by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

September, 2015

Retired Postal worker and U.S. Air Force veteran Doug Lehman is a member of the Kansas Patriot Guard. The Guard was formed in 2005 as a response to a group that stages protests at military funerals.

“With all the families are going through,” Lehman says, “they shouldn’t have to deal with disturbances at that solemn moment.” He recalls one occasion when he and more than 100 other Patriot Guard members on motorcycles led a funeral procession that was miles long through a rural area, watched by farmers and their children who stood by the road and waved flags.

Once at the cemetery, the Patriot Guard forms a barrier between the protesters and the family of the fallen soldier. Lehman says, “Any comfort we can give the family to help them get through this tough time, I just feel that I owe it to them.” They also serve the families of Police and Firefighters killed in the line of duty.

The protesters claim to be Christians, acting in the name of God. Lehman’s religious affiliation, and that of the rest of the Kansas Patriot Guard members, is unknown, although they are to “. . . strive to remain humble and reverent, keeping in mind the purpose of the mission.” But I know which group is acting like Christians. One group is adding to the misery of grieving families; the other is showing respect. One group is acting out of selfish motives, for cheap publicity; the other is remaining in the background. Everyone has heard of the protesters who seek to disrupt military funerals; but even though the Kansas Patriot Guard has been in existence for ten years, I’d never heard of them until recently.

Some of us could learn a great deal from the Kansas Patriot Guard. When Jesus taught in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30), he read from what we know today as the book of Isaiah. We’re all familiar with the passage he read that begins “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,” (Luke 4:18, Isa. 61:1) but immediately after the portion Jesus read, it says “. . . to comfort all who mourn;” (Isa. Vs. 2b ESV). Comfort for those who mourn, not confront them, and not add to their pain.

The Bible also has much to say about respect. Mostly, it refers to respect for God, persons in authority, and elders, but it also refers to respect for neighbors and others. Paul told the Philippians to “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3 ESV). We are called to be witnesses for Christ, and we need to defend our faith at times but we don’t need to be offensive in our defense. Peter wrote, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience,” (1 Pet. 3:14b-16a ESV). Gentleness and respect are two things that are sorely lacking from the protesters at military funerals, and to me they give other Christians a bad name.

They certainly don’t believe what I do or, apparently, read the same Bible. I pray that my conduct and example help to draw others to Christ rather than to repel them. We have a God who “. . . heals the brokenhearted / and binds up their wounds.” (Psa. 147:3 ESV) and who commands us to do the same. Jesus told the people, “‘Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.’” (Mark 4:24b ESV). In the same way, the comfort and healing we show is the comfort and healing we can expect to receive (Mark 12:31). If we can’t show love for others, who we can see, how can we say we love God, who we can’t see (1 John 4:20). We have a savior who gave everything for us (1 John 3:16; Gal. 1:3-5); the very least we can do in response is to show love, compassion and respect for others. By our actions, we can show that Christ rules in our lives and that we have his love in us.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4 ESV.)

Copyright © 2015 by David Phelps