Onward, Christian Soldiers

Lou Lotz

READ : Matthew 5:13-16

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? (v. 13)

In the Roman armies of old, the act of becoming a
soldier was called the sacramentum,
the sacred moment. This was the solemn occasion when the
young recruit swore his oath of
allegiance to the emperor. Christians adopted the same
terminology for that act by which a
new believer swore allegiance to Christ. Thus the
baptismal vows became the sacramentum,
the sacrament.

Church rolls are clogged with the names of soldiers
who have made their sacramentum but
have never engaged in battle. After making their oath
they promptly deserted. Others have
gone on permanent leave, returning occasionally to the
barracks to see how the other
troops are doing. Other recruits remain in the barracks,
never leaving camp to join the fray.

The church I serve recently purchased new hymnals.
It’s a fine hymnal, but I was
disappointed that the old hymn _Onward, Christian
Soldiers_ was omitted. Its militarism
offends people nowadays, I suppose, but I find no fault
with its theology: “Onward
Christian soldiers, marching as to war. . . .” Are we
not in a battle?

Christians are the salt of the earth, but salt that
remains in the shaker is worthless. We are soldiers of
the cross, but soldiers who remain in the barracks never
a battle won. “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed
at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but
God’s” (2 Chron. 20:15).


Forgive me, Lord, for letting others fight in my stead. Amen.