The soldier’s march is long and hard but not because of miles, for he carries a weight that cannot be named. Every wound is not of bullet or bayonet, but often of deeds done and of deeds not done.
What do you say when a Christian “leaves the faith?” What commentary exposits the deeper meaning when a pastor decides to abandon Christianity for another religion? Do you dismiss them with the formula that they were never one of us? Do you claim the Proverb that their training will bring them back to us? There is a quiet shame in not knowing whether to rage or repent.
Such were we. One of our own graduates had renounced Christianity because he could not find answers for suffering. His embrace of Buddhism made news because of his role as a military chaplain. But he was one of us. He journeyed with us through the Scriptures. He ate with us and shared in our stories. We wept for him. I still remember when the seminary faculty prayed for his soul. Not an imprecatory prayer of judgment but a prayer of a different sort. If he is lost, O Lord, please save him; if saved, bring him back to You. How many parents have prayed just such a prayer? How many pastors have wept over a wayfaring lamb from their flock?
Then the call came. While stationed in the war zone of Afghanistan, the Lord Jesus reminded this chaplain, this Christian, that he belonged to Him, the One True God of the Universe. Oh, the blessings of repentance and of the restoration of faith. When he called me I did not know what to expect. As his story tumbled from his lips, all I could think of was how incredibly gracious is our Lord Jesus. We must praise Him for His goodness which endures forever. We can humbly rejoice when a wayfaring lamb returns to the fold. The patience of the Lord is beyond our human understanding.
Alas, even a journey of this magnitude is not an easy one. One soldier/Chaplain has begun a new journey. His way will not be easy for his pack will be heavy with his past. However, his journey can be guided by the gracious mercy of our God who never forgets His children.
If you have grown weary waiting for your loved one to turn to the Lord, take heart and pray for them again, for the Lord neither slumbers nor sleeps. Bring them home, O Lord.
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate. The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. Psalm 116:5-6 (NASB)
2 comments on “The Long March Home”
I thank God I do not bear the responsibility of saying “lost,” or “saved” over people, whether they remain in the faith or leave it. I would get it wrong far too often. I would cause friends and family pain. All I can do is see their fruit, and say the fruit of their lives is either good or bad.
My maternal grandfather ridiculed my parents for their faith and, to my knowledge, never did repent and confess the Lord even though he lived in our house the last three months of his life.
My best friends’ son “de-converted” after his sister was murdered by her husband of three months, whose wedding I had officiated.
On the other hand, my paternal great-grandfather had an obituary that would make a great sermon outline on salvation and election and the certainty of faith. His son, my grandfather, fought with his wife over whether to attend a Four-Square church or a Baptist church, but did confess Jesus as Lord.
Thank God I only see the results, I cannot judge another man’s servants. What I can do is to pray earnestly for them.
Thanks for that encouraging word