Tuesday, June 11, 2013

THE DEVOTED SOLDIER (Part 2 of 4: When the Going Gets Tough: Metaphors of Faithful Christian Service in Difficult Times)

Read Part 1 HERE

2 Timothy 2:1-6
"You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops." (NIV) 

Some Christians believe in Pacifism. They hold that it is never God's will for a Christian to join the military. But it seems that Paul highly regards the soldiers' profession. Whenever he used it as a methapor, he does so positively. In this letter, he shows his admiration for the soldiers' endurance in hardship and their dedication to their duty.

When the commanding officer announces to his men that they would go to Basilan for a military operation, will the soldiers ask,"Sir, do we have a hotel reservation?" or "Sir, we won't go there until you can provide for us blankets, pillows and mosquito nets." No they won't. Though they would be happy if they will be provided with some comfort, they would willingly fulfill their duty with or without it.

The term of service for a soldier in those days was 20 years; two decades of total devotion to the profession without being entangled with civilian affairs. For every 100 enlisted men, only about 50 of them survived to retire 1 . That's an indication of the difficulties a soldier must face within those two decades of service. Paul urged Timothy to have that same intensity of dedication.

How do you apply that today? Does it mean we can only engage in religious activity and not in secular pursuits? It can't be. It can't be because Paul himself would often work to earn and instead of seeing that as a hindrance to ministry, he saw it as profitable to his testimony (1 Cor. 9:1-18). John Stott wrote:

"The Christian, who is intended to live in the world and not contract out of it, cannot of course avoid ordinary duties at home, at work and in the community. Indeed as a Christian he should be outstandingly conscientious in doing and not dodging them. Nor should he forget, as Paul reminded Timothy in his first letter, either that ‘everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving’ or that ‘God … richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy’ (1 Tim. 4:4; 6:17). So what is forbidden the good soldier of Jesus Christ is not all ‘secular’ activities, but rather ‘entanglements’ which, though they may be perfectly innocent in themselves, may hinder him from fighting Christ’s battles." 2

So what are entangling civilian affairs? I take the position that these are activities which keep God's servants from fulfilling the tasks given by God, thus causing his displeasure. Sinful acts are surely included here. Also entangling secular pursuits like taking earning opportunities that will force you to give up church attendance. Or being busy with pursuits that will lead to the non-usage of your spiritual gifts. Even spiritual activities could be entanglements if it leads to the neglect of your primary duties (Acts 6:1-4)

What do we have to gain for being devoted soldiers? It is the pleasure of our Commander-in-Chief (Matt. 25:21)

1. Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament
2. John Stott, The Message of 2 Timothy: Guard the Gospel (The Bible Speaks Today Series)

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