Maybe you remember it when this story first came out almost 10 years ago — the photograph of a wooden cross strangely draped with a military dog tag and a purple vestment and crowned with an army helmet. It was a memorial to Captain Dale Goetz, a chaplain in the US Army who was killed along with four other soldiers by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. He was the first chaplain killed in combat since the Vietnam War.
Captain Goetz considered himself called to this job and had volunteered for the position. He was known as one who always went to the soldiers in the field where he could help them “through long days and nights of fear and dread.” His wife, and sudden single mother of three children under 11, struggled with the loss though she knew he was doing what God wanted him to do.
All in all, it’s a poignant picture. A gun used for taking a life has been replaced by a cross on which a life was taken. All the accompanying accoutrements are symbols of war up next to a cross, which is a symbol of forgiveness, sacrifice, loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you. All of this, taken together, just tells me there are other ways to fight.
I’m not suggesting that Captain Goetz is any more or less honorable or godly than those whose helmets hang on a gun; I’m thinking of this purely in spiritual terms in the real world where you and I live and work every day. In our world, fighting with anyone or anything, other than evil, will get us nowhere. In our world it’s making peace that will make a difference. It’s forgiveness that wins. It’s love that captures all. And it’s losing that brings ultimate gain. And when we are done, our helmet of salvation will be hung on the cross of Jesus Christ.
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).