No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. – 2 Timothy 2:4(NKJV)
The music of John Phillip Sousa swelled as the US Army Marching Band drew near the stands and my eyes focused on the shiny black shoes rising and falling in perfect unison. The same wind tugging at the ribbon in my hair and the hem of my Sunday dress whipped the flags carried proudly by the Color Guard. We stood, almost holding our breath, as we watched the parade approach. The music inspired sheer patriotism, it’s true. But the pounding in my chest and the tears in my eyes could only be attributed to the presence of the soldiers marching steadfastly behind the band. They were the reason we were there.
I gazed up at my father, his medals and ribbons proudly displayed on his chest. He stared fixedly at those young men, almost as if he were willing them to know he understood them. As the men drew alongside the review stand, they snapped their heads toward my father and saluted as one man. He returned the salute, holding his hand stiffly to his brow. I looked from him to the men and back again, and then turned towards the troops, lifted my gloved hand and saluted them just like my Daddy. And then they were gone…. their next great destiny the deep and engulfing jungles of Vietnam.
Growing up the daughter of a US Army Colonel shaped my life and gave me a perspective different from many of my peers. I understood from an early age that the true measure of a person was their level of commitment to their cause. Those who fulfilled their obligations were rewarded with honor; those who did not were branded as traitors. There was never any question in my mind which choice was most desirable.
Enlisting in the Armed Forces is tantamount to giving someone else complete control over your life. Soldiers understand that commitment to the Army means commitment to following all senior ranking officers in that army. Soldiers are told where to live, what to do, what to wear, how to move, how to speak to others, when to eat, when to relax. Should our nation go to war, commitment may also involve the ultimate sacrifice. Living the life of a soldier is a 24-hour a day, 365 days a year commitment for as long as the soldier remains in service.
Most Christians are not nearly as committed to the cause of Christ as the average soldier is to the Armed Forces. We say we want the power of God, but we are not willing to pay the price for that power. We go to church when it’s convenient; we pray when we need something; we give if we have leftovers; we join a church conditionally. As long as our needs are met and we are not expected to do any more than what is convenient, we will stay. If someone treats us like a soldier, we leave, refusing to take marching orders or submit ourselves to anyone else’s authority.
Where are the soldiers in the Body of Christ? Our nation is currently enmeshed in war at every level. Troops are engaged in combat abroad, politicians are warring in Washington, and everyday citizens are fighting to survive. These things are all natural manifestations of the condition of The Church of America. These battles must be won in the spirit, but cannot be won with a ragamuffin band of soldiers unsupported by all those who have deserted the fight. We kid ourselves in the Church, saying we are willing to fight the devil and harelip hell, but only those living the life of a soldier 24-hours a day, 365 days a year are qualified to do so.
We join with our Heavenly Father to salute all Veterans who have served our nation so bravely in our Armed Forces. We thank you, from the depths of our hearts, for being men and women who understand sacrifice. We join with you in supporting those noble men and women who are currently serving, and we honor and recognize their commitment. But more than that, we commit our own hearts today to follow your lead, to lay down our lives, and to serve as good soldiers in God’s Heavenly Army.
“I do hereby call upon all of our citizens to observe November 11 as Veterans Day. On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States