Gospel & Culture blog
By Kenneth Nehrbass
Even though we call the Nov. 11 celebration of our military forces "Veteran's Day," a veteran literally just means "old timer"-- someone who is experienced at something. You can be a veteran farmer or a veteran computer programmer. And while we are continually adding holidays throughout the year to celebrate all sorts of important occupations, many of us hold "Veteran's Day" in higher esteem than the rest. Those who serve in the military sacrifice the opportunity to earn higher salaries elsewhere, their ability to live near family, the comforts of home, many of their freedoms, and sometimes their lives, to protect our nation.
In 2023, my son Private First Class Caleb Nehrbass will finish his first term in the US Army as a Blackhawk helicopter maintainer and will join the distinguished list of "old timer" veterans. This is an honor he will carry the rest of his life, like both of his grandfathers and all four of his great-grandfathers.
One way people describe their appreciation of veterans is by pointing out they "defend our way of life." It's true that many careers MAINTAIN our way of life. Farmers maintain our world class level of abundant food production; the press maintains our unprecedented freedoms of speech; pastors maintain our tremendous freedoms of religious speech; entrepreneurs maintain our nation's reputation of ingenuity and upward mobility. But over the past century, dictators, unjust governments and religious sects have arisen that would like to remove these freedoms from our (and our allies') farmers, press, pastors, and entrepreneurs. The veterans have made sacrifices to make sure that doesn't happen.
A year ago, my wife Mendy and I sat in the stands with the parents of a thousand other soldiers who graduated from boot camp at Fort Jackson, SC. Canons blasted smoke across the airfield, and the soldiers appeared through the thick of the smoke, marching in formation to the Army theme song. The young men and women stood before us and took an oath to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Often, our soldiers are sent to protect not only strangers, but strangers on
foreign soil-- and even to protect the freedoms of those who have animosity towards them. This act of love (the willingness to die to protect a perfect stranger) reminds me of the Apostle Paul's discussion of God's love in Romans 5-- God demonstrated His love toward us, even though we are often God's enemies. Jesus died for all of us, no matter how bad we are, and no matter how much we reject his law and his love. Paul pointed out "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die" (Rom 5:7 NIV). What is so remarkable about our soldiers is that they do not say, "I will make sacrifices for that group over there, because they deserve it; but I will not make a sacrifice for those people -- they aren't good enough." A soldier's undiscriminating willingness to sacrifice is analogous to Christ's undiscriminating and all-sacrificing love.
Let's celebrate Christ and our soldiers this Veteran's Day.
© 2015 Kenneth Nehrbass. All Rights Reserved.
Kenneth Nehrbass, Ph.D.
Associate Professor at Biola University, Author, Pastor