My wife and I recently spent a week at church camp helping to supervise the children sent from our church. One of the songs sung by the campers was I’m in the Lord’s Army.
I may never march in the infantry,
Shoot the artillery,
Ride with the cavalry.
I may never fly over the enemy,
But I’m in the Lord’s army.
Of course this comes with body motions. The campers marched on the first line, clapped their hands to simulate shooting the artillery, pretended to be riding with the cavalry and put their arms out to fly over the enemy. At the end of the line, “But I’m in the Lord’s army.” campers said, “Yes, Sir.” and saluted smartly.
They also sang other versions such as the cowboy version. That version was sung much slower. The marching was done bow legged and with a swagger. Shooting the artillery consisted of fanning a single action six shooter. Rather than fly over the enemy, the campers sang, “I may never lasso the enemy,” and made motions as though throwing a rope. At the end of the last line, the campers pretended to tip a cowboy hat and shouted, “Yee-Ha”.
Everyone had fun and the campers were reminded that a Christian is a servant of Jesus much the same way a soldier is under orders from his commander.
Hundreds of thousands of Christians serve in the armed forces of their respective nations, but their service in the military is not the same as being in the Lord’s army. The song is metaphorical. The Lord’s army does not kill and destroy, but like any soldier, soldiers in the Lord’s army are under authority. A Christian is expected to follow the directives of his or her pastor. A Christian is expected to read the Bible and follow what it says. Ultimately each Christian is under the authority of Jesus.
Like everyone else, I was shocked to read about the bombing and shootings in Norway, and I was surprised when the first reports identified the gunman as a “right wing radical Christian terrorist.” The journalist probably had not even had time to verify that the gunman was a member of a Christian church, and had no way of knowing at that time whether or not he was a radical. As the facts came out, it was learned that he was not acting on behalf of any Christian organization. He was acting out political and cultural frustration. He is a man who wishes to stop the immigration and cultural encroachment of Muslims into Norway. His dispute is not with Islam so much as it is with the hordes of Muslim immigrants who he thinks threaten to change the nature of Norwegian society. In his manifesto, he uses religious moral values to justify his position, but does not cite any Bible passages that guided his actions or justify his actions.
I heard Janet Parshal, a radio commentator, say that Christian terrorist is an oxymoron. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and do good to them. A person under the command of Jesus will not commit acts of terrorism in the name of Christianity.
The soldiers in the Lord’s army are on a mission to seek and to save the lost. They are under a command to spread the gospel of Jesus. In addition to that they often provide food, shelter and medical treatment to those in need around the world. In fact there are stories of foreign missionaries who have been physically attacked. Yet they continue to served the people who attacked them. Our church supports a missionary to Haiti who’s house was invaded by thugs. His wife was raped, he was beaten and his home ransacked. One of the items taken was his good pair of shoes. Two weeks later a man walked into his mission church wearing that pair of shoes. The missionary did not react with anger, but kept preaching about the love of God. At the end of the service, the missionary saw his shoes come down the isle worn by a man who’s heart had been touched and wanted to learn more about Jesus.
By contrast, Islam expanded in the 8th and 9th centuries by military conquest. Their message was, “Convert to Islam or die.” This tactic certainly expanded the membership rolls, but I wonder just how devout such converts are. Most modern Muslims are polite and make friends with non-Muslims or infidels. There are those, however, who attack infidels. They justify their violence by citing verses from the Koran that call on Muslims to fight in the name of Allah and to kill infidels. When Muslim radicals fly an airplane into the Twin Towers or blow up a bus full of civilians in Israel, there is no doubt they are acting in the name of Allah.
Of course there are misguided members of any group. They act independently and without authority from the group. Generally, they are either insane, rebellious or poorly informed. Even taking account for such individuals as those who bomb abortion clinics and commit atrocities in the name of their cause, we must accept two factors. The Bible and Christian doctrine prohibit violence and call on Christians to promote Christianity through love and acts of charity. The Koran and Islamic doctrine promise rewards for those who fight in a Jehad, a holy war to promote Islam. The Koran can be interpreted to instruct Muslims to kill infidels, and the doctrines of the militant groups call for aggressive action.
I am in the Lord’s army. As a Christian I am not to fight a physical fight. I am under orders from my commander to help the unfortunate and even my enemy as I go forth to spread the gospel. The time may come when Christians have to defend themselves with military action, but even then Christians are called to love the enemy. While military gains may be necessary for protection, the primary goal of those in the Lord’s army will continue to be to win lost souls over to Jesus.