Holy Joe. Ned Flanders. That annoying guy from the movie Bull Durham
who leads a Bible Study in the clubhouse before games (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, rent the movie) and ends up marrying the local tramp—interestingly enough, kind of like Hosea! This is usually what the church expects of Christian men who are serving in the military. Your typical descriptions include:
But all it takes is spending some time in Scripture to recognize, scattered throughout our Bible, warriors whom God absolutely loves. One of His names is Jehovah Sabaoth
—Lord of Hosts, commander of the angelic host and the armies of God.
Abraham—at an age when he’s supposed to be collecting social security—leads an elite team of commandos to rescue his inbred cousin Lot. Phinehas the priest takes a spear and impales an Israelite and his “from the wrong part of town” girlfriend, and God blesses him for it! David decides to go above and beyond the 100-foreskin requirement to marry Saul’s daughter, Michal, and decides to cut 200 Philistine foreskins!
For those who believe these were acts of a primitive “god” in the Old Testament, tell that to Ananias and Sapphira as well as the “Christians” in Corinth who die after taking communion.
The final picture of war we have in our Bibles is when Christ returns, wielding a sword that comes out of His mouth, splattered with the blood of His enemies before He tosses them into the eternal lake of fire and sulfur (Revelation 19).
Jesus – my key to heaven
The opposite approach to being the Holy Joe in your unit is to be so indistinguishable as a follower of Christ that it’s difficult to argue that you actually are one.
There is constantly going to be a tension between being the Pharisee in your unit sporting your King James Bible (with the secret stash on your laptop), and being the Sadducee who is down with Jesus as your savior after you die, just not your Lord (especially of your pants and on Sundays).
As service-members, we either become sectarians who don’t go far enough into our culture, or we become syncretists who go too far. Either way, we deny the power present in the Gospel to transform anyone’s life, and ignore Jesus’ call for us to be salt and light while not being of the world.
To properly love Jesus and the guys we serve with, we need to meet them in their culture. We don’t pound our Bibles on their heads, pass out a Chick tract, and call it a day. Neither do we watch porn with them, have a few too many, and hit up the strip club on Friday night.
Only fortunate soldiers are in units that are not part of a memorial service while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is at these times that questions arise, such as “why him and not me,” “what is the meaning in all this,” “I don’t get it.”
As Christians, we should be the most fearless warriors in the service because of the many promises our God has given us. Such passages as Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28 anchor our faith in Christ and His plans for our good.
Both these passages came to mind as the truck being driven by my friend Shane, his TC (truck commander) SSG Martin, and gunner SPC Zylman passed over a copper wire laid across an Iraqi road, setting ablaze a 1500-pound bomb. The blast killed SPC Zylman, while badly injuring both Shane and SSG Martin.
A lot of time was spent with guys afterwards talking about how a good God could allow something like this event (and, oh, how there are so many) to go down. All three soldiers were highly respected men. I was asked by other guys who weren’t cutting it as soldiers why God would choose to injure these guys and let dirt bags live to breathe another breath. I regularly find myself feeling the same way about some folks, while quickly forgetting about the grace that I so undeservedly have received from Christ.
What kind of theological system do you use when an RPG round whizzes through the window in your Humvee only to sever the head of the guy you are sitting next to? What do you do with a Blackhawk helicopter going down during a routine mission, killing all thirteen soldiers on board? How do you break down being more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37) on that one?
The Buddhist ultimate fighter
Some of the best conversation I had while I was in Iraq came from the hour-long talks I would have with my good bud Tye. He is a professing Buddhist who enjoyed walking around our small COP (combat outpost) shooting wild dogs in the head, while tossing up 315 on the bench press. Not exactly your typical pacifist. We would actually speak about the possibility of literally ripping someone’s head off their body, which was regularly discussed regarding some leadership. I’m still praying for that guy as he goes through Special Forces training to become a Green Beret, and that the seed that was spread during those nights over coffee bring about some awesome fruit.
One of the reasons this guy would spend hours talking to me about Jesus and the sovereignty of God was because there was mutual respect. He knew I was unbending when it came to such things as recognizing Jesus as God and being faithful to my wife, while at the same time doing my job well and fulfilling my responsibilities as a non-commissioned officer.
I’ve been blessed by God to be able to hear professions of faith from the mouths of guys I’ve served with and talked about Jesus with. I want to wrap this up by pointing to Scripture as our model of how to be warriors, pointing to Christ and loving others.
In both passages about the qualifications for elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1), Paul begins the list with the qualification of “being above reproach.” In 1 Timothy 3:7, he says we must be “well-thought-of by outsiders.” And in Titus 2:7, Paul says that we need to be a “model of good works.”
This starts by being in the Word as much as possible with a set plan, because places like Iraq and Afghanistan usually don’t accommodate your average “quiet” time.
Here’s the classic: "Holy Joe"