|Photo by Michael Yon|
I felt completely inadequate. I had many answers, but my experiences in the combat zone have been relatively tame compared to theirs. What could I possibly tell them that would not come across as preachy or patronizing? Yet they were looking to me for answers, and I reached for what I could find.
First, I talked about how we are to release our enemies to the justice of God: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." For as much as we want them to pay for their wrongs, absent God's redeeming grace their end is already a terrible one:
But when I thought how to understand thisThen I discussed the example of Jonah, and how the bitterness he felt toward God's compassion for his enemies only served to undo him. Rage made him irrational and filled him with bile, even after God gave him three days in a fish's belly to think about it:
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
And he prayed to the Lord and said, "O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster."Yet God pitied Jonah's enemies, and desired for His servant to share His compassion:
"And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left ... ?"After I finished, these young men poured out their hearts and talked about their frustrations. Yet through it all came a clear desire to serve, to be changed, and to be used of God. I told them I see a tremendous testimony being born in them. They will return to their families, their churches, and their units back in the US, and they will be able to testify to those who struggle with bitterness and anger. They will tell them about how God put them through the cauldron so that they could be a blessing to others, and their words will command respect and will change hearts. I told them God is preparing a harvest of righteousness in them:
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.Afterwards, one of them told me, "I'm going home to read Jonah."
I love these guys. I admire them so much.