The Christian Soldier is not just men like Alvin York ( Sgt. York ) who served in the military while being a Christian ( If you don’t know who he is it is well worth the time to read up on him. He was an extraordinary man.) It is all of us who profess to be a follower of Jesus. There are comparisons and references in scripture to this fact, but we do not act like it. The question is why don’t we? Why is it that so many “followers” do their own thing with no unity, direction or discipline? I have two reasons for this.
The first reason is so few in the western world, especially North America, have served in the military. The percentage of the population that carries the “veteran” designation is very small so our frame of reference as to what being a soldier looks like is limited to movies, T.V and books. As a Marine I’ll tell you this does more harm to what a “soldier” looks like then it helps.
When Paul told Timothy, in 2 Timothy 2:4 to not get entangled in civilian affairs so he might please him who enlisted him as a soldier, it was clear to Timothy living in a militarised society with soldiers and garrisons all around what that was like. They saw how soldiers lived and trained, how they fought and carried out their everyday duties. In our society when that is said we don’t have a real frame of reference for this.
In the military a soldier trains for war. They train not just to fight but to eat and sleep at the ready. They learn how to move as one in a unit. They learn their role and the team learns to trust that the one next to them is doing their job so they can focus on theirs. They learn to study, reference and read about all manner of topics that will make them a better soldier. They learn the exercises that will strengthen the body and the foods that will nourish it. They learn how to take care of their feet and boots when on long marches. They learn how to use all their weapons the most efficiently. They learn how to use the technology and tools they have to support those on the front lines. They know that nobody may know about their job, but that job is critical to the mission succeeding,
When you watch a war movie you don’t see the sailor brushing rust off the battleship and paining over the bare spot. That’s not glamorous enough for Hollywood, but it’s necessary for the ship. You don’t see the hours a rifleman sites through the sights or scope at images painted on a barrel “dry firing” round after round to get the proper sight picture committed to muscle memory. You don’t see the hours of class time and off duty time committed to studying. You don’t see the mundane inspections for the inspection before the inspection. They don’t show the countless hours of cleaning what is already clean. You might see the rank structure and the proper utilization of the chain of command, but not likely. There are millions of things that soldiers do that are not seen, but are vital to good order, discipline and unit cohesion.
The more elite the unit, the less they care about rank and more about being the best at their job and mission success. The more “on the edge” the more they look after each other and their brothers best interest, even to the point of laying down their life to ensure the team makes it back. They know they have a task and that there are a million mundane things to do over days to get ready for a mission. They just get it done.
Translate this to the church. The behavior seen in the church is the mission of the church is not important. The other activities like ball games, workouts, cookouts, the beach and T.V shows are more important than the command to the church to go and make disciples. There is no sense of mission or unity. People want to do their thing regardless of the leaderships desires. They show little respect for the chain of command as it is. The pastor, it doesn’t matter if God anointed him and placed him here, we don’t like him so we will vote to fire him and bring in someone we like. The deacons ask you to do it this way, but you do it the way you want. The schedule requires things be done and ready to start at 10:00 and you don’t show up until 9:55. Things are done haphazard as the discipline to do with excellence is lacking. You gossip behind a leaders back and sow discord because you weren’t elevated to the position you want and think you deserve.
You don’t see those traits in the military from someone who wants promoted. When one gets promoted the others who are now below him in rank obey him because of the position, not the person. That comes later. If the platoon commander has 5 NCO’s on a detail he has to pick one to lead. The others follow and obey because the one chosen to lead carries the authority of the officer who placed him in that position. When a pastor is placed in a position by God, he carries out his duties in His name. When you disrespect, disobey, disregard, gossip about, undermine him you are bringing dishonor to the one who placed him in that position. Soldiers understand this.
The second reason why people behave like this in regards to the church is due to our nature. It’s not an accident that Jesus compared us to sheep. Sheep are stupid creatures that get lost easily, will wander off then run around bleating when they realize they are alone, they basically do what they want. Then you have the goats that are more stubborn and ornery. They will actually lead a lamb off and leave it lost. Sound like anybody you know in the church?
When Paul referred to us as soldiers he wanted to convey to us the importance of being of one mind, the mind of Christ. He wanted to convey that we are not to worry about what people who are not Christians are doing, but to focus on what our commander, God, wants us to do. He wanted to show the importance of being disciplined and devoted to the gospel and “recruiting” new followers of Jesus to the Kingdom.
One of the reasons the Marine Corps has less of a problem hitting recruiting goals than the other branches is the image it puts forth. One of the reasons everyone knows units like “Airborne”, “Seals”, “Green Berets”, “Recon” and such is because they are so disciplined, so well-trained that they have earned the recognition. On the flip side no one knows about the 3rd maintenance battalion or the 14th Infantry. They do their jobs, but are not the elite, therefor unknown to most.
When we look at churches and ministries that are well-known it’s for the same reason. They didn’t just get lucky, they worked hard, trained hard, prayed hard and made sacrifices. Those that haven’t done this are not known by anyone outside the local community and sometimes the local neighborhood.
We need a body of Christ that will stand up like a united body and behave like soldiers if we have any hope of curing our societal woes.