Grace and Love

I went to chapel services today (the first time I had been to church since I left home). A typical military chapel usually offers Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish services. If the numbers are there maybe Mormon, Wiccan (don’t laugh, Ft. Carson had a Wiccan Chaplain on post), Muslim, and others. The Protestant service is usually geared to the very young adult and has a pop feel to it. Those who know me know that I am a traditionalist at heart (I was raised Roman Catholic) so I am not comfortable in that kind of service.

Here at Bagram Airfield it was nice to see that a liturgical protestant service was offered. In the Armed Forces Religious Services Book, we used the long Protestant form and it was remarkably close to the Episcopal service that I am accustomed to. Granted, the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer were worded a tad different, but not too different to matter to a soldier serving in a combat zone far from home.

For today’s service the processional hymn was “Amazing Grace”, the offertory/communion hymn was “What a Friend we have in Jesus”, and the closing recessional hymn was “Onward, Christian Soldiers”. The sermon was about the dangers of “easy grace”, where we as Christians take God’s love for granted and don’t do the heavy lifting required to be truly good Christians like following the Ten Commandments and Jesus admonishing us to Love God and to love our neighbors as we should love ourselves (the last bit was taken from today’s Gospel reading).

So what does it mean to love your neighbors as you love yourself? What about loving ones enemy as you love yourself? These questions are a little heavy for after dinner cocktails or the salon, but are pretty existential for guys like me. So what does it all mean?

The way I understand it, God’s love isn’t the “I am OK and you are OK” variety, it is the tough love that requires the application of standards of behavior and not tolerating sin. Yes, we must forgive those who sin against us but we also must show them the error of their ways so that they can fully be a part of God’s grace. In other words, we follow the Ten Commandments and expect others to do so as well. If they don’t, we must help them see what they have done and help them get back to God’s grace.

There are many Christians today who are very uncomfortable being judgmental. Tolerance is the buzzword and everyone is a recipient of God’s grace. Well, that just flies in the face in what we are supposed to do as Christians. If we are supposed to preach God’s word and spread the good news of our salvation, part of that is what we must live up to those ideals. In short, if I commit a bunch of heinous sins, I can ask for forgiveness from God and my fellow Christians, do my penance and no longer do those heinous sins, and all will be good. It all falls apart if my fellow Christians don’t ask me to perform penance and I continue performing those heinous sins and I continue to expect God’s grace as long as I ask for forgiveness.

So, how do I love my enemy? Did I give him a chance to change his behavior (surrender)? Did I meet him on the field of battle in the open (announce my intentions)? If he does surrender, do I treat him with dignity and lay down expectations of behavior (recant his beliefs and proclaim a new direction for his life)? If he chooses to fight, do I dispatch him in a humane way (show him mercy and make it quick)?

It is so easy to receive God’s love. It is much more challenging to give God’s love.

CPT NightHawk


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