Dear Church Family,
Yesterday was Veteran’s Day, a national holiday set aside to honor all those who have served in the armed forces of the United States. Veteran’s Day is distinct from Memorial Day in that the latter is for the purpose of honoring all those who have died in service to their country, not just those who have served. That’s not the only difference, though. Most people get a day off from work on Memorial Day, whereas Veteran’s Day often passes unbeknownst to many.
Yesterday, my wife and children started the day by wishing me a “Happy Veteran’s Day!” I confess that I was a bit nonplussed. I served in the U.S. Army for about sixteen years (eight on active duty and eight in the reserves), but I never deployed to combat. As they say, “I never saw a shot fired in anger” – unless, of course, you count the guy next to me on the qualifying range who missed every target). So, in response to my family’s greeting, I said, “I may have served in the army, but I never went to war.” My wife corrected me, “That doesn’t matter. You’re a veteran. This is a day in which we honor all those who served in the military.”
Members of the Body of Christ
The Apostle Paul often employs the language of being a soldier to describe the life of the Christian (e.g., Ephesians 6:10ff; Philippians 2:25; Philemon 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:3-4). There are many other metaphors and illustrations for the Christian life in the Bible (being a farmer, an athlete, a servant, etc.), but let’s just think about how a Christian is described as a soldier – particularly as it relates to Veteran’s Day.
Perhaps, as a Christian, you sometimes feel as I do with respect to being a veteran: “I’m not a missionary or a pastor, an elder or a deacon. I haven’t won hundreds to Christ.” It could be easy to fall into the trap of thinking of yourself as not a soldier of Christ, simply because your Christian life doesn’t seem to you to be all that glorious. That would be a mistake. And, it would be the opposite of what the Bible tells us about the essential nature of each part of the body of Christ.
In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul describes the Church as a body:
12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
You, people of God, are Christ’s body. And you, Christian, are individually members of it.
Think of the vows which you took when you joined the church. Do you acknowledge that you are a sinner, without hope except for God’s sovereign mercy (Vow #1)? Do you believe, receive, and rest upon the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Vow #2)? As a member of the body of Christ – His Church – do you endeavor to live as becomes a follower of Christ (Vow #3)? Do you support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability (Vow #4)? Do you submit to the government and discipline of the Church, working toward her purity and peace (Vow #5)?
When you believe in Christ for the saving of your soul, seek to honor Him in your life, attend worship, participate in the life of the church, support and pray for the church, love your brothers and sisters in Christ, read the Bible and pray with your family, invite others to church, you are doing the work of the kingdom – and it is no small thing! It may seem ordinary, not very glorious, and sometimes even mundane, but it’s not.
When I was an infantry officer, we used to say that 90% of the military supports the 10% at the tip of the spear. I don’t know if that’s an accurate statistic or not, but it’s close enough to be a reminder that soldiers don’t function as individuals. There is no such thing as ‘an army of one.’
Later in my military career, as a chaplain and minister of the gospel, one of my responsibilities during the deployments following September 11, 2001 was to be the “Rear Detachment” (or Rear-D) chaplain for one of our sister units. Being a Rear-D chaplain meant helping to care for the family members of the soldiers who were deployed to combat. It didn’t feel very glamorous, but it was an important – even essential – part of supporting those who were at the ‘tip of the spear.’
Perhaps you don’t feel like your Christian life is all that glamorous, or that it doesn’t count for much in God’s war-plans for advancing His kingdom. If so, then you need to recalibrate your thinking. If you are a member of the body of Christ your role is important – even essential – to the work of the kingdom.
For a corrective to how many Christians think about the ‘ordinariness’ of the Christian life, I recommend the article, “The Ordinary Christian Life” by Michael Horton. Or, you could just sing the nursery-rhyme song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” until it sinks in.
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch