by Major Danielle
Graphic taken from the cover of the May 28, 1921, issue of the
When my eldest son was four, he was
interested in superheroes. So, when we saw an old War Cry that
featured an image of a Salvation Amy soldier armed with a
sword fighting an evil dragon, we used it to explain to him
how Salvation Soldier was the best superhero of all. However,
my son was quick to point out that the Salvation Soldier image
was in black and white and must be very old. “There is no more
Salvation Soldier,” he declared.
“But I’m Salvation Soldier!” responded my
“You’re not Salvation Soldier,” said my
son. “You just dress like him.”
A few years ago, I ministered on the
streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, which is Canada’s
poorest postal code. With its display of drug use,
prostitution, violence and poverty, it was an affront to our
sense of a clean and safe Canada. Just being in the presence
of that kind of darkness seemed unsafe. But God had
unmistakably called us to be present in the darkness as a
witness to the power of his light. We were to dispel the dark
fear that permeated the area.
Fear of the dark seems to keep many of
God’s people from working in that neighbourhood and
communities like it across the globe. Instead, believers
huddle in safe cathedrals or comfortable meeting places and
pray that God will protect them and their children from the
The problem with this comes as we wrestle
with God’s Word throughout history. What does the Incarnation
of Jesus in the form of a baby during one of Israel’s darkest
moments mean for us today? What does it mean for our own
calling and sense of mission as an Army of salvation that is
meant to go for souls and go for the worst? To find darkness
and banish it from the earth?
The Salvation Army wasn’t created to
respond to need; it was founded to aggressively seek it out.
To find the lost and broken. To find the darkness and dispel
it by being present with light, hope and power to break the
bonds of wickedness and the chains of injustice.
I remember one particular walk in which we
were accompanied by some senior and experienced officers who
wanted to see what the Army was doing in our area. One of them
asked, “What is your safety plan?”
As I floundered for an answer, my
divisional commander stepped in. “It’s the same plan as the
fire department’s,” he said. “We are rescuing people, so when
we see something on fire we do exactly what professional
firefighters do—we charge in! We get in as fast as we can and
rescue as many as we can from the fires of hell, injustice,
poverty, prostitution, rape, violence and despair.”
Everything got a bit quiet. The visitor
then asked, “But isn’t this dangerous? Isn’t this unsafe?”
The answer, of course, is yes. And that’s
awkward, unless you believe the gospel.
Jesus never calls us to a safe salvation.
In fact, it’s the opposite. Following Jesus in the Early
Church often meant suffering, persecution and death by violent
and dark means. Fear should have motivated the early
Christians to stay quiet, lock their doors and pray that God
would protect them. Instead, faith drove them out into the
darkness and has ever since as the Holy Spirit inspires and
empowers believers to let the light shine out of their lives
and into the world. This is the calling of Christ.
Perhaps it’s time to rescue our salvation
message from safety. Embracing risk with faith is how the
gospel is made flesh in our day. It’s how our witness stays
true to form and how people see God’s love with skin on. We
should live the words of C.T. Studd as he charged with his
whole life into global missions: “Some wish to live within the
sound of church and chapel bell. I want to run a rescue shop
within a yard of hell.”
May God inspire us to seek the salvation of
the world. Let’s do more than dress like Salvation Soldier and
be the heroes of God’s Kingdom.