Thursday, April 4, 2019

Exploring the Salvation Army Soldier's Covenant

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This is a personal blog. The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them, based on the teachings of the Bible, in the Spirit.

The Salvation Army Beliefs:

Becoming a soldier in the Salvation Army is tantamount to becoming a "church member."  That is the best analogy.  But there is also something more there.  It's a dedication to a radically different lifestyle than the world.  It's almost as if we take on a specialty of service to others, by setting ourselves apart as abstaining from certain practices that might trip up those who we seek to serve.  

Personally, I love the original title of the soldier's covenant which was "The Articles of War." I love to sign me some articles of war!  I want to make war on hell and nothing less! 

Let's take a look. These are the imperatives in the soldier's covenant.  Therefore, believing the doctrines are true...

"1. I will be responsive to the Holy Spirit’s work and obedient to His leading in my life, growing in grace through worship, prayer, service and the reading of the Bible.

2. I will make the values of the Kingdom of God and not the values of the world the standard for my life.

3. I will uphold Christian integrity in every area of my life, allowing nothing in thought, word or deed that is unworthy, unclean, untrue, profane, dishonest or immoral.

4. I will maintain Christian ideals in all my relationships with others: my family and neighbours, my colleagues and fellow Salvationists, those to whom and for whom I am responsible, and the wider community.

5. I will uphold the sanctity of marriage and of family life.

6. I will be a faithful steward of my time and gifts, my money and possessions, my body, my mind and my spirit, knowing that I am accountable to God.

7. I will abstain from alcoholic drink. tobacco, the non-medical use of addictive drugs. gambling, pornography, the occult, and all else that could enslave the body or spirit.

8. I will be faithful to the purposes for which God raised up The Salvation Army, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, endeavouring to win others to Him, and in His name caring for the needy and the disadvantaged.

9. I will be actively involved, as l am able, in the life, work, worship and witness of the corps, giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army.

10. I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, loyal to its leaders, and I will show the spirit of Salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution.

11. I now call upon all present to witness that I enter into this covenant and sign these articles of war of my own free will, convinced that the love of Christ, who died and now lives to save me, requires from me this devotion of my life to His service for the salvation of the whole world; and therefore do here declare my full determination, by God’s help, to be a true soldier of The Salvation Army."

(numbers 1-11 added by me, so we can refer to them one by one in analysis)

First of all, living life by the Spirit's leading.  Don't overlook this precept too quickly.  How many of us do truly follow God's will for our lives?  Do we really seek to follow God's plan?  What if I want to go to one college and God is pointing me toward another?  What if I want to be an engineer and God wants me to be a biologist?  As a soldier we declare that where the rubber meets the road, we will follow God's will, not our own.  And implicit in this, are the basic practices of any Christian, worship, prayer, service and Bible reading.

Second, I will make the values of the kingdom of God, not the values of the world my baseline for life.  And it's pretty easy to tell by someone's life, if they are living by kingdom values or by worldly values. Brass tacks, have you embraced God's design for human sexuality?  Or are you engaging in pre-marital sex?  If you're married, how seriously do you take your marriage covenant?  Do you treat others with love, or are you harsh?  There are hundreds of applications.  There are kingdom values, found in the scriptures, and there are values of the world.  When we become soldiers, we are declaring that we will find our base values of how we live from the Bible, and not from pop culture or the universities, or Hollywood/media/television.  

Three, I think we already touched on that, but the declaration is made that we will uphold Christian integrity and allow nothing that is unclean or impure in our thoughts or actions.  This is basically saying we will live out holiness, as doctrine ten states, 'we believe it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified.'  A Christian is called to live a holy life, plain and simple. Living out holiness means living as Jesus lived, abstaining from sins of the flesh, and living by the Spirit's leading, manifesting the fruits of the Spirit such as love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, and so on. 

Four, we see the application of holiness in the 3rd statement applied to our relationships with others and the larger community of salvationists.  Holiness must be lived out in relationship.  If we dishonor and abuse our neighbors, how can we possibly be living rightly as Christians? 

Five, "I will uphold the sanctity of marriage and of family life." We live in a time when romantic relationships, marriage, and family are not really considered sacred anymore.  Sanctity means that we hold God's standard for our relationships as our ideal, and consider these things dedicated to God.  Sanctity means that these practices of marriage and family are set apart, as different from the ways of the world.  Marriage is a God-given gift, between man and woman, and too often in our world it's treated as a fungible contract, like it can be ended simply because we get tired of the person, or someone more attractive comes along.  It's similar with family, our family life is sacred.  And we should make sure we are practicing sanctity in how we raise our children, treat our children, and how we treat our spouses.  

Six, faithful stewardship.  Time is sacred.  We must practice what we preach, and make wise use of our time and talents, money, and our physical and spiritual being.  We put our spiritual gifts to work for God.  We take time each week to share the gospel. We tithe.  We give offerings. We use our time and talents to bring glory to God and preach the gospel.  As a salvation soldier, we declare that this will be our lifestyle, as stewards of what God has given us.  To one whom much is given, much is required.

Seven is the one that can be a stumbling block for some, and probably the one statement of the soldiers covenant that is most often brought up in practice.  It reads, "I will abstain from alcoholic drink, tobacco, the non-medical use of addictive drugs, gambling, pornography, the occult, and all else that could enslave the body or spirit."  

If your a soldier you've declared that you will abstain from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, pornography, the occult, and anything else that could enslave us.  

Why is this in there?  It's not a sin to drink!  Jesus drank wine!  Notice nowhere in this statement does it say that drinking is a sin.  It simply says that we've agreed to abstain from it.  Why? One of the reasons is that we don't want to cause others to stumble.  Many who we work with in TSA struggle with alcohol addiction, I myself as a recovered alcoholic, was grateful to find a place where people don't drink.  I found it a very safe place to spend my time, knowing they didn't drink.  That is one of the reasons why.  But we also recognize that these addictive drugs and practices can easily become a slippery slope, leading to outright addiction over time.  We try to protect ourselves against that. 

Most of these are fairly self-explanatory.  

But notice the one that mentions drugs, sometimes we can be prescribed drugs temporarily that are addictive. But also, sometimes we can doctor shop to get the stuff we want, I know in the past I used to do that, please be aware just because a doctor signs off on it, it doesn't necessarily mean it's right with God. Recall that in the past seventy-five years cigarette smoking was considered medically safe.  The Holy Spirit will speak to you about this of course.  Please follow His leading.  Also realize this list is not exhaustive, there are other things that can enslave mind and body, such as over-eating/gluttony, social media, music, politics, pop culture, social popularity, violent/sexual movies & tv series, attention from the opposite sex, and many other things, please seek the Lord if you fear you might be enslaved to anything in your life.  

I would also add a word of caution about the occult: Some of these practices are making a come back in our society!  It used to be a bit more simple, with kids playing with Ouji boards in the basement of grandmas house, or reading astrology in the newspaper, or the tarot card shop downtown.  Today it can be a bit more insidious, we can find certain television shows, or books subtly encouraging children toward occult practices. So we really have to be careful what we're putting before our eyes.  Additionally, under the umbrella of the 'new age' movement we see many occult practices being repackaged and mass marketed to the general public.  So please be prayerfully aware of these influences in our culture, and be discerning in what you watch, read, and listen to. 

Eight, I will be faithful to the reason God raised up the Salvation Army: to win souls to Christ.  That's pretty straight forward.  Some in TSA want us to become more and more all about social services, but we need to be faithful to the prime mission: Win people to Christ. That is the primary goal of all we do, winning people to Christ and discipling them in the faith. 

Nine, I will be actively involved in my corps.  Obviously if one becomes a soldier, they should be active in the corps, present at worship, volunteering in various ways, and leading in various ways. In the past I've known people who would sign up, become soldiers, put on the uniform, and then the moment they have some disagreement with the officer their, or the officer changes, or someone says something to them the wrong way, they disappear and leave the corps.  This sort of "church hopping" is not healthy.  We have to grow up a bit sometimes, and learn to deal with conflicts in a healthy way.  Sometimes things may happen where there is no other option, but usually a conflict can be resolved in a church without leaving. (I'm preaching to myself here too)

Additionally, we commit to giving as large a portion of our income as possible to the work of TSA (tithe 10% and above preferably). Preferably a dedicated soldier should be there every week on Sunday, and active at the corps during the week as well! And wear the uniform proudly!

Ten, we will be loyal to our leaders, to the principles and doctrines of the army, and uphold the army in all the work we do.  Sometimes we can get into a spirit of murmuring against our leaders. (I'm talking to myself here too) Or we can begin to engage in gossip and slander against those we dislike.  This can be very tempting when decisions are being made that don't sit well with you, but please refrain.  The Bible is very clear that we must submit to our leaders, even if we disagree with them.  Surely this is a tough teaching, but we must obey it.

I love the phrase "loyal to the Spirit of salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution."  It's easy to be a warrior for Christ when it's popular, it's much harder when we're hated for the gospel message.  But we have to stick it out in times of goodness and difficulty. Will you stick with Christ even if a newspaper slanders you for sharing the gospel?  Will you still proclaim Christ if your friends and coworkers call you a backwards bigot?  Will you still proclaim Christ if you have nothing but the clothes on your back and a Bible in your hand?  What if it becomes illegal to talk about Jesus?  Would you still speak up for Jesus?  Things can change very quickly, in almost any country.  Recall the persecution going on in China right now against Christians.  And think about the culture in the United States, how quickly from the 90s to now that the nation went from sympathetic to Christianity, to increasingly hostile and accusatory toward Christianity!  We must be faithful in times of support and in times of opposition.

Eleven, having ascribed to all these facets of the covenant, we declare it publicly before all those present, and put our faith in Jesus Christ, that he has called us to soldiership and that he will enable us to live it out in all it's fullness, adhering to everything we have ascribed our signature to live and practice.  

That's the soldiers' covenant!  But one can also participate in TSA worship and holiness services as an "adherent" which says that we adhere to the doctrines of the army, but do not take the extra step of soldiership.  And for those so called by God, officership is another step beyond soldiership, where we hold ourselves to even more rigorous standard of devotion to Christ and His ways.  God is good! Hallelujah Amen! 

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