An elderly gentleman found himself seated next to a young man who was dressed rather sloppily in civilian clothes. The elderly gentleman struck up a conversation to pass the time. After exchanging names and pleasant greetings, he asked the young man, “Son, what do you do?” The young man answered, “I’m a soldier in the United States army.”
That answer surprised the gentleman, and he said, “Sorry. I didn’t know. After all, you aren’t wearing your uniform right now.” The young man said, “That’s because I don’t have a uniform.” “Oh, come now,” said the gentleman, “every soldier has a uniform.” “Not me,” said the young man, “I just wear what I want to wear.”
The old man chuckled and said, “Well, I guess you didn’t read the training manual about how a soldier has to wear his uniform.” To that, the young man said, “No, that book never did interest me. My fellow soldiers are always talking about it, but I haven’t read any of it.”
The old man asked, “Can you at least tell me where your base is?” He got no satisfaction there, either, however, as the young man answered, “I don’t have a base. My fellow soldiers have begged me to show up at base, but I’ve always got something else to do.”
At this point the elderly gentleman only had one card left to play to try to make any sense of the conversation. He said to the young man, “Well, I guess if your commander tells you it’s okay for you to dress in civilian clothes, ignore your training manual, and spend all your time off base, he must have his reasons.” But to that the young man simply replied, “I wouldn’t know what my commander thinks. He and I never talk.”
Now the old man was thoroughly confused. He laughed and said, “Boy, they are certainly training soldiers differently these days. I’d sure hate to have to depend upon you in a fight.” He meant that as a bit of a criticism, but the assessment didn’t seem to affect the young man one way or the other. His answer, given in a very matter-of-fact tone, was, “You don’t have to worry about it. I’m not about to do any fighting anyway. If I did, I might get hurt.”
That answer was the last straw for the elderly gentleman’s tolerance. He had heard all he cared to hear. He leaned up in his seat, looked the young man squarely in the eyes, and rebuked him by saying, “You say you’re a soldier in the United States army, but rather than wear a uniform you dress just like the rest of the world. You never read the soldier’s manual. You never show up at your base. You never talk with your commander. And you have no interesting in fighting for your country. Son, you may think you are a solider, but I assure you, you aren’t one.”
Perhaps by now you’ve figured out where I’m going with this illustration. The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 2:3-4 that the Christian is a soldier in Jesus Christ’s army. And yet many people who claim to be Christians don’t look a bit different from the world, don’t read the Bible, don’t attend church, don’t pray, and never strike a blow for Christ’s cause. How, then, can we take their claims seriously? The best we can do is say that if these people are indeed soldiers in Christ’s army, they are poor ones who aren’t prepared for spiritual battle, and even if they were prepared they have no interest in fighting anyway.