Despite the obvious dangers of World War II, including Nazis and the suicidal kamikaze pilots of Japan, over 38% of American soldiers were voluntary. This means over 6 million Americans fought out of patriotism and conviction to do the right thing. On the other hand, a mercenary is a soldier not motivated by love of country or morals, but by money. As you can imagine, mercenaries tend to be less loyal and fight for the most lucrative cause. Are we mercenaries for Jesus Christ, just in it for the reward? Or do we fight from a place of love?
In John 6, after feeding five thousand with five loaves and two fish, the crowd was on the cusp of making Jesus king by force; he withdrew to the mountain and eventually, the other side of the sea. The next day, when the crowd that ate the bread found Jesus again, they said, “Rabbi, when you did you come here? Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (v. 25-26) Are we like these people, motivated only by what Jesus gives us? Jesus explained further, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” (v. 27) Consider the voluntary soldiers in WWII, who weren’t fighting for a perishable paycheck, but for higher ideals like freedom, justice, and patriotism.
“For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8) Paul didn’t serve Jesus because Jesus lavished him with earthly rewards; Paul served because he belonged to Jesus. He expounded on this in 1 Corinthians 6:19, announcing, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Mercenaries don’t belong to anyone, but instead fight for whoever pays the best. Certainly, this isn’t this how we follow Jesus, is it?
In Mark 10:21, Jesus describes service to him as anything but the life of a well-to-do mercenary, commanding a rich man, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Just as the brave young soldiers fighting in WWII were moved by a higher calling, Christians are moved by an even higher calling to serve Jesus. It’s a calling that goes far beyond earthly rewards and recognition. We fight for Jesus out of love because, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12)