The Warrior Ethos

By | 29 Jan 2014

We’ve all heard sermons referring to the Body of Christ as “the Army of the Lord.” Many of us have sung old hymns echoing that sentiment, such as my childhood favorite, Onward, Christian Soldiers. And William Booth thought so highly of the concept he named his organization the “Salvation Army.”

“Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need;” Philippians 2:25 (emphasis mine)

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 2 Timothy 2:3-4 (emphasis mine)

The problem is most Christ-followers have never served in the military at all, much less in combat, so they have little or no frame of reference as to what is involved. Most people assume being in the military means having really short hair, wearing uniforms, marching in formation, saluting, obeying orders, training to kill people with various weapons, and during times of war, actually killing them — and hopefully coming back in one piece physically and mentally.

Here’s a few questions for you to ponder:

  • What does it take for a warrior to Charlie Mike (Continue the Mission) when his brothers-in-arms — often his closest friends, people who he trusts with his very life — are falling like flies all around him, maybe even dying in his arms, machine gun bullets and artillery shrapnel are buzzing a few inches over his head, and whatever is next seems impossible to accomplish?
  • What causes a naval crewman to remain at his battle station, performing his duties — sometimes completely unseen deep in the bowels of the ship — while his ship is getting pounded into scrap metal by enemy shellfire and/or aircraft attack?
  • What motivates pilots to press home an attack on a vital, heavily defended target while the sky is filled with triple-A (Anti-Aircraft Artillery) and/or SAMs so thick it feels like you could step out of the plane and walk on them?
  • Or a bit closer to home, what drives a firefighter to selflessly plunge into a blazing building to save a victim’s life or that of a fellow firefighter?

In other words, what causes otherwise sane men to perform insane acts of incredible valor, such as charging heavily armed enemy fortifications with only a hand grenade, knowing it’s suicidal, continuing forward even after being wounded more than once, often fatally, to win the day?

Though I have personally served in the US Army, it was never in a war zone because our government was winding down America’s presence in Vietnam at the time, so I cannot begin to fathom that kind of mindset from personal experience. Truth be told, I wasn’t all that great of a soldier and my military record is certainly nothing to brag about.

But I have had the rare privilege of hanging with a few true warriors, one being my late step-father who served on a destroyer which fought valiantly enough during WWII in the Pacific to earn a Presidential Unit Citation at the Battle of Santa Cruz. Another is a close acquaintance from church, a former Army Ranger sniper who was made a paraplegic by an IED in Iraq. Yet another is a retired Army general who spent most of his career as special ops chopper pilot. They know I’m grateful for their service, but like most heroes, they would also find the depth of my personal respect and admiration for them awkward and embarrassing, so I generally keep quiet about it.

What is the Warrior Ethos?

Before we can define that, we first need to define both what a warrior and an ethos are — the definitions may not be what came to your mind when first mentioned here. We’ll take the easy one first:

The characteristic spirit of a community as revealed in its beliefs and aspirations
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Coming up with a clear, succinct definition for the term “warrior” is amazingly elusive because it is a highly nuanced concept to grasp. Various philosophers have spent countless hours and words over the centuries trying to formulate such a definition. What follows here is my best shot at the task:

Being a warrior is a calling above and beyond that of a soldier, someone not only capable of engaging in combat, but who has a deep appreciation for the importance and measure of that action.

The consummate warrior is defined by his indomitable spirit, fierce will, personal integrity, and a willing, vigorous dedication to whatever written or implied code(s) of conduct his government and/or unit might place upon him in addition to his exceptional skill at arms. Special ops communities, such as Navy SEALs or Army Rangers, collectively personify this calling, though there are warriors scattered throughout every armed service in other military occupations. Predictably, few warriors are found in long-term staff positions at the Pentagon.

The rarity of true warriors within any given force’s ranks is far from a recent phenomenon:

“Of every 100 men, 10 shouldn’t even be there. 80 are nothing but targets, 9 are real fighters. We are lucky to have them, they make the battle. Ah, but ONE, one of them is a Warrior — he will bring the others back!”Heraclitus of Ephesus, Greek philosopher circa 500BC

Add the two terms together and here’s what you get:

Warrior Ethos
The characteristic spirit of the community of people who are called to be warriors as revealed in their beliefs and aspirations

And here is what these communities of warriors believe and aspire to:

The Warrior Ethos

  1. I will always place the mission first.
  2. I will never accept defeat.
  3. I will never quit.
  4. I will never leave a fallen comrade.

So let’s start applying the Warrior Ethos to God’s Army!

1. I Will Always Place the Mission First

So just what is our mission? Trust me, it’s precisely the opposite attitude which immediately comes to mind when we hear the term “goal oriented.”

Loving Relationships

Loving God

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

Loving One Another

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.John 13:34-35 (Jesus speaking)

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.John 15:12 (Jesus speaking)

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”Ephesians 5:2

Loving Our Enemies

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…Matthew 5:43-44 (Jesus speaking)

Winning the Lost

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Matthew 28:18-20 (Jesus speaking)

Allowing God to Build Us Together in Unity as the Church

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5


Prayerlessness — a pandemic in the American church — is crippling our ability to accomplish any of the above aspects of our mission. I’ve taught about prayer extensively elsewhere here at Miscellaneous Ramblings, so you can go there for more on the topic.

2. I Will Never Accept Defeat

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.1 Corinthians 15:51-58 (emphasis mine)

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.… 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (emphasis mine)

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.Colossians 2:13-15 (emphasis mine)

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. 1 John 5:4


So what can we conclude from these verses?

  1. Jesus has already won the victory through His death & resurrection.
  2. Because we are in Him, we inherit that victory.

Ergo, the only way we can lose is if we quit. We’ll deal with that next.

3. I Will Never Quit

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4:1 (emphasis mine)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (emphasis mine)

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:7-10 (emphasis mine)

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.( emphasis mine) Hebrews 12:1-3 (emphasis mine)


If we were not vulnerable to being discouraged and being presented with the temptation to quit, the Holy Spirit would not have expressed all these admonitions to watch out for it. We are not only warned that discouragement will come, but told how to deal with it.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.

The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:4-9

4. I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.” Galatians 6:1-5

In the King James, verses 2 and 5 use the same word “burden.” So what’s difference? Some have pointed to this, claiming the Bible contradicts itself. They are actually two entirely different words in the Greek:

burdens (baros)
oppressive heaviness, weight, burden, trouble
load (phortion)
a burden or load, which may be either heavy or light

So the word for “burden” is what we would call discouragement or depression. The word has the connotation of “a boulder” or a similar overwhelming, crushing object, whereas the word for “load” carries the connotation of “the portion allotted to us,” kind of like a backpack.

So what it boils down to is that we are responsible for carrying our own backpacks, but are commanded to help those who are under a boulder.

Then we have the word “restore:”

restore (katartizo)
to mend (what has been broken or rent), to repair, to complete, to fit out, equip, put in order, arrange, adjust; ethically: to strengthen, perfect, complete, make one what he ought to be

So we’re supposed to be helping heal our wounded — not reviling them, gossiping about them, humiliating them, and/or rejecting them — and doing so with a spirit of gentleness, never assuming that we have “arrived” and are above temptation.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.James 5:16

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.1 Corinthians 12:27

This means that we are to be transparent with one another — no fronts, no walls, what you see is what you get because none of us is more valuable to God or to the Body than another. When we say, “This is what happened to me, this is what I did, this is what I did wrong, this is what I think I did right, this is where I need help and prayer,” we are being transparent, vulnerable.

Our churches are supposed to be spiritual hospitals where broken people gather to worship the One Who died to unbreak them and receive the love, grace, and Truth they need to become less broken as well as the training needed to effectively minister life to other broken people outside its walls. Churches should never be social clubs where religious folk gather to pat one another on the back about how holy and righteous they are. And a church service’s primary purpose is never to evangelize the lost — that is the congregation’s job — because to dumb down the service to reach the lost means the believers present are never served the spiritual meat needed for them to do what they are called to do.

The Body of Christ is the primary means God uses to transmit His grace to us, something religious church folk tend to forget on a depressingly regular basis. For some reason, God has chosen the exact same mechanism that damaged us — our relationships with other human beings — to also heal us. We are all part of one another, all interconnected, with each of us having a part to play in the lives of one another. When one of us is hurting, all of us should be hurting.

Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. Luke 6:36-38

God is incredibly picky about who gets to judge us. He has only one acceptable candidate: Himself! He is the only Person who knows the heart and mind of every human being and He takes an extremely dim view of people with vastly inferior credentials who try to take over His job. That would be everyone else!

On the other hand, many have abused these verses and others like them to deflect the input of others who would call them into account for their words and deeds. But God doesn’t mean that we are above criticism and that others are not allowed to speak correction into our lives. What He means is we are not to determine that another person is somehow “less than” based upon our evaluation of that person’s words and actions, nor are we to abuse someone based upon their perceived faults— or for any other excuse, for that matter!

Last Song of the Warrior

Here is a poem by my friend and former martial arts instructor, Sensei Brannon Bain, which I believe will inspire you:

I am a warrior.
The cause for which I fight is true and just.
I stand in the path of my enemy,
Against the harm that would come to those I protect.
I shall not waver.

As a stone against the torrent of a great river,
Which flows with the blood of those who have fallen.
Enemies, compatriots, and friends.

I am a warrior.
The cause for which I fight is true and just.
Though there are those that would condemn me,
That I would take the life of my enemy to save that of another,
I shall not waver.

I do not regret the strength of my convictions.
I regret only that my enemy is equally as strong in his.
And so, I stand in the river.

I am a warrior.
The cause for which I fight is true and just.
When the time comes that the river should consume me,
That my blood shall join and flow with those who have come before,
I shall not waver.

For then another shall rise up and take my place,
To bar the path of the enemy, and fight for the cause.
Thus, the river, and the stone, go on.

I am a warrior.
The cause for which I fight is true and just.
I shall not waver.
Sensei Brannon Bain


Now please read it again, this time substituting the term “Christ-follower” for “warrior” and you will grasp what I’ve been trying to communicate!

This should be the Church’s ethos as we fight on until our beloved Savior’s imminent return.


Charlie Mike, Church!

Thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “The Warrior Ethos

  1. Marie Hardy

    Excellent reminder. Thank you.

  2. Connie's House

    Thanks for your thoughts about warriors, Steve. Your personal insight is very enlightening and encouraging. Charlie Mike!

  3. David Bell

    This is meaningful because of my personal walk and because my son is now serving in Special Forces. As one who has been “wounded in the house of my friends” your example bears witness. I view my service as if I am an officer manning a post. That post must be manned until orders arrive saying I am relieved, transferred, or promoted. Jesus commanded that we “occupy until He comes”, evoking a military of holding a strategic position.
    The five-fold ministry then becomes a command structure that trains and equips the occupation forces to repel the tactics of the Enemy. The increase in the depth of wickedness and the depravity of modern warfare, from Vietnam to 911 to Iraq and Afghanistan mirrors the assault that has silenced the church’s voice in the marketplace of ideas and the political arena where “separation of church and state” forms a major stronghold.
    Thanks for this encouraging post.

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