Soldierly obedience, thrust of Paul's Gospels
The Rev. James Bush, pastor, First Southern Baptist Church, 4300 W. Sixth St.:
In a number of instances, the New Testament writer and apostle we know as Paul used the imagery of the soldier to suggest how the Christian lives in obedience to Christ.
For example, Paul wrote to a young pastor named Timothy, encouraging him to exhibit staying power and telling him to "endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:3). Paul writes to encourage a young man to remain steady in his focus, purpose, and commitment - just as one would expect from a soldier.
The appeal to "endure hardship" means literally to suffer together with someone. Soldiers today are taught to stand firm and stand together, to work as a team, watch each other's back and protect one another.
Paul then uses the reference to a soldier saying, "no one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs - he wants to please his commanding officer" (2 Timothy 2:4).
A soldier's primary concern is obeying is commander 24 hours a day, and Paul wanted the young man he was writing to display the same zeal in commitment to his commander, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The connection of a soldier and a follower of Jesus Christ is an appeal to commitment, obedience and purpose. Soldiers are trained to follow orders single-mindedly, to obey and to serve a higher purpose than self-interests or selfish gain. Likewise, the New Testament message is one of the same. The Christ-follower seeks to live in accordance with Biblical values of grace, peace and righteousness. The Christ-follower is called to obey the teachings of Jesus and to follow with single-minded focus.
- Send e-mail to James Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Warriors of faith are disciples, followers
The Rev. Nate Rovenstine, lead pastor, Lawrence Wesleyan Church, 3705 Clinton Parkway:
In 2 Timothy 2:3, Paul says, "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." These words, and others like them, were written metaphorically to help Christians understand the nature of our walk with Christ.
Following Christ is a privilege, made possible by God's grace to us. It is a challenge made attainable by God's grace working in us. Jesus calls his followers to "take up the cross," "die to self," "follow him," etc. This is the language of discipleship, it is the language of the cross. When Jesus left this earth, he called his followers to "go and make disciples of all nations." The imagery of a spiritual army is the imagery of discipleship, training and discipline. Being a good soldier is akin to being a good disciple.
Our battle is not against people, but against dark forces. These forces reside everywhere. We battle our own selfishness. We battle the societal ills around us. We battle against all forms of evil.
Christ calls his followers to bear spiritual fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. This is hard to do when we are being bombarded with sin and selfishness that is lurking in us, in others and in the systems of society.
Christians are called "soldiers" because we are in a spiritual battle that requires the strength of the God's Spirit, the inspiration of God's word and the accountability of God's people.
As a good soldier trains to win the battle, we, too, must train in order to be successful in this battle. The good news: "We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us."
- Send e-mail to Nate Rovenstine at email@example.com.