18 May 2011

Open Letter to a Military Family

by Frank Turk

My Dear Friends and Citizens,

This year my son turns 12, and he's getting big -- as big as his mom for sure right now, but pretty soon as big as I am (except, to paraphrase Paul, without the spare tire). A couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours was injured seriously in Afghanistan during military service, and he's only 18 -- but I can remember when he was my son's age. I can remember when he was a kid trying to figure out what it means to be like the men he admired, and how to be a man like his (adopted) father. I can see a lot of what he was in my son now.

So when that young man was a headline in our hometown, it was more than news to me. In my mind, there was a story there of someone who loves his family, and his church, and his small town, and his nation, and he volunteered to go off to serve his country in what the Bible calls the ministry of the sword.

Now, maybe the military institutions themselves today would not use those words. Maybe they have forgotten how. But the small towns and churches who nurture and grow the young men who staff the services have not. There is a great and godly dignity to want to serve your fellow man and your nation by giving up your own life and freedom for the sake of preserving home and hearth.

And when these young men put themselves in this service, and they go out in a uniform, and they are equipped with implements of death far more devastating than a sword, we see them as something a little larger than life -- when they are not our son. When they are our son, we know what it means to pray to God that he forgive their sins and protect them from evil. We know what it means to have those in whom, whether we meant to or not, we have placed out hope for the future march into the maw of conflict to be the final solution when evil men live lawlessly. The grand words for it all sort of shrivel up when it's our son who has to be the first one into the breach.

So today I am thinking about my son, who is getting big. And he's making me think of your son, who got big, and gave up his life for you, and yours, and mine.

Today, as I tuck in my son, I am grateful for your son. I cannot repay you for him, but I will live here and now with the solid reminder of what he did. God bless you, and keep you, and may his face shine upon you. I will spend this weekend remembering.







26 comments:

Craig said...

Frank,
I am a Christian military officer, writing from Afghanistan. Thank you for your post. I have around 700 Marines working for me right now - really, we are all working for you, the people of the US. These young men and women are amazing - Christians and non-Christians alike. They work tirelessly in scorching heat and blowing dust, putting their lives on the line for their country and loved ones back home. And, everyone of them volunteered for this. For the Christians, especially the junior enlisted Marine, it is very hard. It is definitely a pagan environment where holding on to your faith and purity can be very difficult. The families also have it very difficult - single parenting, waiting for news, hoping it is good. We appreciate your prayers. Especially, that God's Spirit would have free rein among us, Marines and their families, that He would use whatever tools necessary to call His elect into the fold. Thanks.
Giving praise to He alone who is truly Semper Fidelis, LtCol Craig Barnett, USMC

Boerseuntjie said...

@ Frank;
LORD make it so! Thank you for this timely letter.

@LtCol Barnett,
Dear Sir and brother;
Thank you for the encouragement to prayer and commitment to military families.
However; as a Military Disablement Pensioner of the British Armed Forces I find it quite hard to believe that a fellow brother in Christ would limit his (Or indeed his fellow Servicemen's); work to the Nation from whence they have been sent forth.

As a Christian I am first and foremost a son of the King of all kings (OR indeed as it is here in Britian the Crown). Therefore my Military Service is not to my Nation ONLY (I am a British South African - just to complicate things a bit); MY service is to ALL mankind as a matter of General Grace in DEFENCE of the weak, needy, poor, expolited and defenceless - wherever the Governemnt of this Commonwealth and Nation bids me to go.

I am grateful for your patriotism and it reflects a good standard of submittion to your Government and and Identity with the Nation in whish OUR Sovereign King has plaed you - please do not misunderstand me.

I just think you may have needed to expand that loyalty unto Him who is the Creator of all men; Him Whom does not respect the persons of men(Nor identity of blood inheritances, geneologies, nationhood, etc).

I hope this is an encouragement to you and your troops- as I fully support your labours and sacrifices and I hope that my son will one day be honorable and join our Royal Marines (If our LORD so wills and enables him).
Perhaps my son will one day join with your troops in operations to deliver the oppressed and to combat the actions of men determined to act in evil upon those whom are defenceless.

Your fellow bondslave in Service to our King of kings,
W

donsands said...

Nice letter. And it was good to hear from my two brothers in Christ from their military perspective. Thanks for sharing.

My pastor's son is headed for Afghanistan. He is a Marine. His father was a Marine in vietnam, with three Purple hearts. He is avery humble man, and yet is such a worshipper of our Lord, and gifted teacher-preacher.

I truly appreciate all the sons in harms way. Lord bless and keep them, and if they yet have the Gospel as their own, I pray Your mercy will find their hearts. Amen.

Craig said...

@W,
Thanks for your comments. Please don't misunderstand me, my allegiance is first and foremost to the Creator, the King of Kings. That is why I am actually more concerned with the spiritual health (salvation) of my Marines than I am with their physical well-being (though that is my concern also). My military service is primarily to the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom, but secondarily it is, and must be, for the good of the nation in which God placed me. The way I go about that service, though, will always be in accordance with Biblical principles as revealed in Scripture. That will often impel me to care for others not of my nation as God gives me opportunity. Does that make sense? We may be saying the same thing just in different ways.

Craig said...

@donsands,
I am approaching my opportunity for retirement (one more year) and I feel I may be being called to pastoral ministry after I retire. I would appreciate the opportunity to email to your pastor who, as you have said, has made the military to pastor transition before. It would help me to talk to someone who has walked that path about pitfalls, things to consider, etc. Would you be willing to help set that up?

Frank Turk said...

Two things before the thread spins out of control here:

[1] Let's remember something about Rom 13: the Government Paul spoke of as having the ministry of the sword was Rome -- a nation with some civility for its time but by comparison to the democratic nations of the world today, quite fierce and merciless. Opressive even. But he was speaking of specific human government and not the reign of Jesus. In that way, I think we have to be extremely careful with the idea that we are in "God's Army". In some sense, we are not talking about being in God's army here either for or against all unsaved men: we are talking about the commission of human government to act as the arbiter of simple justice against the lawless. Going too far there leads to the obvious stereotype of fundamentalism which says that all religions lead to Jihad.

[2] The sense in which we are all in "God's Army" has nothing to do with military service -- in fact, let's face it: in some ways even the acts of a just war are fairlt antithetical of Gospel proclamation. We proclaim the Gospel in order that there will be peaec on Earth (between man and God), and then good will toward men (so that there might be reconciliation between men). Will Christ come in judgment? Yes. Will he then put his enemies under his feet? Yes. Will that be a conquoring act of war against those who remain in rebellion? yes.

But we are not called by Christ to start that activity now. We have to rightly distinguish between the right view and objective of human military service, and the eschatological work of Christ at the end of this fallen world. if we don't, we have missed the Gospel boat.

John said...

Re: the men and women of our nation that serve in the military...I (we) can't thank them enough.

Re: kids growing up and joining the military...I was pulling Kleenex about a quarter of the way into the post.

Frank Turk said...

P.S. -- I know Memorial day weekend in next weekend. I will be travelling next week and will likely only have a "best of" post for you, but this couldn't wait.

donsands said...

"Would you be willing to help set that up?" Craig

Sure. I'd be glad to speak with David Crum, my pastor. I will contact you through your blog, if that's a good way to go.

Peace and grace.

Lee Shelton IV said...

Frank, is this service of sacrifice you describe unique to America, or could this post apply to military members of all nations? I cannot help but think about conflicts like World War I, in which the "Christian" nations of the world killed and wounded each other by the millions. I'm sure most Christian parents on all sides thought their sons were heeding God's call and doing something noble.

mKhulu said...

Thanks for the reminder. Our small country church currently boasts two soldiers in war zones. One of these returned to duty only yesterday after being home for two weeks to witness the birth of his fifth child. We are very well aware of the sacrifice of families and the value of each of those who bears the sword on our behalf. God bless our children and those who lead them.

The Squirrel said...

Huah!

Squirrel

Frank Turk said...

Lee:

read my comments above, re-read Rom 13, remember than the US is about to celebrate Memorial Day, and I live in the US.

Thank you.

Rachael Starke said...

Frank,

What a great letter. There's no better picture of the gospel than a soldier literally laying his life down for undeserving, unthankful, unthinking people.

But Craig has left me with the thought to chew on for the day. Semper Fi, indeed. Thank you for your service in Jesus' name.

Good grief. Some of these posts should come with Kleenex rankings, along with stars.

Craig said...

@donsands,
Thanks. My email address is available in my blogger profile.

cavattack said...

I did two tours in Vietnam as a Special Forces weapons specialist. I served in Grenada with the 82nd ABN. I became a commissioned officer chaplain branch and served in Panama (Rangers), in Desert Storm (Special Forces), two tours in Iraq and three tours in Afghanistan (two in Special Forces). No one has to serve. If you do not want to serve don't. If you are not man enough or woman enough to serve, don't serve. If you don't want to sent your children to serve, do all in your power to stop them. If you can enjoy all the freedoms of this country, not serve and still look at yourself in the mirror, you're a better man than I.

donsands said...

"If you can enjoy all the freedoms of this country, not serve and still look at yourself in the mirror, you're a better man than I."

I have no problem that I didn't serve in the military. The lord doesn't call everyone to serve my friend.

I appreciate those who do, and did serve.

Frank Turk said...

cavattack:

Thanks for your service.

Keith said...

Craig and Cavattack: Having never served in the military, I cannot begin to imagine the sacrifice/commitment you have made. I know it's not enough, but THANK YOU!

Arthur Sido said...

Before this gets out of control (and it may be too late for that already), let's take a moment to recall that Romans 13 is speaking of the secular government of Rome and by the way is preceded by Romans 12: 14-21 which was directed at believers and is speaking of the "right now", not a future eschatological reality....

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)

So killing someone on behalf of one secular state because he or she was born in a different secular state is more than fairly antithetical of Gospel proclamation. It is completely incompatible.

I will step back now and await the chants of "USA!"

DJP said...

...killing someone on behalf of one secular state because he or she was born in a different secular stateis more than fairly antithetical of Gospel proclamation. It is completely incompatible.

Perhaps. And completely off topic, since the notion of killing anyone simply for being born somewhere has not even been hinted at, and is unrelated to post or meta.

Frank Turk said...

I didn't know yopu were Amish and racist, Art. Good to know.

vermilionReformed said...

When John the baptist was asked by soldier what about us, what shall we do?, John answered turn the other cheek, pound your sword into a plow share and put a flower in your hair...? Luke 4: 14. Nations are commissioned and expected to bear the sword which includes the defence of boarders and defense of the citizens judicial within and militarily abroad. Being a good soldier and a disciple of Jesus are quite compatible. Even the unredeemed are utilized by God as a minister of God to (us) as good. And it is appropriate to render honour to whom honour is due.

Matt Aznoe said...

Frank,

Where in Art's post is there any indication of racism? And must one be Amish to be opposed to war?

In any case, what saddens me is that so much attention is paid in churches to soldiers of America, but do we give the same level of honor and remembrance to the soldiers of the cross, the men and women who are shedding their blood even now in the name of Jesus Christ? They are truly fighting against evil, and it is by the blood of such men and women that the Gospel was preached to you and I. It is by their blood -- bought by the blood of Jesus Christ -- that we can be truly free in Christ.

Praise be to God that they will indeed receive honor in the day of the Lord.

We are told often enough by our government and mainstream media outlets to worship the military. We don't need this message reinforced in the church.

Jenel said...

Late to this thread. As a caveat I am a retired Army dentist, and both my grandfather, and father served as Army Signal Corp officers, during WWI and Korea respectively, and later became health professional: osteopathic physician and dentist. Often the Church adopts a Covenant Theology perspective toward union of church and state especially in regards to magistrate (law enforcement)military, war, etc. Just read the Westmister Confession compared to the 1st London Baptist Confession 1644/46. The truth is that in the New Covenant is that all believers are priests and thus are not to engage in violence, as were the priests forbibben in the OT. Thus I appreciate Art and Matt's comments. Augustine not withstanding, there might a "co-called" just physical war between secular nations, but the believers' war is against inner sin and outer dark spiritual forces Eph 6!12. Am not a pacificist in the sense that nations have a right to self defense, but that Christians are not to take up arms. Even MacArthur has pointed out that the American Revolution was a conflict for political and economic liberty not involving any Christian liberties or excuse for "civil disobedience." John the Baptist was speaking with Herod's Jewish soldiers still operating under the Old Covenant! As Clausewitz states war is military means to an ongoing political and economic struggle! In otherwords SECULAR and often due to Blowback! David Burkhardt DDS

Andrew Suttles said...

Jenel -

Nothing in the OP has anything to do with dispensationalism, so there's no reason to take a cheap snipe at our Protestant forefathers.

You'll note in the First London Confession that the Baptists (who were covenant theologians, by today's standards) did not want to be confused as pacifist/anabaptists, so don't label them as such.

Read article 48 of the confession you quoted if you think the English Baptists were anabaptistic.