Jesus loves the Soldier

There are many complexities regarding war. It is never an easy topic simply because it involves the conflict of deciding what are moral absolutes in the heat of battle. Realizing that a soldier has to make judgment calls that could end a life and in some cases the best information that they have to go on is gut instincts. Sometimes it literally boils down to kill or be killed. Real war is not a video game. Some of the greatest casualties of war are veterans. Some of them had to do unthinkable things. Some of them have seen things that words can’t described. Some have become so familiar with death that they had to harden their heart as a way to stay sane. 

In today's message, we stop and take a look at the complexities of war and the soldier:

  • How do we reconcile war with the Gospel?
  • If there is one thing I believe for sure, it is that Jesus loves the soldier even when the soldier doesn’t love him- or herself.
  • More than just pleasantries in an attempt to make ourselves feel good, let's move to another level of being educated on how to understand and minister to our veterans

Because Jesus loves the soldier.  

Passage(s): 
Mark 15:39
Matthew 27:53-54
Luke 7:1-10

Comments

10:32 - video about soldiers—engaging Taliban, returning, dealing with war

10:40 - Like Sons: “Paralyzed” by NF (NF - Paralyzed - YouTube)

10:45 - Prayer: “Sometimes as believers, we can lull ourselves into an isolationist cocoon and forget that the whole basis of the gospel is light coming into darkness. And it’s you meeting us in our darkest moments, our lowest points, our times of anger, pain, confusion. As I open your word, it tells me that as a believer and follower of Christ, your Spirit dwells within me. I have your love and am motivated by that. You tell me I’m a living epistle, and that I’m to walk out your Word. To make disciples. To be your Word.

As we are the body of X, may we never ignore the world around us. When we think of war—which we see as a tragedy in your Word—and we get so inoculated to its effects.

I see men and women living on the streets, under overpasses. Some had been called to battle and have suffered atrocities and haven’t come to grips with how to live with it.

As a church, let us see ourselves on the front lines of loving this world and our veterans—the men and women who’ve come home and don’t know how to articulate, and just shut down.

Show us how to be Jesus, the church, to those men&women who are dying inside bc they can’t figure out how to deal.

As we take the rest of this time to explore these struggles and our place, may Your plan, purpose, will be done and the Kingdom established.

Father, we want heaven to come to earth into every painful place in our lives.

 

An unusual message today… May our hearts be stirred to understand that the church is called to look where others don’t dare to look. And to care where others don’t dare to care. And to have our hearts broken where others choose to deny and harden their hearts.

Our veterans are forgotten casualties of war. My father, brother-in-law, sister have served. You have loved ones who have, or you have. And not all have had the same experience. But when I was 13, one of my brother’s friends came over to the house, who had fought in the Vietnam war. I try to be cool and say, “Thank you. You guys are the real heroes.” The words were good, but I was speaking out of ignorance.

He looked at me and said, “You don’t understand. Some of the people I fought with are the scum of the earth. The things I’ve seen them do. The people I saw them kill. And the way I saw them treat some people. The only way I can describe them is ‘scum of the earth’.”

As a 13-year-old, that was hard for me to comprehend. I realized that there are some who are good and some who are bad. You’ll find that in every camp, every walk of life.

That man was tormented. I think he was speaking about himself because of the choices he had to make.

What would Jesus have said if he had met this man? What would Jesus have done?

 

In Scripture, centurions are mentioned repeatedly. To be a centurion, you had to have battle experience. And battles weren’t always honorable. There was a centurion in the garrison that crucified Jesus. They were doing their job.

They had to take a pledge to worship the emperor as a deity.

It would be easy for a Jew to despise them because of their atrocities and pagan practices.

But when you look at how Jesus responded to them, you hear “Father, forgive.” And then Jesus died, and the temple is opened. And when it dawned on him, you hear the soldier exclaim, “Truly this man was the son of God.”

When the religious leaders requested a centurion to guard Jesus’ tomb.

Earlier (Matt 8:5ff, Luke 7:1ff) a Roman centurion began to understand some things about Jesus and had a sick servant, and called for Jesus to help. His understanding of authority motivated him to ask Jesus to heal remotely. All he has to do is speak, and I know my servant will be healed.

Jesus was in awe. This soldier understands who I am.

 

In Revelation, Jesus addressed the seven churches with two things: This endears me to you. And this is something you need to correct.

I love all my kids, but there’s something about each one that endears me to them, and it’s always different for each one.

I believe that when Jesus looks at a soldier, certain things endear him.

Greater love has no one than this, than that a man would lay down his life for someone. Soldiers do this all the time. Can you imagine when people have the same resolve when following Christ?

Describing video clip about vietnam veterans who came back from fighting and were tormented by the citizens they had been serving.

Statistics:

HUD says 35-40K veterans are homeless.

9% are 18-30, 41% are over 30.

They’ve served in all kinds of conflicts, from WW2 to war on drugs.

2/3 served our country for 3 years.

1.4M vets are at risk of homeless due to poverty, lack of support, bad housing.

Why? Because they live with lingering effects of PTSD and substance abuse and lack of family and social support networks. Military occupations and training don’t readily transfer to the civilian workplace.

Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom: 20% suffer PTSD. Gulf War: 12% PTSD. Vietnam: 30% have had PTSD.

Vets commit 1/5 of all suicides in America. 8000/year. in 2012, the US lost more active duty soldiers to suicide than to combat in Afghanistan: 349.

These soldiers have come home from war. Taking life. Seeing buddies killed. Trying to process it. And they’re scorned.

I saw a news clip of a young man in Oklahoma where a church protested when they brought his body back. Church: “God hates the soldiers”. But 100’s of vets heard about it and became a human shield to protect the family so the son could be properly buried.

Can you imagine?

 

Jonathan Shay - began treating Vietnam vets in the 80s. “The psychological and moral injuries sustained in combat destroyed trust. And when trust is destroyed, all possibility of a flourishing human life is lost.”

Said one vet, who was an 18-y-o virgin. “When I went to vietnam, I wasn’t prepared for it at all. It was ALL EVIL. I am horrified at what I turned into, what I was, and what I did.”

 

The Soldier’s Heart - Rob Sarra - manned a vehicle outside an Iraqi town. Saw a woman approach a vehicle of marines. She insisted on approaching. As the woman hit the ground, she pulled out a white flag. he was in an impossible moral situation of combat. The real place of life-death decision.

Moral injury occurs when a soldier participates in actions that transgress deeply held convictions or beliefs.

 

Photographing Dead Bodies - Logan Mill, Neturing Isaac. “Reborn on the 4th of July” After 11 months active duty, assigned to morgue. Bodies were left outside to swell and stink. Ordered to photograph the corpses of dead and dying Arabs. He’d become numb to human suffering. Like finding a membership card to the KKK with my signature on it. I couldn’t believe I was so callous. And he rejected all religious and moral principles. Life meaningless. Church: “God bless the troops”.

Lamentations began to mean a lot and address his issues.

 

The Nuremberg trials - those tried as war criminals. But others who committed similar acts are given medals. In either case, they all said, “I was just following orders.”

 

Francis of Assisi - was a war veteran. Fought between upper class and ruling government. Was captured. Spent a year in jail. Was tortured, beaten. Released. Suffered PTSD. Would hear things in the mid of the night. Things not there. Tormented. Couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t escape. All he could do was embrace the atrocities. Started associating with lepers—touching and kissing. Hoping to get leprosy. Or to be absolved from the things he suffered. 

Gave away all he owned. All his family’s possessions. People thought him mad. His father took him to the bishop in the center of the town square. As the father laid all the accusations agains the son, the son said, “I no longer serve an earthly father, but only the Father in Heaven.” He took off this own clothes. And the bishop covered Francis with his own robe. “Your family no longer covers you. The church now covers you.” And Francis dedicated his life to follow Jesus.

 

The man who started the Jesuits. Resolved to something greater than themselves.

 

Acts 10 - the first Gentile who gave his life to Christ was a centurion. A roman soldier named Cornelius. He invited family and friends to hear the gospel. Now a follower of X, he put his and family’s life in danger. As a soldier, he knows there’s a cause greater than self. In the lif/death decision, he chose Christ. And the gospel began to be proclaimed to other gentiles.

 

Church, it’s our responsibility to see those who are struggling, living on the streets. They can’t figure out the struggle. We are to be like Jesus. Like Peter. To reach out and seek ways to minister to the soldier. B/c Jesus loves the soldier.

 

11:24 - we’re about to take communion. As we remember what X has done for us, we’ll pray for soldiers and vets.

I typically pray, “Lord, I want to be about your business. Give me vision and dreams of how to be effective in ministry.” Show us how to reach out to vets. Not to glorify war and its complexities and causalities. May we rise up and minister to the forgotten casualties of war.

Ushers, come forward please.

 

11:26 - Lord, I have no regrets about this message. You’ve laid it on my heart. I want to be like you, Jesus. With dirty feet. May we this church have dirty hands and feet. TO recognize the great privilege of being set free. We’re soldiers for X. I pray for all of us to look beyond self and pray ‘show us the purpose for us to walk in that your kingdom could advance’”.

I thank you for the men, women who’ve served. Some know you and some don’t. And they’ve struggled. In the midst of their pain, may they see you. May revival sweep through the military. In every place, penetrate them with light, gospel, hope, love. Cover those who’ve fought and enable them to see there’s a greater cause. And One who loves them no matter what.

Thank you for those who’ve fought on my behalf. May we fight on theirs.

LJ, we know what you’ve done for us. And you’ve called us to be living sacrifices. Thank you for the payment of your sacrifice.

 

Piano: Alas and did my Savior bleed? …At the cross