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April 14, 2023

Wounds

The battle is raging across the land. God has something to say about this.

I walked past my twin brother’s hospital bed to the end of the ward, not recognizing anyone I had passed. I had asked the nurse at the entrance of the ward for Roger Helle, and she pointed down the ward, saying, “He’s on the right.” I walked back to her and asked again. This time she walked me to his bed. This can’t be my twin brother, I thought, but the name on the chart said otherwise.

Roger’s unit had walked into an ambush and a grenade had landed at his feet, ripping him apart. Attempting to stand, he was shot twice, one bullet shattering his right elbow and another hitting his stomach, knocking him off his feet. From out of nowhere a North Vietnamese Army soldier appeared and plunged a bayonet into his stomach. A pierced white phosphorous grenade burned through his flak jacket, causing third-degree burns on his back and shoulder. There was a reason I didn’t recognize him.

More than 50 years have passed, but I will never forget that day or the days following. While I was there, a general came and pinned a Purple Heart to his pillow, his third award of that medal. The Purple Heart is awarded only to those who are injured in combat action, and for the most part that means close combat with the enemy. While a Purple Heart does not necessarily indicate heroism, it does mean that you were in the battle.

In the military, it is easy to tell who the combat veterans are — in the Church of Jesus Christ, not so much. I have heard my brother speak at veterans groups and a variety of different venues, and he has often said that “not every wound is visible.” And while I agree with that, it makes me wonder about the “combat readiness” of the Church in America. As I thought about this, I was reminded of a poem by Amy Carmichael, a 19th-century missionary to India.

This is what she wrote: “Hast thou no scar? No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand? I hear thee sung as mighty in the land, I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star, Hast thou no scar? Hast thou no wound? Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent, Leaned Me against a tree to die, and rent by ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned: Hast thou no wound? No wound, no scar? Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
 And, pierced are the feet that follow Me; But thine are whole: can he have followed far Who has no wound nor scar?”

I have the honor of walking with mighty men of God, men who are in the battle, and there is a battle raging in the land. While the Church has gone pacifist, the enemy has invaded our schools, our communities, and our government institutions. We live in a day when men call good evil and evil good. Immorality that would have been condemned 50 years ago is now celebrated in schools, in the media, in Hollywood, in government, and, sadly, in some pulpits. The battle is raging across the land. God has something to say about this:

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” —Isaiah 5:20 (ESV)

“When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” —Isaiah 59:19 (KJV)

The Hebrew word for “standard” is nus, with one definition being “lift up an ensign” (Young’s Concordance). What “standard” are we to raise? Jesus tells us clearly: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32, ESV).

The mighty men that I know are in the battle, and they are lifting Jesus high in all that they do. Most, if not all, have been wounded in the conflict. Those wounds are not visible to the human eye, but they do not escape the notice of our Lord. Isaiah tells us that “with his stripes [‘scars’ — Young’s Concordance] we are healed” (54:5, KJV). They endure as seeing Him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27). Many of those wounds were inflicted by those they thought to be a friend, yet they press on because they know that the battle belongs to the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:15).

So, let me ask you, man of God: Are you in the battle? Hast thou no wound, no scar?

What say ye, Man of Valor?

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