Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Call of the Soldier

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6

We can look to the writings of the apostle Paul to understand the importance of powerful and relevant words. When words are used that people can connect with, the message has a way of penetrating hearts as shrapnel from explosive devices. In the letter to the Thessalonians, Paul uses the military language to enforce the urgency of his message. You will notice the multiple use of the word “command” in chapter three (3:4, 6, 10, 12). The use of the word refers to the authority of a military superior as he issues out orders to their subordinates. Paul picks up this image to instruct the Thessalonians to become a soldier for Jesus Christ.

We are commanded to become soldiers of Jesus Christ. Paul gives us two commands from these verses to follow: fall in and follow orders. The first command that Paul gives to us is to “keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life.” The Greek word “unruly” refers to a soldier who has gone AWOL and has abandoned his post. We are to avoid the person who has forsaken his assignment. I know several individuals who have received a dishonorable discharge from the military. Even to this day I am told that employers will look unfavorably on individuals who have this mark on their record. Paul tells us not to follow after those individuals who have broken the ranks of the Christian armed forces. We are to fall in and report for duty every day and not be swayed by the actions of others who are not faithful in reporting to duty.

The second command that Paul gives is to “keep away from every brother [who does not live] according to the tradition which you have received from us. Paul is referring to the apostolic teaching that has been handed down from disciples. I remember the first time when my brother Dean joined the Navy. His preparation and training took place at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center right off Lake Michigan near Chicago. The last image that I had of Dean was a hefty 6’3” young man with long hair. The recruits were allowed to call home when they arrived but could not call again until the end of the boot camp. Dean was given several packs of literature to prepare when he arrived at the Naval Center: training booklet, drill and ceremony booklet, literature on ranks, and Navy Core values. He was instructed to study and memorize certain sections of these booklets. Dean was excited. My mom and I traveled to Chicago to see Dean graduate from boot camp, we were amazed to see how much he has changed. He was so thin. My mom almost did not recognize him. As we talked we learned all that he went through: the first thing that he was taught when he arrived was to stand at attention (stand there and not say a word unless someone asks you a question), took his clothes and was issued Naval fatigues, and followed medical and physical procedures. He said that the first three weeks were the toughest. He had to learn how to fold his clothes, polish his shoes, lessons on professionalism and courtesies, take swimming tests, etc.

As I thought about Dean’s recollection of what he went through, I am amazed of the parallels between his experience and ours in the church. We too must be prepared with the Word of God if we are to go into battle. And there is nothing more that the enemy would love to do is to distract you from the Word of God. He loves to downplay its importance in our lives and cause us to trust in other things that the Bible. Not only are we commanded to fall in, but also to follow orders.

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