The Gospel and the Military1
We continue our "Friends of Redeemer" series, this week hearing from Sarah Grace Pavelchak on the desperate need of our military to be influenced by the Gospel. Sarah Grace's husband is in the Navy.
I Pledge Allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
This memorable and simple pledge was created to envision young Americans to have a love for our country and to summarize what we value concerning our country’s principles. The pledge is also a declaration of a love of our country with the following assumptions: 1) that we are of one mind, that we are under the authority of our one true God 2) that we walk in unity with freedom and without oppression and 3) that we will behave in a manner that is morally fair between brethren. Our country was created for religious freedom under God’s righteous and gracious rule.
“I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.”
Thus states the 6th code under the U.S. Armed Forces Code of Conduct. Through looking at the past central themes of our country's military values, you can see how it was centered on God. Our pledges and historical documents did not leave Him out. This is a stark difference from our military today. The prayers, codes, and messages that once began meetings and gatherings are rarely seen in the current military lifestyle.
Being a Christian in modern military life could be compared to a salmon making the tough journey up stream. There are times it can feel as though everything in life is coming at you trying to drive you in the mainstream direction, opposite of what you're striving towards. There are so many hardships and uncertainties: low finances, multiple moves, many times having a lack of physical support from either family or close friends, having to adjust to new schedules and different cultures around you, searching for Gospel centered churches, having an uncertain future, and even adjusting to different weather and driving conditions. Add to that the pressures of those directly in the military, either locally or deployed, who are daily surrounded by the constant awareness of what is going on in the world. Basically, facing and experiencing real war, terrorists, cyber attacks, the possibility of death or critical injury, loss of family and/or friends and many hard realities civilians (non active duty citizens) may not commonly see or face in a lifetime. With all of that coming towards you, it is extremely easy to get drawn into fear, anxiety, depression, lack of faith, ect.
I have seen and met multiple men, women, husbands, wives, and families who just need one thing: the Gospel. As a Christian we have hope in Christ Jesus. He's our support, our comforter, our true love, and all that we need. The majority of military personnel that I have seen do not know this hope and are strongly discouraged against it. There is a lack of the Gospel being shared in the military today that, if preached, comes across as foreign to most. The Gospel (“proclaiming the good news of peace”—Acts 10:36b) is actually discouraged in the workplace. There are strong Christians in the military, but in my experience they are usually looked down upon and ignored. Where I have been placed, people are usually either complete atheists or agnostics. Often when one tries to talk to anyone about Christ without them initiating the conversation, they immediately are put off. They sometimes attack verbally, saying that you’re shoving a “fairy tale” down their throats. The spoken word of the Gospel causes non-believers to inwardly shout their insecurities, feeling their world is threatened. It can be uncomfortable, but we’re not in this world to feel comfortable and to fit in. We as Christians are called to be a light of Christ, mirroring His example.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16.
There is a huge push for equality in all aspects of the military and the country that it ironically separates people and causes a great hunger for acceptance. It’s a current that’s forcibly pushing against the Word of God, yet it gives a better picture of how urgently the military needs the Gospel. I state this not out of negativity, but out of a heart that sees such a desperation and need for Christ. I would ask for those of you reading this to pray for the Christians in the service who need courage, wisdom, and creativity in sharing the Gospel. That those Christians would have clear opportunities to share their faith, as well as opportunities to serve families and friends in the service.
Lastly, I share my thoughts and concerns out of aspiration to spread more awareness for the need for prayer and encouragement to those in the service and their families. There are so many ways military personnel and civilians in the country can be reaching out and sharing the Gospel. It really can be so refreshing to hear encouragements and genuine empathy from friends and family back home. Having a support system is a huge need. It's an area where local churches could serve and set an example of Christ. Being supportive and having a servant’s heart is the best way I’ve seen for those inside the military to set an example of Christ. As the military is the physical security of our nation, I feel it is critical for the good news of Christ’s love and sacrifice to be a central theme.
I’d like to end by sharing President George Washington’s Prayer for the United States.
Almighty GOD; we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection, that thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States of America at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of The Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech thee, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen
More in Redeemer Blog
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October 29, 2019When are the Glory Days? Lessons Learned from Heartland, Part One