The U.S. military…a useful analogy
I’m sure I’m not the only pastor and/or teacher of the scripture that is constantly on the lookout for a good analogy or illustration that can help bring clarity to one or more of the truths contained in God’s word.
In my search for just the right analogy to describe the Christian life in general, especially in the way it contrasts with the way everyone else is living life, God has given me one that both believers and unbelievers have told me is the most understandable they’ve ever heard. I’d like to pass it on to those of you who read this blog to see if it might be useful to you.
Before I continue though, please know that this analogy is most effective for those in a culture and a country that has a governmental and military structure somewhat similar to what is found in the U.S.A.
Here it is: The all volunteer military– it’s characteristics and it’s members interaction with the government and other citizens not in the military. This is what I mean:
1. A person must choose to become a part of it, just as a person must make a conscious choice to surrender to Jesus as Lord and Savior.
2. To choose to join, by necessity you must also choose to turn away from pretty much everything else that has been a priority in your life, which includes the right to do the work you want to do, the place you want to live, and many other things that you no longer have control over….because you’ve chosen to surrender to an authority higher than yourself. Easy to make the connection to the follower of Jesus here, right? Repentance.
3. But, you don’t stop being a citizen of the U.S.A. or being governed by it’s laws and you’re still subject to the punishment that is the result of disobeying those laws. Sort of like the dual citizenship and the responsibilities that go along with each citizenship that was clearly expressed by Jesus in response to whether taxes should be paid, and by Paul in Romans 13 and Phil 3:20….for example
4. Instead, you not only must remain a good citizen of the U.S.A., you must also live obediently to the new government that you have chosen to live under. That new government is called the Uniform Code of Military Justice, (UCMJ). Certain actions will be a violation of the laws of both governments. But other actions that you are free to do as a U.S.A. citizen without violating the law, are actually violations of the laws of the UCMJ and you will be held to that higher standard and punished if you violate them. The followers of Jesus, although free to do things that the culture or the government doesn’t consider unlawful, nevertheless don’t participate in those things because they are living with an accountability to a higher law. And when a follower of Jesus violates the principles of the kingdom, other members of the kingdom hold him accountable.
5. Those who are not a part of the U.S. military, are free to choose what the ultimate goal of their life is. Those in the military are not. Everyone in the U.S. military shares one common, ultimate goal: to obey the commander-in-chief as he makes decisions that have the best interests of the whole country in mind. That obedience will at times require the individual soldier to surrender life itself for a cause greater than his own interests. For the follower of Jesus, He is the commander-in-chief and His goal of glorifying God through self-less love does at times require His follower to give up his/her life too.
6. Every person that voluntarily joins the U.S. Military is required to go through a basic training. For Americans, basic training exists to destroy the individualism and independence that are at the top of our cultural mountain. Individual identity in the military, although recognized, is subjugated to finding your identity as part of a group/community. For a soldier to think and act independently and to place individual needs/wants above what is best for the group, cannot be tolerated. To tolerate such behavior is to potentially cost the lives of others. As followers of Jesus, we enter the kingdom as individuals, but we are actually newly born into a “body” that has many parts with many functions and all are interconnected. We have a crucial role to fill, but never in a manner that is disconnected from other members of the body and the body itself.
7. Although some war situations will cause a U.S. military member to only interact with other members of the military, that is generally only for short periods of time. But at some point it will always be the case that every member of the military will have to interact daily with civilians–those not living under the UCMJ. And regardless of how contrary civilians live in contrast with the standards of the UCMJ, the military person will willingly give up his life, if necessary, for those living so opposite of the standards he lives with. The follower of Jesus won’t just die for other believers, he will be willing to die for those who hate Jesus and hate him because he loves Jesus.
Although there are other angles that can be extracted I think these are sufficient for now.
Let’s be thankful for the U.S. military…in perhaps more ways than we have in the past.
Great word Jeff… super illustration.
2 Tim. 2:3-4
I’m ripping this one off, Jeff. Thanks.
Miles, Tim, THANKS. If you have any thoughts about how to add to the analogy, I’d love to hear them.
Hey Jeff, maybe in part 2 you could write about “the military’s” responsibility toward us… you know, clothing, feeding, equipping and training… that sort of thing.
“Who ever goes to war at his own expense?”
That’s where the analogy breaks down as all analogies ultimately do. The military doesn’t have a responsibility to do the things you mentioned. There are times when they are tasked with those things but it definitely isn’t the norm or the mission of the military to do those things. Instead, they are tasked with keeping the environment safe so others CAN do those things without having to fear for their lives.
Thanks Jeff. Not sure I agree with all of it, but definitely some food for thought!
I like the way this analogy focuses on the obedience and submission elements of our walk, a welcome antidote to the “what’s in it for me today” mindset. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Great Point Jim!
We certainly have lost something of the “commitment factor” in modern Christianity. It’s incredibly “easy” to be a Christian in 21st century America where it has been the majority religion for 230+ years. I keep coming back to the “Cannot be My disciple” statements of Christ – awesomely challenging!