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The Honor of the Standard Bearer

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Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].

The world has always seemed to be a stage for war.  Tales of armed conflict fill written history.  The Korean War had ended shortly before my arrival on planet Earth.  Vietnam dragged on through my college graduation.  American troops have fought and died in Grenada, Somalia, and our current endeavors in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Regardless of the cause, it seems that there will always be conflict. 

As we look back in history, we see one of the most powerful armies that ever walked the globe, The Roman Legions.  In those ancient days there were no radios, satellite cell phones, or laser guided bombs.  Discipline and order ruled the day.  This army conquered the known world using three basic tenants.

1)    Uniformity.  The centurions all wore the same uniform.  They understood that they were part of something bigger than just themselves.  They carried a flag-type standard called a vexillum, which showed what legion they belonged.  Each century (a 100 man detachment) carried their own standard called a signum.  These standards helped the troops to keep in the right positions during battle.

2)    Communication.  A general would relay his commands to the cornice, (Latin for ‘horn-blower).  Each command had a unique set of sounds.  The cornice had the duty to blow the exact order from his commander.  Under penalty of death he could not, by pride or mistake, change the order he blew through the horn.

3)     Loyalty.  The Legion carried a portrait of the emperor, the imago, this was to remind the troops they owed their loyalty to him.  “. . . just as we make Rome great, it is Rome that makes us great. Without Rome, we are nothing”.  (quote from Caerleon.Net)

The eventual destruction of Rome occurred when they dropped their qualifications for membership in their army.  Where Roman citizenship had been a requirement, outsiders, or barbarians, were allowed in as paid mercenaries.  Discipline and uniformity were dropped in favor of attracting large numbers.  Communication broke down due to language barriers and lack of formal training.  The commands blown through the horn were not understood.  Additionally there was no loyalty to Caesar or Roman culture or values.

Flags were carried by both Union and Confederate forces In the American Civil War.  Like the vexillum& signum of the Romans, these flags had purpose.  The flag was the most important item which a Civil War regiment possessed.  With the smoke from musket and cannon fire hovering in the air, there needed to be a standard, or rallying point for the soldiers.  The flag was held high, above the smoke, where soldiers in confusion could look up and see the Union ‘stars and stripes’ or the Confederate ‘stars and bars’ and know where their comrades were.  The standards gave direction.  The placement of the flags in a line of battle told the troops where their regiment was.  

It was deemed an honor to carry the flag into battle.  Civil War color bearers suffered tremendous casualties in battle.  These men did not carry any weapon except the flag.  If they fell in battle another soldier would put down his weapon and pick it up.  It was more important to give direction and boost morale than to shoot.  It was considered to be a great dishonor if the flag was to fall into enemy hands.  Many color bearers earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for their deeds – most after dying in defense of their flag.  ( Excerpt from Ian Champ, Dress, Center, Dress!)

As Christians, we need to determine what will make us successful in battle.  Like Rome we have a choice of success or failure based on our actions.  When their army remained pure, they remained powerful.  When they compromised for sake of numbers, they were destroyed.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t let people in, that is the function of the church, to reach out, invite, and win the lost.  However, without full conversion, conviction, and training they are not equipped nor capable of being in a position of leadership.  When we compromise biblical doctrine for the sake of numbers, (or to make people ‘happy’), we water down our message, and thus become just another church in town.

We are soldiers in battle.  Like the Romans, the Civil War soldiers, and others of armed conflict we need the rallying point and direction of a standard-bearer.  But who carries that standard?  The Bible teaches that we are all to represent Christ.

It teaches we are to be holy.  When my wife and I toured in the southern gospel industry we got to know a number of top groups.  The men in these groups could easily blend into any of our congregations.  I know from experience that you can be very generic in your message when you are performing, just as long as you look the part.  Face it, being clean shaven, with short hair, in a suit, does not a Christian make.  To the world our men are just ‘clean cut’.  When I wanted to know where these men stood on doctrine and holiness I looked at their brides! 

I find it difficult to understand why so many churches have quit teaching biblical standards regarding hair, modesty of dress, and distinction of the genders regarding clothing.  They have allowed their flag to fall into enemy hands. 

One of the greatest honors I have had was to be in a store and have two elderly ladies come up to me and ask where I went to church.  I told them, then they replied that they had asked because of how nice my wife looked.  They became teary eyed as they told me that their church used to teach the same way.

I have heard people accuse holiness churches of putting women in ‘bondage’.  What I see, however, is the beauty and honor of a standard-bearer.  A position she represents to the world by her appearance.  She is modestly dressed.  Her hair flows like a regimental flag in battle.  We are reminded to whom our loyalty lies each time we see her because of her obedience to the One whose book she is obeying. 

We live in a world where Hollywood attempts to define beauty.  When we, as men, look at our wives, we can see true beauty, not only inward, but also the outward radiating beauty of a Holy Ghost filled spouse.  Together we will march forward to daily spiritual battles, with the mighty weapons of our warfare, and a standard raised high.

Look to your bride!

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