God gave us commands in the Bible to follow, but what prompts our obedience? Do we try to be a Christian as means to make payments on some type of eternal life insurance? Or, is there another reason why God gave us commands?
More importantly, what standard of behavior is God looking for in determining a soul’s citizenship in heaven?
To answer these questions reminds me of a story of a young man named Fred Russell.
Growing up during the depression, Fred learned at an early age the importance of hard work and working together as a team. Living on a farm a few miles west outside of Herington, Kansas, a farm family depended upon each other even during the best of times. But during the 1930’s, a farm family in the Midwest learned to survive one day at a time.
Fred was a gentle boy with a quick wit and a ready smile. When he graduated from high school, he was well-known throughout the community not just because he was a Russell, but of his best friend. He owned a large, massive dog with large black fur and huge paws. People joked that Buck was either part wolf or part bear, they didn’t know.
What people did know was that whenever they saw Buck around town, they knew that Fred was close by.
While the nation was pulling itself out of the depression, war was brewing in Europe. Most people didn’t want anything to do with a foreign war despite the threats of a Nazi dictator. Yet, it wasn’t long before Fred received a notice in the mail that several other young men his age were receiving. He had been selected to serve in the U.S. Army.
Fred was about to go off and fight in a war that he didn’t understand and in a land he did not know.
When the day arrived for the young men from Herington to report for duty, large families gathered at the train depot to see them off. All of Fred’s cousins, aunt and uncles came along with his younger brothers and sisters. Many of the children were carrying small U.S. flags and were waving them proudly.
Fred’s father was standing with his thumbs in the front pockets of his jean overalls and wearing his favorite straw hat. There was a mixture of pride in seeing his son serve his country, along with fear and sadness. Mother was wearing her blue chiffon dress and her Sunday white hat. Fiercely clutching a handkerchief with her white gloves, she was dabbing her eyes with one hand and waving with the other. She was bravely restraining her sadness and fear, trying to stave off the thought that this might be the last day to see her young Freddy alive.
The train jolted ahead and whistled its final farewell. As Fred turned to look away, he noticed a large black furry animal sitting on a grass y hill outside the depot. With his tongue hanging out, Buck couldn’t understand why his master was not coming out from this huge black machine that was chugging away from him. He couldn’t understand why he was not able to join him.
As his best friend faded away in the distance, Fred whispered a prayer, “Lord, please let me see my Buck one more time.”
When the boys arrived at Fort Bliss they quickly learned how to become soldiers. They also were taught two other very important things that would be paramount to their survival — to trust their buddies and the importance of obeying their troop leader.
Fred took this to heart, but nothing in Herington could have prepared him for what was to happen next.
Part One of Two