Faith on the Front Line
BRIG (Ret’d) Jim Wallace, AM
When I was serving in Defence during the long peace, there weren’t many front lines around. But in fact, there is a very real front line for all of us as Christians serving in the military, indeed as I now experience daily, in our Christian walk in the nation and community at large. The front line is where our faith and its values clash with the world’s “faith” and its values.
It’s a front line with all the characteristics of a battle field – but with even more consequence. It is in reality even more important. How we perform at that point of contact has enduring implications – not just for one battle, but for the cause of Christ more generally in our place of witness – the Defence Force – and our world. And make no mistake it is a clash of values at this point of contact. And our values are formed eventually on whose wisdom we follow.
You and I must draw our values from the wisdom of God, not the wisdom of the world. Partnering with worldly wisdom, often simply what’s customary or popular has so often been the first mistake of the Church. The battlefield analogy is that your front line has been infiltrated and your position is untenable; you have to retreat and you might be routed.
Martin Niemoller, a pastor who initially supported the National Socialist Church but was later interned himself, described it this way after the War:
“First they came for the communists, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist, then they came for the trade unionists, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionists, and then they came for the Jews, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew, and then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
That applies to the erosion of the values of any organisation, of any person’s capital of integrity and therefore authority. Now the question is still how do we manage our faith at this front line – whether it’s the battlefield front line, the barracks front line or defence committees as the front line. How do we find the courage to stand, or the even greater quotient required to lead. How do we determine the values and maintain our commitment to them?
The answer – as always – is to be found in scripture. If we want values better than those driving parts of this world – we have to look outside it and rely on what it denies – the spiritual.
In 1 Corinthians 2:11–13 we are told:
“For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God, except the Spirit of God. This is what we speak, not in words taught to us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit taught words.”
I have always been a great believer that in this world we have to speak and demonstrate our faith in words and ways the world understands. The safeguard, lest we corrupt the message, is that we rely on the Spirit. We need to speak and act in ways to a world
that doesn’t understand spiritual things as the scripture says with “spirit taught words”. Of course I would never add to the scriptures, but I think implicit in the scripture is an equal requirement on our actions and our witness.
If faith at the front line of the battlefield, the barrack room or the defence committee is going to triumph, if it is going to make a difference, it must be informed by the Spirit. The secret is to stay close to Him. There are a host of organisations in the Defence Force to provide fellowship and prayer coverage, and if we are to be effective for Christ, if we are to ensure that our faith is to not just survive at the front line on the battlefield but thrive and demonstrate through our witness by word and deed that Christ is real, we have to avail ourselves of this fellowship. We have to stay in fellowship in order to stay strong in our faith.
All the theory and knowledge of scripture is for nothing unless we have the courage to stand for Christ when it counts. I’ve mentioned it previously, but the reality is that contacts and battles on the front line are carried as much by courage as anything else, and God equally requires it of us in this spiritual battle – the spiritual front line in which you find yourself every day.
Courage is a decision – it is a decision that each of us has to make each day – to be courageous. God will honour your decision, but you first have to make it.