THE CHRISTIAN LEADER
It is important that you see yourself as a Christian first and military leader second so that your personal identity remains rooted in Christ (Ephesians 4:1-6). Paul had to confront the Galatian church for “deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and … turning to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6-10). They were trying to add works to their Christian identity. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
You desire to obey God’s commands? Awesome! Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom to execute your duties well. Are you known as one who lives with integrity in private and public spheres, living in the confidence that past, present, and future sin is forgiven? Super! Then self-reliance or guilt will not keep you from effective service. Faith in Jesus means that your sin has been transferred to Him, and His righteousness has been transferred to you. Your personal identity is being found in Christ through faith, not in your rank or position. Do you delight in serving your unit, family, and neighbors with the unique gifts you have been given? Again, great! That means you will end the day saying, “we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10).
As you read this chapter, consider whether your first priority is to love God and your second is to love your neighbor in the military community … whoever that may be on any given day. What can you do for those who live with and around you? Jesus answered the “Who is my neighbor?” question using the parable of the Samaritan. The young lawyer understood that the one who behaved as a neighbor was “The one who showed him mercy” (Luke 10:37). There are people within the military community who need you to show mercy, to show practical acts of friendship, of professional skill, of giving help, or sharing an eternal perspective.
OCF’s military members grow in an understanding of God’s grace while rubbing elbows within the military community. While no two people will have the same experience, most former military personnel can say that the military experience caused them to mature physically, mentally, and spiritually. Common experiences include going through specialized training, meeting physical fitness and discipline standards, learning communication and leadership skills, and experiencing pressure while under fire or some other type of crisis.
Use these uniformed years to bear witness to God’s covenant keeping work for those whom He has adopted, lest the time be wasted due to ambition, careerism, and distractions (Philippians 2:1-7). Because those who belong to Christ are jealous for God’s holy name, they are constantly learning to live lives of obedience to Christ’s commands (Matthew 28:20). This learning is reflected in how they represent the God who redeemed them, is changing them, and is directing their steps for His glory.
Our vocation is within the sphere of God’s sovereign direction of our steps. While there is mystery in how God accomplishes His purposes (Proverbs 16:9; 19:21), we are confident that He used the variety of decisions that steered the course of our lives toward military service (how you studied, exercised, tested, used your free time, etc.). These individual decisions eventually resulted in your taking an oath before God to support and defend the Constitution of the United States (Exodus 10:20). Alongside the prophets and apostles, we acknowledge that God’s plan includes every part of history and culture (Acts 2:23; 4:25-28). Specialty codes (jobs), assignments, and promotions flow from the gracious oversight of God “and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done’ ” (Daniel 4:35)?
Having found ourselves in uniform, we can describe our profession as a calling, a calling to glorify God in how we fulfill our work. He is the Caller; we are the called. We are in the location and workplace God intends to be good for us, good for those we serve, and again … for His glory. Peter reasons (1 Peter 2:13-16) that we are to be subject to human institutions (in our case, the military), to do good (submitting to authority and being excellent in work), and to remember that we are servants of God within the culture. The entire New Testament bears witness to God’s call coupled with our responsibility to do good, and if we “do good and suffer for it,” then we must endure, since it is to this that God has called us—Christ leaving us an example (1 Peter 2:20-21). Since Christian suffering and endurance are a regular theme of the New Testament, they are dealt with throughout this Handbook.
Spend time thanking God for sending you into the military. We need His wisdom to live faithfully within this military space, seeking to live “on mission.” Living on mission includes things like praying about housing (where you look for a place to live), where you will join in weekly worship, and whether you will host an OCF fellowship. Your housing decision has the potential to allow you to touch the military community that is assigned with you, or it can separate you from that same community. (This is true even if there is no base housing, since you can try to be near concentrations of military personnel.) Hobbies, travel, pets, post-graduate education, and volunteerism are examples of things that will either develop your opportunity to impact military personnel and dependents or hinder your ability to serve among the military community. Consider developing a short mission statement for yourself or for your family. You might be surprised at how the exercise of thinking through your purpose will change what you do in the future.
USE TIME WELL … STAY ON MISSION
Your time in military service is a relatively short number of years in relation to the whole of life. None of us can stay in uniform indefinitely, and some of you reading this might not live to the end of a full time of service. Only God knows our days. Do your best to help your family serve with you in the military context, and particularly in light of your hope through faith in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15). During the uniformed years, you will live and work alongside fellow servants—a subculture of service members who support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
We know that not everyone receives desirable duties or assignments, but even “bad” assignments often turn into “great assignments” where you build close-knit relationships and develop life-long friendships. Everyone needs relational community, especially when the days are hard. Comfortable and pleasant assignments risk breeding complacent and lukewarm spiritual laborers, because we can forget why we are serving. Austere, hostile, and challenging environments, however, can cause us to grow, mature, and depend on God for daily sustenance and confident hope (Hebrews 13:1-16; Romans 12:9-21).
If you are married (or have children in the house), pray that God might move the hearts of those in your home to be like-minded with you regarding being on mission, perceiving the special opportunity you all have to serve together. Each member of your home is gifted differently. One person hears and sees life through colors, sounds, and smells; another one may quickly connect with strangers through spending time in conversation; and yet another might enjoy hard work with the neighbors.
Children have access into the homes and lives of their friends and their friend’s families, and these are places where our youth often express love for others more transparently than adults. Parents may not have this kind of access to homes, but commissaries, exchanges, MWR facilities, playgrounds, medical clinics, and spouse clubs are examples of places where military family members meet and connect. Another example of how military children are unique is that they may become close friends within minutes or hours of meeting one another … a great example of relational ministry!
You may already be convinced that God has placed you in the military community to glorify Him, and that your professional duties should be infused with your identity in Christ. This conviction should give you increased love for the men, women, and children found among the military community as they see your life lived under the lordship of Christ.
Are you serving under authority, submitting wherever appropriate, and living by God’s revealed truths? Are you learning more and more to put your faith into practice because you know that those over you, under you, and alongside you benefit from your professional endeavors? If this sounds reasonable to you, then you are an OCF member who is on mission, desiring to know God’s will, obeying Him in what you understand.
You are seeking the good of the community in which God has placed you, and into which He has sent you. Learning to do this well both within and outside the military community will prepare you for the day when you are no longer in uniform. You can help non-military friends and neighbors better understand those who are within the military. Our work parallels that of God’s people in the Old Testament who were sent into exile in Babylon—they were not where they wanted to be, but God still commanded them to live flourishing lives right where He placed them (Jeremiah 29:4-7).