July 1, 2013
Happy Birthday. Don’t light the candles; it’s too hot, and it wouldn’t be safe…
We set our shared birthday at July 4th, 1776. The Continental Congress – meeting in Philadelphia – ratified the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, setting in motion the Revolutionary War and 237 years of national identity. That’s a lot of candles, requiring a big cake top. Let’s make it virtual.
There are various ways of telling a country’s story. One is to measure generational cohorts. William Strauss and Neil Howe did that in their book, Generations (Morrow, 1991). They tell the story of America by tracing the distinctives of 20 generations, from the Puritans/Renaissance (b. 1584-1614) to the latest wave, the Homeland/Crisis (b. 2001-2022). We tend to share traits with the other people in our kindergarten class…
Another way to map America is through the wars that have defined us. From the Revolution to Iraqi Freedom – 12 official conflicts, not counting the Cold War – our story is marked by defending values and people at the expense of lives and dollars. Find out what someone will die for – or, invest in – and you’ll come to understand them at a deeper level. Our heroes have been named for their role on a battlefield, not their performance in the marketplace. Can you imagine pinning a Congressional Medal of Honor on Mark Zuckerberg for giving us Facebook, even though it made him a billionaire?
In his first Inaugural Address, Ronald Reagan recounted the story of an obscure hero who fell in battle during World War 1. Martin Treptow was a young barber in Iowa when World War I captured the passion of patriots. He enlisted in the Army National Guard, and was soon called-up into active duty, where he became part of the now-famed Rainbow Division – made up of guardsmen from 26 states.
In France in 1918 – under heavy fire from their German enemies – he was dispatched by his superior to deliver a message to another platoon. Private Treptow moved through the battlefield to accomplish the assignment, and was fatally wounded in the process.
When his body was found, stuffed in his shirt was his personal diary. On the flyleaf, he had written his own manifesto; the headline was “My Pledge.” This was his personal charter: “America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure. I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”
It’s hard to scan the meager historic record of Martin Treptow and find any evidence of the sweeping epidemic of entitlement that seems to define this generation of Americans. Pvt. Treptow believed in America, understood the gravity of the battle being fought so far from home, in Iowa… and was ready to work, save, sacrifice and endure – to the point of death – to make his contribution, as if the outcome depended on him, alone.
The Kingdom of God has only had one war, in its long history. The rebellion incited by Lucifer continues today; his opposition to Heaven is ongoing. The fight is not over real estate; the prize in this epic contest is people. God sent His Son into enemy territory, on the rescue mission; He fulfilled His mission, and recruited us into active duty – in our generation – to continue the fight.
Pvt. Treptow was a barber, back home; on the front line, his role was redefined. His heroism isn’t remembered from a barber shop, but – rather – from his efforts to oppose the enemy. His thoughtful commitment made him a timeless hero: ready to work, save, sacrifice and endure.
My role, back home, was businessman. My wartime role – on the front line – is to mentor Kingdom leaders. My marketplace life will be forgotten before I die; my part in the War will define me for Eternity. My reserve unit was called-up 29 years ago…
We’re surrounded by marketplace colleagues who are working, saving, sacrificing and enduring for their business plan; how is our generation of Christians participating in the real Battle?
You know what’s on your business card, but what’s your identity, on the battlefield?