During Annual Army Reserve Military duty in the summer of 2005, a seemingly uneventful thing happened to me. The only reason I even remember the incident at all was being I wrote the event down within days of its occurrence. The event came and went as quickly as it had occurred.
I was in a military dining facility on a hot late afternoon. At the time, an Army Specialist was experiencing a difficult time adjusting to being in a nation other than his own. He never envisioned that service to the nation would bring him to the desert sands of Iraq,
Activities in the dining facility were busy. There were buzzes of conversation, soldiers picking up trays, abrupt laughter, when suddenly everyone’s attention moved from approaching servers to receive food to a short statured Sergeant E-5. Unlike everyone else, the Non-Commissioned Officer presented an ear to ear smile and a uniform indicating the extent of his military training. He was an Airborne-Ranger, Pathfinder, Air Assault trained and sporting his Expert Infantry Badge to go with that smile.
“I’m a fool for the Lord,” he said to a Staff Sergeant. “What are you a fool for Serge?”
He picked up his food, smiled once again then disappeared among the sea of soldiers in Battle Dress Desert Uniforms. That is all there was to the entire event. He was not loud. He never gave anyone a fire and brimstone statement, he wasn’t forceful or dynamic. He made a simple statement and left.
Some of the soldiers snickered. Some from behind said, “Too much action. Typical Ranger. I think he’s lost his freaken’ mind.” However, most of the people in the line simply dismissed the event, picked up their food, and made their way to a table to eat.
Days following the event, not once did the Sergeant’s statement even seem significant. On the eleventh day, the Sergeant’s statement came to mind, pure and vivid as though he was standing right in front of me that very moment.
What caused me to think of the Sergeant in the dining facility line was a troubled soldier who had come back from a fire fight and had witnessed the violent deaths of two buddies. “Are you a Christian, sir?” asked the nervous soldier. “I noticed you bowed your head before you began eating. I’ve noticed only Christians do that. I wish I had the courage to pray in public like you. I want to, sir, but I don’t know how to. And if I did, I’d feel weird. I’d feel like a fool.”
During counseling sessions with young teenagers, the answers seemed easier but how do you explain God to combat soldiers with death and destruction all around them? However, I couldn’t answer, it seemed, the soldier’s questions. That is when I thought back to the Sergeant in the dining facility on line on that hot summer afternoon. Was I really speaking for Christ or was this a faint hearted attempt to smooth over a troubled soldier’s fears, anxieties and difficult experiences. Although I could not verbally respond to the soldier at the time, I had a new warmth and proud feeling for Christianity. Perhaps I was, have been and will be a fool for Christ!!!
I did not say much to the troubled soldier but what I did say may have been just what he needed to hear. Many, if not most of we Christians, sincerely believe we are the ones who cause Christ the ability to abide and live in the hearts, minds and souls of those we touch. We seem to exhibit more pride, contempt and arrogance towards those who do not immediately accept Christianity—especially our version of it. We are fools—but not for Christ!!!
‘What are you a fool for?” began to come to mind. In addition to questioning myself. I suddenly thought about all the extreme things we in America have become fools for. I thought about how so many of us make fools of ourselves for power, money, sex, good looks, our political beliefs, sports, food, things to name a few. How tempting they are when compared to having a passion for Christ!
When one really thinks about it, Jesus made a fool of Himself not for Himself but for the salvation of humankind. Emptying Himself, leaving heaven for a time, experiencing rejection, dying naked on a cross amidst the ridicule of just about everyone on the day He died. People, in general, could never accept a millimicron of what Jesus accepted with respect to His earthly life.
Are you truly a fool for the Lord or are you merely putting on a front? Yes, we sin but we have been promised by Christ Himself forgiveness for any wrong we have done if we are truly remorseful. At first, I never realized what the Sergeant had started and the variety of the challenges the Lord has sent me to bring into focus what should be done and for whom.
I have learned that I am a fool for Christ!!! Are you able to say the same?
Read more articles by Stephen A. Peterson or search for articles on the same topic or others.