s history. So have gay Americans. And women are not only in combat situations every day overseas, even if their job title doesn’t reflect it, but have been on the front lines from the beginning.

Like the headline said, it’s about time we removed these discriminating limitations. Yet my point here is not to insist that the Bible requires women take on combat duties. It’s about how these issues lead to a better understanding of the type of battle we are all called to fight in the kingdom of God.

Serving in God’s Kingdom

There’s a kids’ song at church that we used to sing with the younger Sunday School classes.

I may never march in the infantry
Ride in the cavalry
Shoot the Artillery
I may never fly o’er the enemy
But I’m in the Lord’s army

It has hand motions for marching and riding and shooting and flying and saluting, and it’s cute to see all the little boys and girls singing along and marching like little soldiers. Of course, it’s important to remember that the armor of God does not look like something worn on the front lines today, and that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. But I really like this song for how it points out that all of us who belong to Christ are in this battle together – women, men, boys and girls – because in him there is no male or female.

Does that mean that women are exactly the same as men? That’s like asking if all men are exactly like one another and whether all women are exactly like each other as well. Instead, much like the military now intending to identify the qualifications for various combat positions, we do things in God’s kingdom according to our abilities.

And through it all, God does immeasurably more in us than we could ever hope to achieve.

Now that’s the way to serve.


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21 Responses to The Biblical Basis For Women In Combat

  1. Angie says:

    Good post. Yes, to this: “Does that mean that women are exactly the same as men? That’s like asking if all men are exactly like one another and whether all women are exactly like each other as well. Instead, much like the military now intending to identify the qualifications for various combat positions, we do things in God’s kingdom according to our abilities.”

    I so enjoyed that little song as kid. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Angie. Did you know there is a Spanish translation to that song. We sang it when we would travel to Baja California to help with vacation Bible school at a small church in a small village on a small hillside.

      Aunque no marche en la Infantería
      Caballería, la artillería
      Aunque en avión no vaya volando
      Pero soldado soy

      Soldado soy de Jesús
      Soldado soy de Jesús

      Aunque no marche en la Infantería
      Caballería, la artillería
      Aunque en avión no vaya volando
      Pero soldado soy

      • Angie says:

        No, I didn’t know. I can imagine in Spanish is even more fun.

        I’ve been thinking more about “a woman can’t do a man’s job, any man’s job”. I’ve been involved in a Facebook conversation the last couple of days. It was claimed moms cannot raise boys to be men, only a positive male role model can. I asked for clarity on whether it was being claimed they cannot raise a man to be mature and responsible or if the less than ideal biological mom-dad intact family with a willful emotionally, physically, and financially negligent father has the potential to affect the identity or security of some boys. The former was confirmed. I know better, but what hope does “moms cannot teach boys to be men” leave for those who do not know better and like me are raising boys to be men. (My husband and father of my boys has worked out of town or state since the economic turn down. This began several years ago when the youngest was 10. He supports us, but their training in manhood is no less my responsibility now as it was when their dad slept home every night.)

        • Tim says:

          Angie, I can imagine how hard that is for you and your husband as your children grow up. I bet the people who claim you can’t do the job has absolutely no scriptural or sociological basis for their position.

        • Hester says:

          Talk about a way to kick a single mom w/sons in the teeth emotionally. However beneficial the nuclear family and male role models might be, it’s not like your children are automatically doomed without them. So do they think that dads can’t teach girls to be women, or is this a female-only deficiency?

  2. Laura Droege says:

    I really liked your point about not all men being the same and not all women being the same (the part Angie quoted). It’s true. I thought about how we have differing physical abilities. For example, I can’t do the required number of pullups that the Army demands, but neither can a lot of men I know. And some women are waaaay stronger physically than some men. The same goes for emotional strengths and spiritual strengths, etc.

    It made me wonder if what we consider as a dichotomy (“masculine” versus “feminine” characteristics) is really more of continuum, with masculine characteristics at one end and feminine characteristics at the other. (The gender characteristics would be what is statistically likely to be true of that particular gender.) The in-between part describes most of us, who are at different places on the continuum depending on temperament, personality, physical abilities, etc. (I’m not entirely certain if I’m making sense, but . . .)

    • Tim says:

      I see the point you’re making Laura. It’s when people take these differences and then draw lines putting women on one side and men on the other that they stop making sense to me.

  3. Aimee Byrd says:

    I think I agree. I only want to be sure that a woman is able to carry her load (which may be a wounded man) in battle if need be. So she does need to pass the same qualifications that a man does to be in the heat of it. And I’m also concerned about women one day being put in the draft.
    You are certainly making a good point that we have battles all over the place, as well as the fact that we are all gifted differently.

    • Tim says:

      I’m with you, Aimee. if a person is qualified the person gets the job. If not, look for work somewhere else.

      And I’m glad you got what this post is really about. God does call us to battle for his kingdom with the gifts he has given us. You are going to end up more gifted than I am for fighting some of those battles, and if I were to insist on fighting them for you I’d be telling God he got it wrong in handing out his gifts. I’d rather not tell that to God.

  4. Pastor Bob says:

    Wanted to start with the combat concerns, having spent time in a green uniform some time ago. The physical characteristics (G-rated) that separate the men from the women make this a daunting task. many women soldiers have learned to take advantage of their different abilities, but not many are able to. suffice to say upper body strength is important. Other countries have tried, many have abandoned the idea.

    The chorus for the song:
    I’m in the Lord’s Army (YES SIR!)
    I’m in the Lord’s Army (YES SIR!)
    Verse repeats—

    The parent can teach much of what is expected of both sons and daughters, but the mother can more effectively demonstrate some of the aspects better than teaching. Same with father and daughter. This “spiritual father” of many has had many success stories!

    Lastly, consider the ventures of this minister of the gospel, who has also spent time as a wedding coordinator. One wedding sticks out in particular, at the wedding rehearsal took large rapid masculine steps down the aisle. I snagged her mid stride and as yelped “WHAT?”
    My response, was “I need to teach you how to walk like a lady.”
    ->A one hour lesson compressed into 10 minutes.

    (Lest anyone think me too harsh, my mentor, a woman a bit older than me was far more blunt.)

    My pastor’s wife is convinced that some mothers are not teaching their daughter’s some of the finer points of social etiquette. Oh, don’t get me started on the young men!

    Hope someone can laugh as well as see a a need to pray.

    • Tim says:

      The physical qualifications for combat are daunting for anyone, man or woman!

      I hope you also saw though that this post is not really about fighting modern wars. It’s about serving in the kingdom where our battles are not against flesh and blood but in the spiritual realm. God calls all women and men to be on those front lines.

      • Ruth says:

        Well said Tim! We are all on the front line. In terms of domestic front lines, I’m way out there! Running a business, teaching, doing ALL the paperwork for shift worker sons, I know more about car and bike rego and insurance than they do! All tax papers and bills come my way too personal and business. I’m now doing all my dads financial stuff as well. As Maxwell Smart would say, “and loving it”. But I’m behind the lines in terms of home duties, which we all share.
        Spiritually, we are fighters…the same, but different, four grown men, and mini- me, but our battle field is Christs so we can all sing that song, which I did, with great gusto as a child,and I never thought for a moment it didn’t mean little girls and little boys, and I still don’t. Yes Sir!!, and for good measure Yes Sir!!

    • Marsha Miller says:

      Yes, I do think you and your female mentor were too harsh. I would have burst into tears as a young bride if you had told me I didn’t walk like a lady. Who are you to say such a ugly thing and ruin her happy time? How is a lady’s walk different than a gentleman’s? I have never see any difference.

      If she needed to walk more slowly to the music, just say so, don’t insult the poor girl. And if you wanted the wedding walk where both feet come together at the end of each step, that is not a normal walk for men or women. It’s a walk invented for weddings; just show it to her.

      And before anyone asks, no I do not think I am over-reacting.

      • Tim says:

        I don’t think you’re over reacting at all, Marsha. I appreciate your points on this a lot.

      • Ruth says:

        Marsha, I belatedly agree with you. The cheek! Telling a bride she can’t walk like a lady…and he would have to teach her..that would have been a hoot to watch!..sounds Iike a potential YouTube clip!.
        They would have gasped at my walk down the aisle in a tiny country church. My dad was so proud and so nervous that HE took off like a rocket, and I tried to trail gracefully behind him, veil, flowers, dress and high heels all in danger of a spill. We never said a thing to dad, but it brings a smile to our face when we talk over the big day, several jokes about handing me over finally, such a fun memory.
        What’s a mentor at a wedding for? I don’t understand that really. It was our big day, I expected to hear nothing negative, and that minister would not have been allowed to officiate at our wedding had anyone heard such a bossy, intrusive criticism.
        Our dear pastor who officiated, was a child’s dream. Such kindness, love, interest and Christ like love for al his young people. And so special he and his wife were our guardians in our parents will! Can’t get much better than that. He blessed our wedding just by being there. 🙂

  5. R.P. says:

    Women in the front lines of combat? Bad idea but certainly in keeping with the silliness of our times. It’s so much more than a physical strength issue. It’s masculinity and testosterone vs femininity and estrogen.

    • Tim says:

      There are certainly physical differences, not only between women and men but between men and men and between women and women. Masculinity and femininity have nothing to do with it though.

      But the point of the post, as I said in the post itself as well as in responses to comments, is to get a better understanding of what it means to be in God’s kingdom, not to fight modern wars.

  6. Great post. Regarding Christ’s battlefield, the nonsense that the men are to be attuned to the task and women are to be attuned to the men has simply got to go.

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