In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek Him; all his thoughts are there is no God. Psalm 10:4
"There are no unbelievers in foxholes."
A number of years ago I used that sentence on The Lutheran Hour and, sure enough, before the end of the week I received letters, phone calls and e-mails which said, "We beg to differ. There are unbelievers in foxholes." Then the writers proceeded to tell me about the folks who face death without faith in the Lord.
As a matter of fact, they even have an organization: the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers.
I stood corrected.
Even so, I was surprised to read a recent New York Times article, which said atheists are now asking the military to grant them their own chaplain.
I wondered what would such a chaplain do? What would he say? Would he encourage people in their unbelief? What would he say if he were called -- as all chaplains expect to be called -- to minister to someone who doesn't believe as he does?
Frankly, I don't know. These last two years I have had the opportunity of speaking to many Lutheran chaplains. While many of them were stationed stateside, more of them were located overseas, and most were serving in combat zones. They all told me stories of courage, Christianity and the comfort that comes from having faith in the living Lord.
To their stories I can add my own. Having officiated at more than 300-plus funerals, I have seen the same qualities shown by dying Christians who were comforted by their faith in the Christ.
Maybe that's why the most common comment that pastors and, I imagine, chaplains, hear at the funerals of believers is "What do people do at such a time if they don't have Jesus as their Savior?"
Frankly, I don't know.
The prospect of looking at total nothingness (if you believe many of the philosophers) or eternal separation from God in hell (if you believe the Scriptures), is incredibly frightening. I would not want to face driving on a highway, walking down the block or being stationed in a combat zone, if I held to either of those opinions.
On a dangerous battlefield or in the relative safety of home, life can be lonely and frightening, and our ending can come unexpectedly.
This is why I give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ for being with me.
And it is why I feel so very sorry for those military atheists and freethinkers who will face earthly and eternal combat alone.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks for a Savior who keeps His promise to be with me everywhere. May He also watch over our military and the chaplains who give so much of themselves. Wherever they go, whatever they do, may they always rejoice in Jesus who watches over them. We commit them into Jesus' care. In His Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries