I have a great respect for those who serve in the military, who voluntarily signed up, trained and serve in combat roles to defend freedom. The discipline is rigorous, the challenges at times overwhelming but as the recruitment poster says, “There’s no life like it.” At times soldiers go rogue, rejecting the self-discipline they have been subjected to and end up with disastrous consequences. The news media has at times picked up the accounts of senior officers who manifest repugnant behaviour behind the guise of rigid external discipline.
The Christian faith is compared in Scripture to a battle. Dr. Rick Reed, our Heritage President, brought an excellent chapel message yesterday on Battle praying from Ephesians 6:18-20. He challenged us with the language of the text to remember the strategy of the great Enemy of our souls in Temptation, Condemnation and Intimidation. We closed our chapel praying for each other as faculty, staff and students. Dr. Reed will conclude this study next Tuesday during our regular chapel time. (May I, on a side note, urge you to pray for protection and empowerment for those who lead Heritage College & Theological Seminary. We need God’s grace and as the psamist reminds us, “Unless the LORD builds the house (Seminary), those who build it are labouring in vain.”
As Paul compiles his second letter of instruction to Timothy, he uses a military analogy to press home the calling and conduct of this recruit who will serve at the pleasure of his commanding officer.
“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer.”
For soldiers, hardship is normal. There are no lounge chairs on the battlefields in which we fight. Good soldiers don’t quit. They don’t abandon their post, but stay in position awaiting the next commands from their senior officers. Like a mighty army moves the church of God, Brothers we are treading where the saints have trod… Onward Christian soldiers…. Thought Timothy is reluctant, tearful and somewhat hesitant to ‘take charge,’ he must deny himself, take fresh courage and press on in the battle.
No Roman soldier was permitted to gain involvement in civilian affairs. He was in uniform, in service, under strict orders of the centurions and generals who oversaw the battle plan. Good soldiers aim to please. They are not marching to their own drumbeat, but to that of their commander. When he says jump, they ask “How high?”
It is not just the Salvation Army who needs to reflect on this text. Even pacifists have to align their wills with the urgent reality of which Paul speaks. Every Christ follower must well ask themselves, “Am I A Soldier Of The Cross?”