Over twenty years ago, while on his weekly rounds as a probation officer, Keith was ambushed and shot five times by one of the convicted felons assigned to him. It was a terrifying experience. The word spread through all branches of the Department of Corrections and law enforcement. Once we were sure he would survive and the details of his success in handling it were made known, we received well wishes and get well cards, emails and phone calls from people we did not even know, including the Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections.
Probation officers all over the state congratulated him because it validated them as law enforcement officers themselves. Many offered to donate some of their sick leave to him so he wouldn’t have to go on workman’s comp, which would have paid only 2/3 of his salary. One of the news stories mentioned that he had been in the Marine Corps, and a couple of ex-Marines sent emails ending with the sentiment, “Semper Fi!’ Add this to the people who helped us that very night, including a local fireman who had heard the radio traffic, and after I had driven the forty miles to the town where this all happened and stopped at his station to ask directions, decided to drive me on the next 30 miles to the hospital. He also called his wife to follow us in his own truck so he would have a ride home, dropped me off at the emergency room, parked the car, and paid the parking fee.
Brothers in arms come out of the woodwork when a need arises. They band together and support one another. They offer service far beyond the minimum precisely because they are brothers.
That’s the way the church is supposed to work. We think we have found one that does. When one of us has a serious surgery, the waiting room is full. When there is an accident or medical emergency, the walls of the ER are lined with folks awaiting word. Cars park along every piece of curb in our neighborhoods when one of us is called home. The line to greet a wayward brother as he arrives back to his spiritual family fills the aisles to the back of the building. When prayers are requested, if there were such a thing, the switchboard in Heaven would be jammed. I know. I have been on the receiving end of those times.
I am often bemused by things some do and do not allow to be announced during the services of the assembled church. “That’s not a work of the church,” is patently false. We are to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” We are to “encourage one another to love and good works.” We are to “train the younger” and “support the weak.” We are to gather “from house to house” and “practice hospitality one to another.”
If we can pray for it, why can’t it be announced? And if we aren’t praying for the stability of newly married couples, the safe delivery of new babies and their mothers and the wisdom of new young parents, strength for recently graduated seniors set to go out and make their marks in the world, and thanking God for the examples of fiftieth wedding anniversaries, what in the world is wrong with us? I can see Jesus shaking his head and muttering something about “straining at gnats and swallowing camels,” as we insist on the artificial boundary of a spoken “Amen” before we announce something in exactly the same room to exactly the same people.
When something momentous happens in a Christian’s life, whether good or bad, his brothers and sisters in arms should come streaming out to meet him with whatever he needs. He shouldn’t need to count on the world to support him and offer help. And beyond that, they should be the daily spiritual support, the ones he counts on and runs to, and the ones he in turn aids far beyond the barest necessities. Shame on any congregation when they are outshone by the carnal groups in this world. They are supposed to be the spiritual family, the family of God. When something happens in a family it affects them all, and this family should be the one that cares the most and gives the most because we all share the same Father, the same Savior, and the same salvation—undeserved grace.
Brothers in arms are neither silent nor invisible. If they are, then they aren’t the brothers they claim to be. They know what binds them together and nothing can break that cord.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 1Cor 12:26.