One of the connections that I’ve made while we’ve been in Romania has been with a guy who owns a print shop. We’ve used his services several times to get copies made for our Battalion since our main operations center has moved to Poland. He’s an interesting guy in the sense that he’s excited to share his love for his country with us as well as his pride in being able to assist the U.S. Army even if it’s just a few copies at a time.
A few days ago, as I was speaking to him, he was telling me about the various attractions around Romania. He shared about Bran, Brasov, Bucharest, and various other tourist sites but he followed that up by mentioning that there were also casinos throughout the country. That’s not a very exciting piece of information for most people unless they enjoy gambling. What was interesting to me was that for him, casinos and the Church were interrelated. He said, “You give your money to both and hope for the best.” He alluded to the fact that most people who “gave their money away” knew that often, they weren’t getting any return for their investment.
As a chaplain – a believer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ – I was saddened by his statement. To some degree, I could understand from where it was he was coming. When a person doesn’t see miracles, or feel as though favor has been bestowed upon them or feel like their prayers have been answered, it’s easy to empathize, to some degree, a person’s frustration with faith or their doubts in religion. But I also felt pity for him. I felt pity for him, and folks like him, who’ve lost faith and they’ve got religion all wrong.
What most people get wrong with religion, faith, life … is that they fall into the trap that life, faith, and religion are what they can get out of it. All of them become very selfish endeavors if you approach them that way. The Book of James says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27 ESV). There’s a principle in this: be selfless. Put others before yourself. It really isn’t all about you regardless of what every advertisement in the world tells you.
One of the Army Values is selfless service. Maybe you have an image of a Medal of Honor recipient; someone who has gone above and beyond in a combat action that saved the lives of others while that Service Member put himself in harm’s way even to the point of death. If you haven’t read about the latest MoH recipient, 71-year-old former Army Medic, James McCloughan then I encourage you to take the time to check out his story and citation. A White House statement quotes him as saying, “I would have rather died on the battlefield than know that men died because they did not have a medic.” That’s the kind of story that humbles me.
I’m also humbled by the day-to-day selfless service that individuals give in small ways: when I’m offloading laundry and a Soldier simply begins helping me carry in the bags, when a Soldier goes above and beyond to make his mundane work exceptional as opposed to doing just enough to get by, or when a Soldier is aware enough of his surroundings and his buddies to know when things just aren’t right with one of them and will take the time to ask questions. That’s the day-to-day that impresses me. Like those simple acts of selflessness, faith and religion should be built on selfless acts. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 KJV). That means putting others above yourself.
My favorite Commandments in the Bible, the ones that I believe that if we could get right, the world would be a different place are “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt.22:37,39). If I never said another word in my lifetime, if I went out saying those two things, I’d be good. The Church isn’t like a casino. I know that Christians have jacked up Christianity over the years but I would challenge you, as I will challenge my new Romanian friend, not to look at the Church or religion as a lottery ticket. Approaching things in that way is never good. Approaching your life that way is never good.
Think of the rights and feelings of others rather than your own. Be selfless in your actions, whether they be Medal of Honor worthy or not. Ultimately, you will be rewarded in this life or the next.