With All Respect

Yesterday in the United States we remembered our veterans. It is an honorable thing to recognize and pay tribute to those who have served. I myself have not served, as a pigheaded young man I ignored my father’s requests to submit application for the United States Naval Academy and it is one of the few decisions in my life that I truly regret. With that said I have lived in a number of countries outside of my beloved United States and fully understand the freedom that those who serve, and have served, procure for us and how important they are to the continuation of such things.

In this modern day our young men and women who serve do not get the credit they deserve and while I was impressed with President BOB’s speech at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier it is painfully evident that the United States Military, and the welfare of our service people, rank somewhere off of the bottom of his list. Many objectors these days consider war, and those who participate in such things, to be purely evil. This particular public outlook on war fosters, in many of our men and women who serve, doubts about their roles in the military. A few of my own particular friends have suggested that they have concern that their actions in time of war are “unforgivable sins,” or at least sins that hold them back from the Kingdom of Heaven. My first comment is that we learn throughout scripture that God has forgiven all sins through the gracious act of our Savior, Jesus Christ. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8, KJV. along with; “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;” 1 Corinthians 15:3, KJV. Now as long as you believe and have faith in Him, doing the work of the Gospel, you are covered.

I would also submit that although wars may be caused by evil things, the hand of God controls all things and that war in itself is used by God to show forth His glory. In the book of Joshua we read that the Children of Israel waged war with the blessing of God against the many city states of Canaan. The first to fall was Jericho. All of us remember the story from bible school when we were children, someone probably brought in a shofar and after our eardrums had been shattered from the sound we all imagined the walls falling down and that was that. The question is were you taught about what happened after the walls fell? Everyone in Jericho, except for Rahab and her family that were within her home, was put to death; women, children, men, sheep, oxen, cows (Joshua 6:21).

As we read further into the book of Joshua the same fate awaits the rest of the city states within Canaan, Ai, Jarmuth, Eglon, Debir, Lachish and many more. God allows this to be done to prove to the doubters that HE IS GOD! Rahab saw this evidence, the people of Gibeon saw the same. Thirty one kingdoms were put to the sword as Joshua and the Children of Israel entered into Canaan, all with the blessing and command of the Lord (Joshua 12:9-24). In the book of Judges we read of Gideon and his 300 men, men chosen by God to wage war in the defense of Israel against the Midianites. The scriptures inform us that 120,000 men fell under the sword of Gideon and God’s 300 chosen. (Judges Chapters 7/8) So God uses warfare in times to show His Glory and to accomplish His means.

Of course I have just described a series of passages that recount God’s own people waging war against the heathen with His blessing. But what about those who serve but not in the Army of Gods people, people who serve for kingdoms that are quite the opposite? My first comment here is that all kingdoms are of God, those who worship Him and those who do not, for God ordained all that is. However, we are given a very specific example about military service outside of God’s chosen people in scripture.

From Matthew 8:5-13 “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.” This same story is repeated in Luke 7:1-10.

On the face of these verses we see a man who has supreme faith in Christ’s deity and ability as the Messiah. Speak the word, the centurion says, and my servant shall be healed. Jesus says that he has not found faith as great as this man’s in the whole of Israel. Interesting that comment, for this faithful man is a Centurion, a commander of a Centuriae, a unit of 80 men (standard number was 80-84, not 100 as often thought) serving in the Imperial Legions of Rome. The Centuriae was the basic unit of the Roman Army, these were the guys on the ground, in the front lines, doing the dirty work as it were. The men who ushered Christ to the Cross were members of a Centuriae. But Jesus here commends this Centurion’s faith. We know from History that the Romans were not particularly Godly as a whole, as a matter of fact Emperor Titus completely destroys the second temple (of course this is in fulfillment of God’s warning and promise), and throughout the history of the Empire until the reign of Constantine the Great, faithful Christians are persecuted throughout. But Jesus commends the Centurion’s faith and heals his servant. You will note that Jesus does not say, “vile creature,” or “hypocrite,: as he does to some others who are supposedly citizens of God’s chosen. Nor does he tell this man to repent, quit his job and turn away from soldiering. He says “go thy way, and as thou has believed, so be it done unto thee.” (Matthew 8:13)

We do not have the rest of this man’s story, but what we do have is not a condemnation of his profession, but an exaltation of his faith. Scripture teaches us through these examples, and a number of others that I really don’t have time to list here, that soldiering is an honorable profession, as long as it is done with proper faith and understanding. So as we honor our men and women in service, remind them that their job is something that God has ordained, and that through faith in Him they will still have forgiveness and salvation.

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