Memorial Day is a national holiday to honor those who have died in military service. John Logan, a U.S. Congressman and Union General during the Civil War, began the memorial. As commander in chief of a Union veterans’ organization he urged the members to decorate soldiers’ graves with flowers on May 30th. Eventually it became a national holiday and extended to all U.S. war dead. Memorial Day is marked by the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Having been at war since 2001, I suspect that we are keenly aware of what soldiers sacrifice—what soldiers do.
I’ve noticed the military imagery found in the New Testament. “Put on the whole armor of God” (Eph 6:11 see also 1 Thess. 5:8), “put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12), “the weapons of righteousness” (2 Cor. 6:7), “the weapons of our warfare” (2 Cor. 10:4 3), “fellow soldier” (Phil. 2:25, Phl 2), “wage the good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18), and “good soldier” (2 Tim. 2:3, ESV). From Paul I learn something about what it means to be a good soldier, and from soldiers I learn something about what it means to be a good Christian.
A good soldier is committed to the mission. Paul expresses it this way: “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits” (2 Timothy 2:4, ESV). A spiritual war is going on, and we must choose sides. Spiritual battles must be fought by those clothed in “the armor of light.” Paul’s choice of the term “entangled” sounds a warning. Other tasks and activities can interfere with what is most important. As one hymn writer has expressed it, “Have done with lesser things; Give heart and mind and soul and strength / To serve the King of kings.”
A good soldier follows orders. “[H]is aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:4, ESV). No doubt you’ve seen television interviews from Afghanistan and Iraq with words like “whatever our Commander in Chief orders us to do, we will do.” Brave words—sacrificial words followed by deeds. We too have marching orders. Put on the whole armor of God. Wage the good warfare. Has the Lordship of Jesus Christ filtered down into your daily life?
A good soldier endures hardship. “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3, ESV). We witnessed it on television: sand storms, lack of sleep, army rations, heat, bio-chem protective suits, wounds, captivity, roadside bombs, and even death. We too are called to something larger than ourselves, greater than our comforts. Jesus warned that discipleship would be costly (see Luke 14:26-35). Are we trying to get by on “cheap grace” and “discipleship-lite”? Our cause is worthy of any sacrifice we may give.
Remember those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom, and learn from them what it means to be “a good soldier” of Christ Jesus.