By Graham Glover –
It is easy for a Solider to know if they are in the presence of a chaplain. Currently, we are the only branch in the US Army that wears an insignia on our uniform. Just above my right chest and below my shoulder is a cross, along with a cross on my patrol cap/beret, clearly marking me as a Christian chaplain.
In the parish, it is a similar situation when I wear my clerical collar. There is never any doubt who I am and the office I hold. This is the case everywhere I go: the local diner, the hospital, my parishioners homes, etc. Whenever I wear the collar, I am clearly marked as a Christian clergyman.
I find great value in these uniforms. Besides the practical ease in never having to decide what to wear, these uniforms allow those I minister to (and those I don’t) to always know who I am. You could say these vocational “threads” allow me to wear my faith on my sleeve. Consequently, I must always be aware of how I represent the office I hold and the faith that I publicly confess. While I never seek to dishonor my Lord or my office, there is no doubt that my language and demeanor is different when in uniform. It’s not that the uniform makes me holy, but it certainly shapes how I act. It regularly deters behavior that I might be more inclined to do were I not wearing the cross or the collar. And this is a good thing. Again, I’m not perfect while in uniform, but I am much more cognizant of my faith, my office, and how my actions represent them both.
Which leads me to wonder, what if all Christians – clergy and layman alike, had to wear a mark of our faith? What if we were always branded as a follower of Christ, no matter where we were or what we were wearing? What if everyone knew who Christians were by some brand, some distinctive mark, from which we could not hide? Would this be a good thing? Would such a brand deter us from words and deeds that we know to be sinful?
Now before my Lutheran peers go ballistic, reminding us that our words and deeds do not make us righteous before the Lord and that this side of eternity we will never be without sin, let me qualify what I am suggesting. It is most certainly true that what we do does not make us righteous before God. Only the blood of Christ does this. It is also true that in this life we cannot fully escape the sin that infects our soul. We will never be fully perfect before the resurrection of the dead. Only the return of our Lord and the new heaven and new earth that this return brings will make us eternally perfect. But my concern is not with our standing before God. I rest comfortably, as should each of us, knowing that in our baptism we are marked as His child, with our name written into the book of life.
What I am concerned with is how we Christians act before our neighbor. I am concerned with how our actions affect those around us. I am very concerned with those who say they are Christians but act nothing like it. How easy it is for us to hide from the faith we claim we confess. How convenient we make it to justify our sinful behavior when we know those around us are unaware or don’t care about the God we say that we follow. We have made our faith so private that it is almost impossible to know who the Christians are among us.
But a mark would change this. A brand that was visible to everyone would make this impossible. We could not hide. The faith that we claim would be known to everyone. And this, I think, would be a good thing. It’s not that the brand would make us holy before God, but it could deter us from doing and saying those things we shouldn’t. It might give us more opportunity to share the good news of the Gospel on a more regular and natural basis.
Am I crazy? Am I unreasonable? Perhaps. But if we confess Christ as Lord, what harm could come from such a mark? Discrimination? Persecution? Who cares…Accountability? Authenticity? More righteous living? I hope so.
So brand us. Mark us. Do so that the world might know that we are Christians who are ready and willing to publicly confess the Lord we follow, at all times, in all places, to all people.