A story is always better than a dry, sanitised technical treatise on any subject, which makes sense if we look at Scripture as being different from a scholarly and thoroughly annotated book on theology.
Scripture has theology and most often it’s in terms of a personal context; theology is always affecting someone, either by way of understanding or inspiration or punishment or in any number of ways.
Which is why I can appreciate an author, taking a dry technical report, and building a story around it, thus bringing things to our level and helping us understand the technical jargon. And so it is with Bill Forstchen, taking the subject matter of a report accessible on the internet (at http://empcommission.org/) and fashioning a story that personalises the facts and gives it such an emotional punch.
Forstchen’s novel ‘One Second After’ / Tor Books / 2009) places the protagonist, a professor and former military man, John Matherson, in the middle of a new dark age without technology, but as dangerous as ever. As part of the town council, John devises a way to defend the town of Black Mountain, North Carolina against a band of marauders named ‘The Posse’, using military tactics that work in any situation regardless of technical sophistication and based on the ubiquitous rifle and handgun.
It got me to wondering about if my suburb had to defend itself against marauders amidst an apocalyptic backdrop.
However, after Sunday’s sermon, I was reminded that as Christians we are at war constantly. If not involved in daily skirmishes, we are constantly – or should be – on a tactical footing.
Peter reminds the believers:
“8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5)
We have any enemy that Paul likens to a lion. A lion singles out the weakest prey in the herd and targets it, and to mitigate that we have to be vigilant, or as Paul says, to have a ‘sober mind’ and ‘alert’.
In time of war, it is a grievous offense for the soldier on watch to fall asleep or put himself in a position where he is vulnerable through drunkenness or other means. The Uniform Code of Military Justice labels it dereliction of duty and Title 10, Section 892, Article 92 is the relevant reference which probably most USMC grunts could quote off by heart.
I’m very much aware that there are three elements that tend to war against me as a Christian: The world, my own flesh, and the evil one. Before Sunday’s sermon, I realised that I’m much more vigilant pertaining to my own flesh and the world: I know when my flesh is pulling me in the wrong direction and I can spot falsehood and worldliness from a mile away.
I simply don’t think about the directional evil in the world, and Paul notes that it is good to be sober and alert and be ready to repel attack.
A good soldier is alert and sober, on watch, knowing that an enemy is targeting his weakness.
A good soldier is prepared with situational awareness, actively performing a threat assessment and having a tactical plan.
A good soldier is always training, reading Scripture and praying (imagine this cadence…”This is my bible. There are many like it but this one is mine…” from Full Metal Jacket).
A good soldier is filled with poise, precision and audacity to which must be added resolve.
A good soldier always seeks have the initiative and regain it if lost.
A good soldier is always carries out the orders of his Superior and relies on, as well as supports, his fellow soldiers.
Being a soldier is mainly about discipline because someone who is disciplined can be of use.