Skipping Church

I don’t think I’ll be going to church today.

It’s the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, and I’m a US Army officer, deployed. I know how the service is going to go, and it isn’t going to have much to do with Jesus.

I’m as patriotic as I know how to be, and I feel the weight of the events of that day, though I’m sure I don’t feel it as heavily as some. 9/11 isn’t a harrowing echo in my soul, because I love Jesus more than America.

The United States may still be the greatest nation in the world, if only because we are still the most Christian nation in the world, and even our charlatans must live according to some shadow of Christian principle. We are involved in two wars that may, in some strange sense, be considered acts of charity.

But noble intentions and holy obedience are two different things. And the travesty that happened 10 years ago is nothing, compared to the triumph that happened 2000 years ago. The memory of the twin towers is no substitute for Jesus Christ.

For the armed forces, true Christianity is practiced mostly on the down-low. I’m forbidden to evangelize, except in pre-announced, private settings. People ask me in quiet, personal conversations what kind of religion I practice, and if I will pray for them. As an officer, I can enforce ethical standards, but not explain why those standards must exist.

Meanwhile, in public settings, God is invoked, without any inquiry into the nature and character of this God, without any discussion of what he has done, or what we might owe him. He will come to our aid, in some stabilizing way, because he is God, and we have mentioned him.

On a day like today, when a 10-year milestone falls on the Lord’s day, The service will go like this: Everything is combined to make a display of unity, and the heroes of our war will be remembered. The Creator of the universe will certainly be mentioned. His Son may or may not be referred to, by a brave chaplain who wants to do what’s right. But the redeeming work of the Jesus’ death and resurrection will not be put on full display; it will not be given proper honor on the dearest day of all. There may be a cross, but it will not stand taller than the towers.

I don’t know how many people will think to call that kind of service wrong, or how many will roll their eyes and say I’m making something out of nothing. I am sure, that around the world this kind of subversion of the gospel will be going on, as has been done in many times and places. But I’m not used to it, and I don’t like it. I’ve always been in a place where religion was unregulated. There was always room for a little dissent.

Please pray for the soldiers, and for all the other armed service members. I know many of you do pray, for protection and for strength. But pray also for the condition of our souls. Their bodies are in danger to enemy fire and to privation, but their souls are in danger of anemia and even hellfire. Pray for chaplains to learn to read their Bibles more deeply than they have been, and to see the current of the gospel surging under every text. Pray for leaders to see their sinful nature and look to the cross in repentance. Pray for every converted Christian to learn the gospel deep enough that they may every day, quietly if they must, always preach.

The church in the army is hardly persecuted, but it is asleep.

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