Growing up, I loved the cartoon G.I. Joe. On the screen in front of me strode incredible men and women who represented their country as “Real American Heroes” and who sported sweet nicknames to boot. My mom wasn’t super-fond of the show. She said she didn’t appreciate the violence. I have a sneaking suspicion her dislike stems from her being a girl and all.
The funny thing about my mom’s objection was that I took it to heart and exercised constant vigilance in order to find non-violent elements to redeem the show. I undertook this task with solemnity because I recognized the intimate connection between my mother’s approval and my continued ability to partake.
In response to her distaste for stylized warfare, I offered up great lines of logic like, “Mom, they’re just shooting lasers, not bullets,” (in my mind, decidedly less violent), and “Mom, the planes never crash from the sky or anything. They just catch on fire and then disappear” (She stumped me on cross-examination: “Disappear to where?”). Then, the show responded for me. At some point a new character was introduced. Someone had watercolored my trump card. Code name: Lifeline.
Lifeline was the Joe team’s medic. He was the goodest of the good guys. And here’s the best Mom-can’t-argue-with-this part of it: he didn’t carry a gun. Yup, that’s right. Lifeline didn’t pack heat. He said it seemed a little incongruous (I’m sure he used a different word). He couldn’t see how it worked out for him to swear to “do no harm” and then mow folks down like he was in a Scorsese flick.
I thought about Lifeline today. I decided that I want to be more like him. Here’s some context.
I recently heard someone use warfare imagery to refer to evangelism and service. In fact, the audience was encouraged to adopt a “wartime mentality” and to prepare to “bring back captives.” Granted, these figures of speech stemmed from a larger conversation which I didn’t partake in. I won’t destroy the speaker, since I love and respect him and since the context in which those phrases were first spoken would likely influence my understanding of the snippets I heard. Yet, at its base, there is something disturbing about such terminology.
This was my primary critique of John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad. I thought that he really overplayed the military and war imagery. Before the Piperphiles begin commenting incessantly, let me say that I in no way disagree with Piper’s point about our need to have a passionate desire to see the light of Christ shined in dark places. I totally support mission endeavors to reach the previously unreached. I’m simply saying that I found the military theme a bit distasteful.
Perhaps I’m overly sensitive about the fact that young men and women have been going off to a real bullets war for the last couple of years and giving their lives. Perhaps from my post-9/11 perspective, such metaphors just seem hollow. I admit that I read Piper from a different place than that in which he wrote. I know that. I own that. Yet…
Here’s the point. Paul certainly never shied away from military imagery. Battle is not against flesh and blood. Armor of God. I’ve read all that. But, what if Christians are enlisting for the wrong types of jobs? What if my role in the Lord’s Army is not first gunner but rather field medic? What if we’re called to find the wounded—on both sides of the lines—and tend to their wounds with the balm of grace?
I have a feeling that those of us who serve the Great Physician have likely been given the duties of medic anyway, even if we didn’t realize it. That doesn’t mean that we don’t address the cause of the wounds. A good field medic not only treats the superficial wounds, but removes the shrapnel that caused the wounds, too. As believers, we must address the spiritual lostness of those around us. But, when someone is lying on the battle field of life, wounded by the malicious weapons of the enemy should we throw another grenade at them or break out the bandages? Me, I’d rather see Christians left and right signing up to be field medics.
That’s military imagery I can support. That gets me excited. I guess deep down, I’d really rather be Lifeline than Roadblock. I have a feeling that that type of soldier would even make a mother proud. And a Father, too.