Can Adventists serve as police officers?

Questions & Answers December 9, 2016

Q: Can Adventists serve as police officers? What are the differences between serving in the military and in the police force, if any? I’m an Adventist who serves in the U.S. Army as a chaplain assistant and I bear arms. As one who studies this issue a lot, I just haven’t been convinced yet to become a noncombatant. — Andrew, from the United States

A: Thank you for your question, Andrew. While we have addressed questions regarding military service, we haven’t yet looked at the question of police officers.

To help answer this question, I have asked Dr. Ekkehardt Mueller, an associate director of the Biblical Research Institute and chair of the Ethics Commission, to provide a response. He writes:

“The issue that you have raised is a sensible and difficult issue. It has to do with the sixth commandment and how Scripture and Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount understand it. A secondary point would be how it was understood by early Christians who sometimes had to serve in the Roman army. But in the end the question is — is it up to humans to decide in which cases killing is permissible and in which cases it is not? Do we assume that with our limited knowledge, our sometimes crooked logic, or our feelings we can make the right choices? But this is a larger issue that I cannot discuss here.

“Is there a difference between police officers and soldiers? I guess to some degree. While some military leaders would plainly state that the mission of the military is to kill the enemy, police officers have a wider field of duties, and killing a criminal may be rarer than for a soldier in combat.

“Some Adventists would argue that killing the enemy is the lesser evil, and that may be so. But even if we grant this, killing is still a transgression of God’s commandment and a falling short of following God’s call to be peacemakers.

“As you have indicated that you have read and thought about the issue, let me point you to a few articles on the BRI website that may be of interest for you:

1. “Christians and War”

2. “Noncombatancy”

3. “The Power of Culture”

“May the good Lord guide you in your deliberations and choices and bless you.”

It would be good for you to review the helpful back up resources provided by Dr. Mueller. It is important to also remember that although the military is trained to kill to provide security, with the police, they are generally trained to provide security without the objective of killing unless absolutely necessary.

In conclusion, the church provides biblical reasons that it is best not to join the military since the Seventh-day Adventist Church advocates noncombatancy. In countries where there is mandatory conscription, we advocate that individuals enter the military as noncombatants. However, the church does not mandate that an individual be a noncombatant and the final decision, whether for the military or for the police, is left to an individual’s informed conscience after study of the Word of God and prayer.