by COL Alexander Shine, USA (Ret.)
It was 12 May 1962. I was sitting in the mess hall where General Douglas MacArthur was to receive the Thayer Award. We knew we were in the presence of history. We were seeing and hearing one of the greatest soldiers of all time in what was his last visit to the alma mater he loved. You have most likely heard or read the speech, or at least this part of it:
“Duty, honor country. These three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.”
Duty, honor, country. These are indeed words to live by. It is my hope, prayer, and expectation that they will mark your character throughout your life. But on this very special occasion of your spiritual commissioning, I would like to suggest to you three other words which should affect the direction and quality of your lives: Jesus is Lord.
For Christians, these three words–even more than duty, honor, country–dictate what we should be, what we can be and–by God’s grace and our persistence–what we will be.
“Jesus is Lord” will be reflected in the integrity of your life. The man or woman people see in the chapel choir or the OCF Bible study will be the same man or woman they see in the company headquarters, on patrol, in his home, and at the unit hale and farewell.
In 1967 I was the senior advisor to a Vietnamese ranger battalion. I wrote many letters to my wife during that year, but one, which perhaps meant the most to her came not from me but from the wife of the Vietnamese major who commanded the battalion. She told Sandra how fortunate Sandra was that her husband was not like most other men, chasing the very available girls from the local village. What a blessing for my young wife to hear that from one who had simply observed the difference in my life–a difference that was the result of my imperfect, but sincere determination that Jesus would be the Lord of my life. I was faithful to Sandra because I loved her and did not want to hurt her, as much as I loved my Lord and did not want to bring dishonor to His name.
In this, as in all other areas, Jesus must be Lord. And as He is Lord, there will be integrity in your life.
“Jesus is Lord” will affect your attitude toward your career. Your mission from the Army–and even more from our Lord–is not to reach some particular rank, but to serve your nation and lead and serve your soldiers. Knowing that we are called to this by our Lord frees us from the unreachable drive for personal success, to follow instead the call and example of our Lord’s in true service.
“Jesus is Lord” will be a source of great strength and guidance in combat. Knowing that Jesus is Lord in your life will give you confidence to handle the weight of combat command and the courage to face death. This does not mean that you may not be killed. Jesus was Lord as much in my brother Jon’s life as he was in mine, but God allowed the North Vietnamese machine gun bullets to cut him down after only a few weeks in battle, while I survived fifteen months there with only a few scars.
Nor does your faith mean you will never feel fear. It is part of our humanness–often a necessary and helpful part. In times of immediate danger you will often be afraid. But knowing that nothing can “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus,” and that “to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” will give you confidence in your mind to help overcome the fear of your instincts. Knowing that things do not happen to Christians by accident, and that you are under His protection will help calm your pulse as you move out on your first combat patrol. This confidence will help you do your duty as an officer–which is to do whatever is needed, whenever needed, regardless of your personal danger. You will find this confidence a continuous help and comfort as you walk into danger, and perhaps even more as you walk into danger again and again.
“Jesus is Lord” will also affect how you fight, and how you train your soldiers to fight-with courage, skill, and aggressiveness, but also with compassion and restraint. I encourage you to make it a goal so that when you and the men and women you lead come home from war, you come home with nothing to be ashamed of.
“Jesus is Lord” will add a dimension of ministry to your life. Through chapels, OCF, and other forums, you will seek to carry out the Great Commission. All of us are called to be active parts of the Body of Christ, “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” and always being “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have . . . with gentleness and respect.” In the military we share our message of hope and salvation.
Finally, “Jesus is Lord” will affect your attitude towards the end and legacy of your life.
“As men and women of God we seek a “well done“ , not the “well done” of men or even our precious alma mater. It’s only the “well done, good and faithful servant,” of our risen Lord that matters.
Jesus is Lord! Let these three words mark what you should be, what you can be, and what by God’s grace and your persistent decision, you will be.
“Therefore, my dear brothers,”–my brothers and sisters just embarking on an exciting adventure of service to men under the Kingship of God–“stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Al retired from the Army after 27 years of service, was a Commandant of Cadets at Culver Military Academy for 10 years, and currently lives in Carlisle, PA, where he and his wife, Sandra, are active in OCF and the U.S. Army War College chapel. He has been active in OCF since coming to Christ as a West Point Plebe in 1960.
Address by Colonel Alexander Shine, United States Army, Retired, at the USMA OCF spiritual commissioning ceremony, USMA, 29 May 2005. Adapted from the August 2006 COMMAND magazine article.