Every day thousands of young men and women my age are risking their lives in service to our country in the armed forces overseas. As a Christian I feel that violence is not the way to solve problems and that I can never fight against my fellow human beings. Does that mean that I can’t serve my country? Isn’t it my duty to do what I can to help the country whose benefits and freedoms I enjoy? I have lived in the United States most of my life and have enjoyed the freedoms and services that I easily take for granted. The primary reason we send our soldiers overseas is to protect peace here at home. How can I work for that same peace? How best can I give back for what I have been given?
It seems to me that the place where I can serve is right where I live – in my town, my neighborhood, and my home. If I help my neighbors by doing the small things that need doing, such as cutting grass for the elderly or cleaning up their yards, won’t that be a service to my country? For the last five years I had the privilege of doing this for my neighbor Allan – an elderly man who suffered from mild cerebral palsy all his life. On top of that, when I met him he had just been diagnosed with cancer, from which he suffered terribly. I never knew either of my grandfathers, so Allan became just like a grandfather to me. I grew to love him a lot. I used to mow his lawn and then sit and chat with him and maybe watch a baseball game. As time went on, Allan recounted his life to me bit by bit; his droll humor making even the sad things funny. Late in 2009 Allan’s cancer returned. I was privileged to help look after him in his last days, staying a night at his house to support him just days before his death. These experiences sure touched and helped me, and I trust that they in some way served my country and the world as well.
Another way I can serve my country is to be a good steward. There are many small ways that I can do this. I can drive only when necessary, turn off lights and appliances when they are not being used, buy local produce, and minimize waste as much as possible.
To work for peace I can try to solve conflicts when they arise, at home and at work. The corrupt spirits that cause war and unrest exist in all of our hearts and lives. By fighting against selfishness, envy, and pride in my own life and heart, I can help to reduce the power of those spirits which cause a country to go to war. Just as lighting a candle in a dark forest helps to reduce the darkness, so fighting evil in our own lives helps to reduce the sum of evil in the world and so further peace for our country, our world, and ultimately for God’s Kingdom.
Serving my country also means being a good ambassador when I travel abroad. I spent nine months living in rural Australia and that opened my eyes to what people in other countries think about America. One person said, “Yeah, you Yanks, you think you rule the world!” I decided that when I am in another country, I will try to represent the good things of my country – not through arguing or preaching but by showing compassion, generosity, and care for others. As an American I want to care about them and respect their country and customs and in that way help to improve the opinion that others may have about my land and its citizens.
All this helps to support and serve the country where I live even if indirectly and in unnoticeable ways. Jesus commands us to serve him by serving the "least of these." Will I then not be serving my country if I serve those around me? If I conserve our natural resources? If I battle against the vices of evil in my own heart and life? If I care about others when I travel? I think we can all serve our country because we can all do something to help others.