It feels like it was another lifetime ago that I was in the Army. To be completely honest, most of the time I forget I was even in. However, some of the lessons I learned while I was a soldier have been so burned on my heart that I will take them with me to the grave. One of those lessons came from the Army Warrior Ethos and it reads, “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Those aren’t just words to me, to this day I believe those words to my very core. You see, the military does this unique thing where they bring together the most unlikely of characters and make them brothers. The Army connected me to a group of men that in the civilian world I never would have spoken to, been friends with, or even thought twice about and bonded us such that to this day I would easily lay my life down for them. Why is that? It seems to me that the military understands what the writer of Proverbs meant when he wrote, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
In the military, you have a group of men and women united by a mission. You have a group of men and women who are united in adversity. In that, something amazing happens…brotherhood is born. A bond that surpasses understanding is formed.
When I got out of the Army, God in His sovereign mercy saved me. As a new believer, I was devouring the Scriptures and I remember sitting in my room one day and reading the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts and my heart was on fire. The brotherhood that I had experienced in the Army seemed like only a shadow compared to what I was reading. So, when I started attending church I fully anticipated to be adopted into a spiritual family and inherit new brothers. Sadly, that was not what happened. Don’t get me wrong, I met lots of really great men that loved Jesus, but it was nothing close to what I had when I was a soldier. I wish I could say that I didn’t get bitter but that would be a lie. For those first few years, I thought the church was a phony. I believed in and loved Jesus. The Word of God was life to me. The Lord’s table was life-giving. However, the church was a source of frustration. I remember wrestling with God in prayer and with tears in my eyes asking, “How is it possible that the military does it better than the church?” Friends, I spent far too long complaining and wallowing in my sin rather than leaning in. Thankfully, four things happened.
First, God showed that I needed to let go of my expectations of others, look at myself in the mirror of God’s Word, repent, and walk in obedience. What had I been doing to help foster true, selfless, persevering, brotherhood? Nothing. I was simply expecting others to do what I was not.
Second, God brought me to my knees in prayer. I began praying for the men and women in my church. I began praying that God would grab hold of our hearts and supernaturally bring us together.
Third, God brought some older men into my life who were patient with me and discipled me. I owe so much those men. I was nothing more than a little boy when it came to the things of God but there, I was running my mouth thinking I had all the answers. I was going to fix the church. These men over the years made me a man.
Fourth, God brought some brothers into my life that were about as opposite of me as you could get and created friendships. I began to see that they too were fighting the fight of faith. That they too needed brotherhood. It took time for it to come together but God did it. At first, it was just a text message every week or so asking how we could pray for each other but then it became something more. It became a true brotherhood.
Let me close with a promise. I don’t know most of you and you don’t know me. However, through our union with Christ, we are family. I take that very seriously now. You and I will spend eternity with each other. I don’t know how long the Lord will keep us on this world and in this fight of faith. But what I do know is that I love each of you with the love of Christ. And, because of that, I can promise you that by the power of the Holy Spirit, I will give all I am to make sure that these words that Jesus spoke can be true of me to you, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
Friends, as we continue to march forward and take new ground for His Kingdom in our hearts, homes, churches, and communities let us never forget this:
I will never leave a fallen comrade.