God gives the sword to take human life. He also provides forgiveness and comfort to those troubled by the power he gives.
Paul C. Ziemer
The e-mail read, “I think I am losing my soul.”
It came from a member of one of the very elite groups within the U.S. Armed Forces at the height of combat operations in the Middle East. And it came from a new Christian.
“I am too good at killing.”
He had lived apart from God until war had made him face the very real possibility of death. Now he was facing the reality that he was very good at killing others.
During his second deployment, a buddy shared e-mail devotions with him that were sent out by WELS Military Services. When he returned, he and his wife sought out the WELS congregation near his home. They were welcomed by wives who knew what it was like to send loved ones into harm’s way—and husbands who knew the burden of killing.
But most of all, they were welcomed by their Savior, and they knew it.
The warrior eagerly embraced the message of forgiveness in Jesus and adoption into his family. Another person might have used the expression, “I found faith,” or “I found God.” He said, “I found my soul.”
When his unit was deployed again, he went with the words of “Onward, Christian Soldiers” singing in his heart. Then the music stopped. He was a highly decorated warrior, one of the best of the best. He knew what his superiors thought of him. They praised him. But now, as a Christian, he began to wonder what his God thought of him.
Thus the words, “I think I am losing my soul. I am too good at killing.”
Then he did the unheard of. He asked to be removed from combat situations. His primary purpose in life had been to defend his country by killing its enemies. Now he lived to serve his Savior faithfully. He did not think he could do both.
Surprisingly, he was not rebuked for taking this step. He returned stateside as a hero and rewarded with some choice assignments.
He was at peace—until further soul-searching found a guilty conscience. In his words, “It burned my heart to think that I was safely in America living the good life, while my battle buddies were still fighting for their lives in the war zone.”
He returned to war with the confidence that he was serving the Lord by defending his country. He had studied through the Bible passages that declared that God had instituted the government to protect its citizens. He knew that St. Paul had written that the ruling powers did not hold the sword in vain (Romans 13). He understood that today’s warriors are given automatic weapons instead of swords.
“I know I belong here!” he wrote. “If I die here, Chaplain, I know I will see you in heaven.”
“Why has God turned his back on these people?”
Once again, his soul was at peace—until something happened that made him question the love of God.
“Why has God turned his back on these people?” he asked in anguish. Then he explained why his soul was tormented.
“On my last patrol, a young woman ran up to me and begged for my help. Her nose and ears had been cut off. She said this was done by the man her parents had given her to as a bride. His excuse was that she had not obeyed him well enough.
“When she turned to her parents for help, they told her she deserved what happened. She needed to obey more quickly. The village elders told her the same thing.
“When she saw my patrol walking with the American flag patch on, she ran up, grabbed my arm, and wouldn’t let go.”
He had seen other sad sights in this turbulent country. It had made him shake his head and wonder how these people could live this way. Now he was wondering how God could allow it.
Once again, the warrior was searching for his soul. He was asking the question, “Does God not care about these people?”
The answer he received from me was the assurance that the love of God is not limited, and though there have been times in history when he rejected a nation, he had not yet done it to this one.
“Alan, you are living proof of his love for these people who still do not acknowledge him as Lord! He sent you to be there for this woman in need. Your patrol was his rescue squad. You are not there only to take lives but also to save lives. Now you know one of the reasons you were led to return to this dangerous and desperate land. You came not just as an American. You are there as a servant of the God of grace and glory to carry out his work.”
“He is the one your soul is searching for!”
When Baptism brought us into the kingdom of God as infants, we grew up with the Holy Spirit within our soul. As we aged, questions grew within us. Sometimes we wondered about the ways of God, and sometimes we questioned them.
But many of us knew that we already had the answers. Loving Christian relatives and teachers had given us answers even before we began to ask the questions. We merely needed to remember what we already knew.
We are an answered people. We know where to look for even more answers.
Those who come to saving faith as an adult begin with a backlog of unanswered questions. Most don’t yet know those wonderful Bible stories and probably have memorized few of the Bible verses we treasure. Those who have not yet come to faith are in greater need—even if they don’t know it.
That’s where we come in.
We might not be on patrol with an American uniform, but we are in the Armed Forces of our God. We have been recruited, trained, and deployed to a place that we describe with the words, “I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home” (Christian Worship 417).
We see the misery and trouble of the people who pass through our lives. We want to offer them the freedom we have and the heavenly citizenship we own. But often it seems there is little we can do, and few of them want our help.
But they are watching us. Our faith is the uniform we wear. It makes some wonder if they could be like us.
They might be afraid to ask. They may be worried about the reactions of relatives and friends if they reach out to us. Yet, some of them will take that risk.
The Savior God has not turned his back on the people with whom we mingle. He knows the needs of their souls. He knows us. He has sent us out into this world as his representatives.
When he leads people to cross our path, we will do what Alan did. We will offer them the protection of the Commander that we serve and of the angels under his command. We will point them to Jesus.
We will tell them, “He is the one your soul is searching for!”
Paul Ziemer, a retired pastor who serves as the National Civilian Chaplain for the WELS Military Services Committee, is a member at Abiding Faith, Cape Coral, Florida.
WELS Military Services offers spiritual resources for those in the Armed Forces. Sign up at wels.net/refer.
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Author: Paul C. Ziemer
Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
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