Published in the African Military edition
When one joins the armed forces one is required to wear a uniform, to obey orders unquestioningly, to work in close co-operation with others, to focus on a common goal and to subordinate one’s own identity and desires to those of the organisation.
Each member of an army, navy or air force uses his or her abilities and training, which are often acquired in the military, to promote and serve their country through that corps.
There is also a certain quality of character that is associated with someone who wears a military uniform; he or she is expected to be honourable, honest, brave, hardworking, disciplined and diligent.
Because many of these same concepts apply to the way Christians are expected to conduct themselves, it is therefore no surprise that Jesus and the Bible writers used military service as one of the many analogies of following Jesus. Paul in Ephesians 6 even attributes characteristics to each item of an ancient Roman soldier’s uniform and urges Christians to “stand firm”, dressed for battle and prepared to “fight the good fight of faith”.
When a person joins the defence force he or she is given a uniform to wear that signifies membership of that organisation, allegiance to its leadership and status or rank. In the same way, when a person makes a commitment to Jesus he or she is issued with what the Bible calls “robes of righteousness”.
Just as a military uniform should be worn with pride, treated with respect and indicate a subordination of self to a higher allegiance, so Christians should treat the righteousness (purity, spotlessness and holiness) that they have been given by God. Their “uniform”, i.e. their exemplary living, should be evident to all as a sign of their recruitment into God’s purposes and allegiance to His Person.
In the same way that young boys may play at being soldiers, some people may call themselves Christians – but without the uniform, which they cannot manufacture themselves, their farce is obvious to all. Also, in the same way that soldiers can bring disgrace to their unit by wearing a dirty or sloppy uniform or acting unbecomingly while wearing it; Christians bring shame to the cause of Christ by acting in sinful, unrighteous ways.
Christians need to remember that, just like military personnel, their actions reflect on their organisation, and their desires, time, talents and abilities are not their own to do with as they please, but “belong” to the cause to which they have committed themselves.
Both soldiers and Christians open themselves up to danger and attack by declaring their allegiance; however Christians, unlike those entering any military conflict, are assured of the outcome of the battle because the war has already been won by Jesus. When He died, taking all our sins upon Him, and rose again on the third day, He triumphed over sin, death and his archenemy, the devil. That is why He was able to say: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
The spoils of war are assured and await Christians in the next life if they remain faithful and don’t desert, wearing their uniform with pride and obeying the orders of their heavenly Commander in Chief.