It is so easy for us who love God and love all that the Army stands for, and who are concerned for the extension of God’s Kingdom to get a distorted view of what service to God is. It is such an easy thing for us officers to think of our ministry as merely fulfilling the demands and needs of a corps, when our ministry should be our life, what we are. If we no longer live, but Christ lives within us, our ministry is merely sharing the Christ within us, sharing what we are with everyone, at home, on holiday, at the corps, everywhere and all the time.
We cannot separate Christ from his ministry for the two are one. Our problem as people is that we can so easily be busy fulfilling our religious duties, our human precepts, our rules, that they become an end in themselves. We then live in fear of defaulting as far as man-made regulations are concerned, whilst paying scant attention to caring for the intimate personal relationship that God wishes to have with each one of us. We admire that Good Samaritan for his goodness but sometimes forget the cost involved to him in helping the Jewish victim so callously mugged. The cost was more than money; it was facing his own people, and being so frequently humiliated and insulted by such as he whom he had helped. We quickly condemn those two religious men in the story, but perhaps they were too busy about their religious duties to actually help anyone. Their time was ‘corban’, given to God, and to have defaulted would also have been costly.
In an organisation full of procedures and orders and regulations and schedules it is so easy to become the system’s slave, to spend our time keeping the machine going, so much so that we never have time to use the machine for the purpose for which it was built. My children love to go to traction-engine rallies held in the summer, and who isn’t amazed at the skill, beauty and power of those lumbering great giants. Nostalgia for an age I never knew grips me and I look at the energy spent by the enthusiasts who polish and overhaul and maintain those old workhorses. It is a life’s dedication for many of them, standing high on the footplate with blackened faces and oily clothes. I admire them, but their love is for the machine, not the function it once fulfilled. The machine is obsolete, beautiful but obsolete; it has been superseded by smaller, more efficient, more easily maintained machines. It is merely maintained for show.
On a personal level, at corps, divisional and territoriasl level, we too are in danger of becoming promoters and maintainers of machinery. We may fulfil procedures, maintain traditions, proliferate programmes, all in the name of ‘corban’ but at the cost of God’s real requirements of us. Our motives may be far from those described by Jesus in Mark 7:11. It might not be a deliberate neglect of the God-given responsibility that we have for parents, children or neighbours, but the fact that we over-emphasise our Army service, and that our ministry within those confines is considered in isolation from every other aspect of our lives.