Friday, October 24, 2008

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On Those Who Are Not Against You

Many of my readers are likely to be in the military, as that is also my calling. Others may work in hospitals or other places where you are served by chaplains. Chaplains, we find, come in all shapes and sizes. Many will be strong and Biblical Christians, while others may be non-Christians, or something in between and frustratingly difficult to pin down. The question of how to interact with such chaplains is a constant topic for discussion for those of us in military ministries. In general (and within reasonable limits), I believe in working with them to the extent that it advances the gospel, regardless of their theology. Allow me to illustrate with a personal example:

During my basic officer training, I held the position of Chaplain's Representative (or "Chappie"), meaning that I was the liaison between the actual military chaplain's office and the trainees. By this I was able to assemble a weekly small group for busy trainees. We called it "Time-Bust Prayer Time" to accentuate that we would keep it brief because we knew what pressure everyone was under.

Now for the hard part ... our chaplain, I soon learned, was a member of a non-Christian cult, but classified and assigned to us as "Protestant" by the military. What to do? After all, Christ said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters." (Luke 11:23) How could I work alongside one who is working against my Lord?

I did so, in short, by turning back two chapters in Luke: "... whoever is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:50b) Notice the contrast--one may be against Christ, but not against you--he or she may in fact be a useful ally in your mission! This chaplain was a bearer of a false gospel, but he was also providing me the avenue by which I could minister the true gospel to my fellow trainees.

I mentioned reasonable limits. At no time did our chaplain attempt to influence or dictate the subject matter of our weekly prayer meetings. You may be amazed to learn that I attended his services, which took place on Sunday mornings at the only "General Protestant" service on our little installation. His sermons were bland and empty, but they were not overtly heretical, and those I wished to reach were there (most having no clue of his theology, as he gave little away). Had he openly preached heresy, I would have certainly drawn the line, as my participation would have implied my agreement, and would moreover have caused my brothers and sisters to stumble. Thankfully it never came to that point.

There will be those among you who object to my choice of tactics here, to which I can only appeal to Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. This for me was "food sacrificed to idols" and caused no one (to my knowledge) to stumble. Rather, I made the decision to use the avenue available to me to reach those I was called to reach, and was able to reach and encourage many in the faith.

3 comments:

  1. Dear jailer if you go to my site there is an award for you please pick it up St. poddy. It's from a few day ago. lots of love to you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi there Ray. You bring up quite a good point here. As I began reading your experience, I emmediately thought of the troubles I had working with hospital chaplains while on staff with TIP. It seemed that, though well intentioned, they would undermine all my work with the victims and their families.
    But then I would remember the difference between "the person" and "the work in them".

    I personally agree with your tactics on attending his services. As long as you were 'prayed up and protected' by God's timing and direction then it was a perfect spot for you to find people really seeking God's truth.

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  3. G'day from Australia - I came here from Jules Stones' blog.

    Really enjoyed the message of this post. My Mum would have given you a big thumbs-up.

    ReplyDelete

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