LEVELING THE FIELD
Barb and I are very proud of our son Neal’s service in the Marine Corps, including two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He doesn’t talk about his experiences very much, but he did relate the following story.
Neal was on top of the HUMVEE manning the 50-caliber machine gun as they patrolled a lonely country road in Afghanistan. Suddenly, there was substantial movement, a rustling in thick bushes up ahead. His platoon had recently lost three Marines in a HUMVEE ambush and Neal’s Sergeant down below in the vehicle ordered him to spray the bushes with machine gun fire. Neal called back “let’s wait awhile and see.” After several tense moments, an old man shuffled out from the bushes pulling up his pants. He smiled sheepishly at the Marines, waved and walked up the road. There was no ambush.
Those of us who have not been in the military or in combat might think that Neal would be in trouble for disobeying, or at least delaying, a direct order. However, those who have been in combat will tell you that there is a certain leveling of the field, a flattening of the organizational chart if you will. Everyone in a combat situation is equally at risk regardless of rank. When facing a real and immediate threat, the wise commander listens to others that have the same stake in the outcome. The old apocryphal story of a General and a Private both finding themselves in a fox hole under heavy fire is illustrative. For a time at least, rank doesn’t matter much as both are under the same deadly risk and their lives equally valuable.
In a different sense, sports teams talk about leveling the playing field to give a better chance at victory. When a team faces a foe that is believed clearly superior, coaches devise plays and ploys that are geared to counteract the strengths of the opposing team and improve the odds of winning.
Christ leveled the field when He came from heaven to save. Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection defeated sin and the Evil One, something impossible for Humankind to accomplish on our own. Isaiah prophesized “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isa 40:3-5)
Christ’s life, death and resurrection provided us grace and imputed righteousness before the Father. Christ on the Cross, hanging sinless between two criminals—one hostile and one repentant—leveled the field and won the victory for all time. The communion table is similarly level, inviting all who trust in Christ to approach the table with humbleness and joy as we remember the cost and share in the bounteous feast.
Bruce Fairbairn, Elder