One of the customs we have in this congregation is that of having a “state of the church” message around the first of the year. Sometimes the message focuses on the local state of the church, and sometimes on the state of the national church. And sometimes, like today, it focuses on both.
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
Summary of the Text
The Jesus submitted Himself fully to the will of His Father in heaven. He did this even to the point of a humiliating death on the cross. God honors the story, and most of all in the central story that He writes. Because Jesus submitted Himself to death on a cross—for the sins of the world—God has therefore exalted Him highly (v. 9). He has given Him a name that is above every name (v. 9). This is not isolated off in some “spiritual zone.” The name of Jesus has been established such that every knee should bow—in heaven, on earth, and in the subterranean places (v. 10). Knees will bend everywhere. And every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (v. 11).
What Lordship Means
We do not confess that Jesus is the Silent Lord. When we confess His lordship, we then wait upon Him. The next thing that happens is that He tells us what to do, and how to live. He does not just tell us what to do or how to live in a very own personal lives. He tells all the knees that bowed, and all the tongues that confessed, what He wants them to do now. This is what He meant by “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28: 20). We don’t just confess. He speaks also . . . authoritatively.
Before the final culmination of all things, in this fallen world, we always have to deal with competing words from competing lords. Because a man cannot serve two masters, these competing words will always be on a collision course. We have, in this past year, seen one such collision in principle. When the Congress repealed the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for the military, they were not just lifting discipline, they were imposing it.
The public debate over this issue reveals that virtually no one understands what is going on. The absence of discipline is impossible in any society, still less in the military. This means that this question is a “not whether but which” question. It means that it is not whether we will discipline servicemen in terms of a sexual ethic, but rather which servicemen we will discipline in terms of a sexual ethic. In other words, it is not whether we will have a set of imposed sexual standards for the military, but rather which standards they will be. As Lenin once put it, with much more insight than our current rulers, “Who? Whom?”
The public discussion of all this, in its sophomoric talking points way, addressed whether straight servicemen are willing to “serve alongside” their openly homosexual peers. This question would obviously include evangelical Christians. But this is not the question at all. Anybody who has spent any time in the military knows that it is not a bastion of righteous behavior. If you join, you will serve alongside fornicators and drunks, and you will learn how to work together with them. Adding patriotic poofters to the mix is a non-issue, and barely worth discussing.
The issue is this. Homosexual behavior in the ranks is now being considered as a protected and honorable lifestyle choice. This means that if an evangelical Christian witnesses to his crewmates, and he says that Jesus died to liberate them from their sins, and somebody says, “Like what, fer instance,” he can still say “drunkenness, cocaine use, gambling away your family’s paycheck, sleeping with hookers, laziness, stealing, adultery, and so on.”
But if he now includes sodomy, then if someone complains about him (and someone most certainly will), the witnessing Christian will be subject to the discipline of the service. The fact that he was witnessing on his own time will be as irrelevant as the fact that the homosexuals used to cruise the bars on their own time.
What This Means
We have many in our congregation who have served in the military, and we have others who are currently serving. The evangelical contingent in the American military is large, and not insignificant. And so we must understand what has happened.
All militaries have to have oaths of allegiance. This too is inescapable. It matters to the Christian whether false gods are attached to that oath. The presence of false gods can be detected through the presence of false law. That is what we have here. Now the ancient Christians in Rome faced a greater obstacle to military service in the idolatrous oath of allegiance than in the question of fighting and killing. Look at the Old Testament—what was the bigger problem, idols or fighting? Right.
But in our case, the problem is not the oath itself, but what the handlers of the oath have now determined that it must mean. This means that what you think “defending the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic” means, and what they think it means, will be two entirely differently things. Bottom line, this means that Christians who decide to serve must be prepared to wreck their careers over this issue. This has always been true, but the odds were long. Now it will be present in every unit. Rather than put up with this, staying away from that Hobson’s choice is an honorable thing to do. But if you sign up with every intent of keeping your head down, with an “ain’t gonna witness to anybody” mentality, then you are timid little creature. And you shouldn’t join the military in order to become a moral coward.