by Eric Creekmore, Major, USMC (Ret)
“Taco” and I were hanging out in the Fighter Shop—our version of the office—talking about our weekends. In typical Taco fashion, he shared his latest conquest and how easy she made it. But, instead of pride, this Monday morning there was far less swagger. In fact, I would say he was depressed. I felt the Holy Spirit at work. He was convicting my friend of his sin.
Taco and I met in flight school. We had spent a lot of time together chasing what the world said would give us life. We lost touch when we hit the fleet as we went off to separate squadrons on separate coasts. Then, almost a decade later, we were reunited as F/A-18 instructor pilots. During our years apart, I had become a follower of Jesus Christ, gotten married and been a radically transformed.
When I sensed the depression in him that morning, I started a conversation. We talked about his lifestyle and the obvious pain it was causing him. I asked him why he wouldn’t turn from it and follow Jesus. He got up from his chair, shrugged his shoulders and responded, “I can’t become a Christian. I kill people for a living.”
What the troops say…
The most common response I got when I shared the Gospel with one of my brothers-in-arms went something like this: to become a Christian, I have to turn in my man card. I’ll have to become soft. I’ll lose my aggressiveness and my ability to pull the trigger when duty calls.
In military circles there’s a common belief that Christianity will strip you of the ability to do the dirty aspects of your job. Men wrongly conclude that since Jesus was a nice guy and never killed anyone* God would want them to be the same way. How can a man who told us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek understand the life of a soldier?
Other men reject Christ because they want to be self sufficient. A lot of guys see Jesus as a shrink who helps them work through their issues. Christianity is a crutch that weak men use to handle the problems that any “real man” should be able to bear.
One buddy of mine was the intellectual type. He had a 50 lb. brain and was a borderline genius. After going back and forth with him over the Gospel message he just couldn’t see the need for a Savior. He believed that he was fully capable of handling life. Like a lot of military men, he believed that self-sufficiency was vital to his ability to carry out his orders.
Some guys can’t fathom that salvation is a gift that cannot be earned. They believe it is fundamentally wrong to allow someone else to pay their sin debt, akin to letting a woman pay for your dinner. No soldier or Marine wants to be a drain on the unit. To let Jesus “carry” them goes against every fiber of their being and training. I had one friend tell me that it “didn’t seem right that Jesus had to pay for his sins.” They were his sins and he should pay for them.
It’s been almost 4 years since I left the Marine Corps. I recently completed seminary and am in the first year of planting a church. My conversation with Taco is my motivation and marching orders. By God’s grace, Jesus is building a church here that I think my friend would be drawn to. I want to strip away the notion that to be a follower of Jesus you must act like a milk-toast pansy, drink decaf, and drive a compact with a “honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker.
Our church is committed to removing every barrier that would keep a man like Taco from meeting Jesus. For this reason, we focus on the incarnate and exalted Savior, the one who is no longer hanging on a cross, but who is sitting at the right hand of God waiting for his signal to return to earth and destroy his enemies. If we can do this, I believe that, by God’s grace, we will complete our mission.
* Meet Christ the Warrior in Revelation 19:11-18.