I’ve been in the military for almost 9 years now. My enlistment date is coming up really quick: December 1st 2012. That is when I have to decide to stay in or get out. It’s pretty much the half-way point to the 20 year minimum to retire. If I enlist for a third term, it will most likely be for another 4 years. I’ve served all those year in the 133rd MN Air National Guard as a Structures troop. That means that I’m a carpenter for the Air Force. That’s actually how I started my career as a carpenter, which today is allowing me remodel my home into a place of ministry. I don’t know where I would be without the Guard. I also don’t know what use it is to wonder. Hm…
I’ve deployed twice. Same place both times: Kuwait. After three years away I moved into a dorm room right across the hall from my former living space. The running joke for the first few week among those of us who had been there before was, “I think we were just dreaming and we never actually left this place!” Not much had changed except for the work tempo as all the troops moved out of Iraq and needed a place to stay or transition through. It was a lot of work! I spent 4 months of my life there in 2008 and 6 more months in 2012. On my most recent deployment I got promoted to Technical Sergeant (E-6).
In a lot of ways I feel like Joseph who was blessed at whatever he put his hand to. I know that I’ve served well up until this point. My commander likes me (last I heard anyway), my supervisor likes me, some of the troops under me like me. I’ve gotten numerous awards and recognition for my work ethic and leadership ability. I know I could do well there. Maybe even become Chief Master Sergeant (E-9) if I tried for it (which would be a really great retirement deal!). I am second in command in my flight/shop of 9. That leaves a lot of room for advancement in the future. A few people never even make it to TSgt in their entire 20 years, and I was already there by 8. My heavenly Father’s favor has been on me from the moment I swore in.
Therein lies the struggle. Swearing in? Pledging allegiance? Promising my life to defend a kingdom of this world? Unquestioningly spending myself one Sabbath a month on behalf of my country? Volunteering to be separated from my wife for months at a time? Being trained to kill? Declaring our president as lord (in the very real sense – ruler) of my life? Something isn’t resonating here.
Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Do not take revenge. Forgive. Love. Killing is okay sometimes?
One of my primary functional theologies is that I can trust God. I can trust him with my finances. I can trust him with my house. I can trust him with my family. And, one of the most helpful, I can trust him to stand for justice on my behalf when I am wronged. But as soon as I take matters into my own hands, I stop trusting His. You just can’t do both. How does that apply to a believer in the military who is going over seas to take revenge, or better yet, a preemptive strike on our enemies? I’m getting sick of all the back-door ways that we are making it seem okay to not live how Jesus lived.
What would it look like to lay myself down on the behalf of other people, even my enemies, and trust that this will somehow change the world and truly end all the violence and evil? Isn’t this what Christ did? He humbled himself and told us that in His kingdom, the greatest are those who submit themselves under others like a servant. His kingdom and the kingdom I am sworn to protect right now do not mix very well. Is it even possible to serve two masters?
If I am a disciple of Jesus, my life should look somewhat like his. He avoided violence and condemned hatred at every turn. I am made in His image. Here is my life.
- I am not applying this conviction to anyone other than me.
- The government does have a role to wield the sword to maintain good order according to Romans 13.
- Yeah, Hitler and all that… I don’t have the answers, but I’m aware of the argument.
- Non-violence doesn’t necessarily mean non-conflict or non-action. Jesus didn’t kill anyone when he drove the money-changers from the temple.
- I believe I earned my right to speak my thoughts publicly by serving America for 9 years in the Air Force.
- Please feel free to voice your opposition. I am fully aware that most people in America don’t agree with me on this, including many in my own family. I probably won’t respond unless it is obvious that it is meant to encourage the dialog, not just to tell me I hate America.
- Maybe this post was a bad idea. But, my primary objective in writing this blog is to tell you what God is doing and has done in my life. This is definitely something He is in the process of doing.
- I remember arguing against this position to a number of people from our old church in an open forum discussion about this topic, so I get it. I’ve been on both sides. As a side note, the forum was held at a local bar and discussed over some brews! I think that’s pretty awesome for a church meeting (even though I don’t drink much anymore).