Who is a soldier?

He shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.

Isaiah 2:4

Dear members and friends,

This week, the word “weapon” came to my mind while I was contemplating the coming Memorial Day. As I was thinking about soldiers, veterans, and wars, the word arose as the central focus in my meditation. In Wikipedia, a weapon is defined as “any device used in order to inflict damage or harm to living beings, structures, or systems.” According to this definition, any object could be turned or used as a weapon besides the obvious ones like knives, guns, and missiles. 

We cannot be 100% sure for what purpose our ancestors invented weapons: defensive or offensive. A historical and anthropological suggestion is that our ancestors might have invented their first weapons for the sake of their survival against the harsh forces of nature. But when our ancestors began to make metal weapons around 3,300 B.C., their main target was no longer forces in nature, but other humans. Consequently, dwelling places were fortified followed by the formation of the standing army, which required taxation of the people for support. Ever since, humanity has never been free of wars and thus, the pain, sadness, and sorrow caused by wars fills our history.  

We are living in an age when and where having a standing army is not by choice, but of necessity. The people who serve in the standing army are called soldiers. Soldiers are ordered not only to bear weapons, but also to use them according to the will of their commanders, who follow the will of their generals, again who follow the will of the highest decision-making body or individual of their country. These soldiers are not strangers or violent people in nature, but are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and friends in our own communities. Carrying a weapon is not an easy thing for a human being, yet harder still is to carry it with the intention of using it against other humans. And the hardest is to be in actual combat where the weapons are used and take lives on all sides. This is the very sad and painful reality in which we live. Yet, I still have a hope that one day humanity may be able to achieve the peaceful time that Isaiah prophesied: neither shall they learn war anymore. 

My brothers and sisters in God, let us be mindful of those soldiers – our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends – who are currently serving, and be supportive of the veterans who have served as soldiers and are now living amongst us in peace.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee

This is an edited version of a message that first appeared in 2013.