Today’s Reading: 2 Timothy 1-4
Today’s Reflection: 2 Timothy 2:3-4
3) Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4) No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he admonishes the young pastor to approach his calling to the ministry of the Gospel with the same discipline as a soldier, and to recognize his commitment separates him from the life (and lifestyles) of the unbeliever.
For those of you unfamiliar with military life, once you have enlisted your life is no longer your own. You don’t have the freedom other citizens or civilians have. You are committed to carry out the commands you have been given until the term of your enlistment has come to an end. You are subject to different laws, but you also have different privileges. You are expected to devote your very being to the cause your superior officer deems important.
There are a lot of parallels between this description of military life and the life of a disciples of Jesus Christ. There are also some significant differences, which Paul alludes to here.
1) Our sacrifice isn’t the same. Soldiers sacrifice in the sense that they are a nation’s first line of defense against attack, as well as the ones who go abroad to prosecute military action against enemies abroad—actions that require the devotion of their lives and possibly the cost of them. In this the act of being a disciple, a solider of the cross, is similar in that it is also a sacrifice and requires the giving of one’s life not just in fighting and dying spiritually, but in our very living.
Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
But there is a part of discipleship that is very un-soldier like: we must expect to experience suffering. As Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:11-12, “I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do.” Even Jesus, as He explains what we must give up for the Gospel and explains what we will receive in return, confirms this:
Mark 10:29-30 – 29) Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30) who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
With all of the blessings we will receive, Jesus includes persecutions. He doesn’t say it’s a possibility that we may suffer for His cause; He promises that we will.
2) Our outlook on the enemy isn’t the same. Military soldiers are equipped with weapons and training and are authorized to use them against any foreign (or domestic) power that uses hostility against them. But as Christians, often the ones who attack and persecute us, those who are hostile towards us, they are not the enemy we are fighting.
Ephesians 6:12 – For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
So if it has flesh and blood, as people do, it is not our true enemy. Those who would make us their enemies are in fact the very people God is trying to use us to reach with the Gospel. So rather than fight them or hope for their punishment we are instructed to do good to people, even those who seek our destruction.
Luke 6:27-29 – 27) “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28) bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29) To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.
3) Our warfare isn’t the same. Military soldiers have weapons designed to shield, but mostly to destroy. Guns, bullets, rockets, grenades, landmines, missiles, bombs, and on and on. As Christians we too have weapons. Actually our weapons are vastly superior to any army on earth but they’re not the same as military weapons.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – 3) For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4) For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5) We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
Military weapons can kill and frighten people into surrender, but the spiritual weapons God gives us can actually penetrate the heart and transform minds. The weapons of the Gospel of Christ destroy human enemies by turning them into Jesus’ friends. We are to cloak ourselves in these weapons, to bear the armor of God daily as we carry out the life-saving mission of our commander-in-chief, Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 6:13-18 – 13) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14) Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15) and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16) In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17) and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18) praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,