I’m in the middle of a good book about a platoon of Marine recruits, Making the Corps, by Thomas Ricks. Claiming diverse backgrounds, all these recruits seem to have one thing in common; non-conformity. Most of them have specifically chosen the Corps because of its demanding reputation and at Parris Island they will find something worth conforming to or they will fail. About 14% of these young men will not graduate, the highest among the services.
One recruit is very gung-ho and looks forward to a promising career in the Marines and has immersed himself in all things having to do with the Corps. He recognizes the fact that he can help the others with his superior knowledge and abilities and is quick to point out their mistakes. He believes that he is more than ready to guide the squad through the rigors of boot camp and sees himself as a natural leader. Unfortunately for him, his drill instructors do not.
His attempts at instructing the other recruits is against standard orders and demonstrates a lack of discipline. It is the drill instructor’s job to teach the recruits; they alone have the authority. Besides, this recruit has troubles of his own and tends to complain. Eventually he fails a major test and is let go. He is not missed by most of the platoon; they are too busy to notice (not that they ever took his ministrations very seriously).
Another recruit, equally enthusiastic but more low key, is recognized by the platoon, as well as their sergeants, as a natural leader. He tackles every task aggressively and excels at them all. Humble, he never points out the mistakes of others but is ready to help when needed. Not seeking attention he claims no special leadership qualities. Nevertheless, he is quietly chosen by the drill instructors to be the squad leader. The platoon is pleased with this decision and has no trouble following his lead. Everyone can see that this recruit embodies the spirit of the Corps and shows the promise of perhaps some day earning the honor of becoming a Marine Corps drill instructor himself.
I found this story to be a good analogy for how certain enthusiastic Christians perceive their roles in life. Some seem to see themselves as having been chosen to lead others out of sin by virtue of what they believe. They do this by verbally sharing what they call the Word of God, whenever and where ever possible, with little concern for the circumstances, feelings or credulity of those they preach to.
They see it as their duty to confront ignorance, sin and error. Though these confrontations may be upsetting to some, good leaders do not shy away from difficult tasks. After all, Jesus was harsh at times and he did not always worry about other’s feelings. These erstwhile leaders are not dismayed or surprised at the negative reactions they encounter when proclaiming the Truths and attribute this to the fallen nature of the unsaved. There will always be a natural gulf between those who lead and those who follow, between those who are right and those who are wrong.
There are other Christians, however, who do not claim any higher status. They do not boast of having special knowledge or an especially unique relationship with God, even if they believe it to be so. They feel that serving others with compassion and grace is not only rewarding but obedient to God. Their sense is that most people are working towards a closer communion with God and that no one has graduated yet. There is still much to be learned from others. Building relationships provides more opportunity for evangelism than telling people that their beliefs are wrong.
Those who see themselves as decisive leaders; confronting, exhorting, rebuking and intentionally setting themselves up as examples – much like drill instructors – often find that few will follow their lead. On the other hand, those who see themselves as part of a community working towards a common goal understand something the others do not; it is best to put the group ahead of yourself and leave the exhortations up to the real drill instructor.
Who can also be good a analogy for Jesus.