Nov 11, 2009

The Nobility of Soldiering

On this Veterans' Day I thought I would share some brief reflections on the nobility of the profession of soldiering. Specifically, I want to point out four ways that we can see the nobility of soldiering in the Bible. In Scripture, the nobility of soldiering can be seen in. . .

1. The positive portrayal of soldiers. In the Old Testament consider especially Joshua and David, two military men are are heroes of the faith (and heroes of the faith at least in part because of their soldiering. In the New Testament, there is, first, the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant (Matt. 8:5-10). When the centurion expressed his belief (based on his own experience as a military officer who expected his subordinates to carry out his orders) that Jesus could heal his servant with just a word, Jesus said, "I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel." Second, we have the example of Cornelius (Acts 10), the God-fearing centurion who was the first Gentile convert to Christianity.

2. The prayers for success in war. In numerous places, God's people prayed for success in battle against their enemies and God answered their prayers positively (Num. 21:1-3; Josh. 10:12-14; Judges 16:28-31; etc.). Especially poignant is David's praise to God in Psalm 144:1: "Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle."

3. The direct biblical legitimizing of the idea of a just war and of soldiering. In Ecclesiastes 3, we have a well-known poem (think of The Birds famous song, "Turn, Turn, Turn") that gives us a series of contrasting human activities all of which have their appropriate times. Among these we read, "A time for war and a time for peace" (v. 8). The idea is that sometimes war is the right thing to do. Also, in Luke 3:10-14, we read of soldiers who came to John the Baptist to repent of their sins and be baptized. They ask John what they are to do now with their lives. Implied is the question, "Should we quit the army?" John tells them simply, "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages." Hereby we have as clear an endorsement of the legitimacy of soldiering as we could ask.

4. The use of military metaphors to describe the Christian life. I will leave it to the reader to check out how many times the New Testament speaks of Christians as "soldiers" and likens our pursuit of Christ-likeness as a war (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 10:3-6; Eph. 6:10-13; 2 Tim. 1-4).

In these and other ways, the Bible underscores the nobility of being a soldier. Let us honor those who serve well in defense of our country.