Becoming a Salvation Army soldier isn’t about signing up to our doctrines, or getting into heaven. It’s a practical spiritual pathway for our lives.
Christianity as a Way of Life
A few days ago, Richard Rohr quoted church historian Diana Butler Bass, who wrote:
Throughout the first five centuries people understood Christianity primarily as a way of life in the present, not as a doctrinal system, esoteric belief, or promise of eternal salvation. By followers enacting Jesus’s teachings, Christianity changed and improved the lives of its adherents and served as a practical spiritual pathway. This way—and earliest Christians were called “the people of the Way”—bettered existence for countless ancient believers. . . .
A Soldier of the Way
I have no doubt that’s what the Booths were aiming for with the Soldier’s Articles of War, now the Soldier’s Covenant. It’s a way of enacting Christ’s teachings. It’s a way of improving soldiers’ lives. It’s a practical spiritual pathway. A Salvation Army soldier is a Soldier of the Way.
The Most Important Word in the Soldier’s Covenant
From Salvationists conversations and discussions, you might be tempted to think the most important word in the Soldier’s Covenant – what is most important in becoming a Salvation Army soldier – is “drink” (alcoholic) or “marriage”, as we seem to be focused on whether we should drop our prohibition on drinking alcohol (unnecessarily, in my view) and (more necessarily, in my view) what upholding the sanctity of marriage means in the 21st century, particularly with regard to the LGBT community.
But I want to suggest the most important word in the whole of the Soldier’s Covenant is “THEREFORE”. The Soldier’s Covenant recites our doctrines, our core beliefs. And then it says, “THEREFORE …”. In other words, because, as a Salvation Army soldier I believe these things about God, the world, and his impact on the world and me, this is the spiritual pathway I will follow.
A Deliberate Choice with Serious Consequences
Diana Butler Bass continues:
Christianity was considered a deliberate choice with serious consequences, a process of spiritual formation and discipline that took time, a way of life that had to be learned in community. . . . In many quarters Christian communities are once again embracing the ancient insight that the faith is a spiritual pathway, a life built on transformative practices of love rather than doctrinal belief.
Becoming a Salvation Army soldier is a deliberate choice, with serious consequences. It is a process of spiritual formation. Living out the Soldier’s Covenant in the power of the Holy Spirit cannot help but shape and deepen your spiritual maturity. It is a life of discipline. It is a way of life that is learned in the community of your local corps. Salvationist faith is a spiritual pathway. A life built on the transformative practices of love.
Becoming a Salvation Army Soldier is Inclusive
Some see a deliberate choice with serious consequences as somehow exclusive. I cannot disagree more. The Booths were acutely aware that their converts were excluded from many churches of their time. Their first choice had been to convert them and then assimilate them into the existing churches. But that was not to be, and The Salvation Army was born. It seems ludicrous to suggest they would combat the exclusivity of existing churches by practising exclusivity! The Soldier’s Covenant is and continues to be inclusive. It includes people of various cultures, traditions and peoples across the globe. Soldiers are drawn from all levels of society. Becoming a Salvation Army soldier is open to anyone willing to walk its particular spiritual pathway.
Are you a Soldier of the Way? Or is now the time for you to step out on that spiritual pathway God is calling you to?
If you found this post helpful, would you please do something for me?
Why not check out these posts from around the blog?
- Salvation Army Soldiership: A Radical Lifestyle
- Salvation Army Soldier’s Covenant as a Missional Strategy
- Self Denial: The Salvationist’s Most Effective Weapon
- We Believe | A Voice for the Voiceless (Proverbs 31:1-9)
- Bible Message Podcast | Listening in Weakness (Revelation 3:7-13) – Major Mike Lloyd-Jones
- Bible Message Podcast: We Believe | It’s Your Call! (1 Timothy 6:11-21 CEV)
- Sermon Podcast: How to Let Our Corps Grow | Mobilising Our Soldiers (Exodus 18:13-26)
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