Luke 3:14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely–be content with your pay.”
Some might find it strange for Christians to honor veterans, former soldiers, men and women who have been called upon to wage war, people who may have been involved in the death of others. Isn’t the Christian faith supposed to favor peace? Does God really approve of those who serve as soldiers?
In a perfect world there would be no need to raise an army, train people to fight, arm them with weapons. We wouldn’t have soldiers, or veterans. But our world has become far from perfect. Sin has infected all people and made them evil. Neighbor has turned against neighbor. Nation has turned against nation. Worst of all, humanity has turned against its God.
Because he still loves us, God sent his only Son into the world to reconcile us to himself. Jesus fought the devil who led us into sin and defeated him. Jesus laid his own life down at the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. As a result, we have full forgiveness for our rebellion against God. Jesus has established peace between heaven and earth. Those who have faith in Jesus have been made citizens of heaven. They have been received into God’s own family once again. That war is over.
Unfortunately, evil still infects the people of this world, and many will not receive the grace that Jesus freely gives us. Men who are thirsty for power, people who envy and covet the rightful possessions of other people, still turn to violence to take what does not belong to them. We still suffer crime and war as a result.
What if no one was willing to stand up and fight against injustice and oppression? Then evil would become stronger. Its power would grow, and our world would become more dangerous place, not just for ourselves, but for our neighbor as well. It would become more difficult for us to spread the gospel and share the knowledge of God’s mercy and love. That is why the Apostle Paul urges us to pray for rulers and government in his first letter to Timothy, chapter 2. In general, this is why the Scriptures urge us Christians to obey and respect the earthly governments that rule and protect us.
That is also why John the Baptist spoke to the soldiers who came to him the way he did. John the Baptist preached a message of repentance and forgiveness to the people of his day. He called them to turn away from their sins and turn to the Savior who followed him. He called those who received God’s grace and forgiveness to live a new life, filled with the fruits of repentance.
When some soldiers came to John and asked him, “What should we do?” John did not tell them to desert their posts, resign their commissions, or find some other way to end their military careers. He did not suggest that there was anything wrong with the service they offered as soldiers.
Instead, he urged them not to abuse the power with which they had been entrusted. “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely–be content with your pay.” As defenders and protectors of their neighbors, as servants of their government, these men had a useful and honorable calling. They could continue to serve as soldiers and know that in doing so they were serving both God and their neighbor. God asked them only to be faithful soldiers as they carried out the responsibility they had been given.
That is true of the men and women we honor on Veterans Day. They risked their own lives to protect us, and our country, and our freedoms. As faithful soldiers they filled an honorable and God-pleasing calling that has served us all. We thank God for the sacrifices they have made to protect us and to enrich our lives.
May God enable each of us to live as faithful citizens who make good and godly use of the peace and freedom we have been given.