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THE KIND OF CHRIST MEN NEED AND
ORE than ever before the world needs Jesus and more than ever before the world wants
a Saviour. Not only does it want a Saviour who will save the individual from his own selfish sins but the "Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preëminence. For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell; and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:15-20).
Central in the program of religious education is the work of building character around a personal relation to Jesus. This work begins in infancy when the child, for the first time hears the story of
the Babe of Bethlehem and learns to lisp His precious name and continues up to the time when the soul fully grown in this world, goes out to meet Him face to face. Each period of development in the individual life has its own special need of Christ and its own particular comprehension of His person. So also each successive age with its problems and aspirations should have a deepening sense of its peculiar need of Jesus and an ever widening comprehension of His person. The war has not dimmed the glory of Christ. On the other hand it has accentuated our need of Him; it has disclosed the richer meaning of His person and presence in the world; and has brought Jesus Himself much closer to millions of His followers. It is the chief work of religious education to interpret Jesus to this age with such clearness that mankind everywhere will be conscious of their great need of Him, and with such persuasiveness that men will, above everything else, greatly desire him. Perhaps the best key to the world's need of Jesus is to discern that need as reflected in the conversation and conduct of the soldier on the battlefield.
“Every man in our company will go through hell for that fellow," volunteered a corporal of Company -, as his captain passed by. This was on the Saint Mihiel front, just three weeks after the brilliant offensive.
“I understand he is very severe in his discipline," I ventured, desiring to discover the real secret of the captain's power,
“Yes, he is,” said the corporal with emphasis, "he makes them all toe the mark, but he is on the square and he is human and he is not afraid."
"Honestly, I think that man would alone fight the devil himself,” continued the subordinate officer, growing enthusiastic over his captain. "He doesn't know what fear is, and he knows his business, too; every one has got to obey in this company, but if a fellow is sick, or wounded, the captain is as tender as a woman, and if a private gets into trouble he will go right to the colonel and intercede for him. He's a real captain and he's clean, too; that man is what I call a Christian. Why up at Thiacourt, I saw him risk his life again and again for his men. He was always in the front of the fight and that's why I say every one of us would go through hell for him. If the preachers and the men who run the churches were like him, some of us fellows might like to go to church once in a while.” His emphasis upon the words "might” and conce" indicated that he was cautious and noncommittal. This sudden and unexpected turn in the corporal's description of his captain made me think. What minister or what Bible class teacher or what Y. M. C. A. secretary would not give his right hand to have two hundred and fifty fine young fellows who would follow him anywhere! Here is a lad, I thought, who like every other young fellow, knows and loves a real hero, and who naturally links up his hero with his religion. To him, a hero must first be strong and absolutely fearless; he must know his business and be clothed with authority and so be able to demand obedience of all who follow him; he must be just and human and tender and always ready to intercede for a fellow when he makes a mistake or does wrong; he must be morally clean and above reproach; he must be one who is constantly risking his life in order to save his fellowmen and who always leads in every good fight. Here are the finest elements of the moral ideal. Unconsciously this young corporal, seated on the end of a log with a greasy mess kit upon his knee and the smoke of battle upon his clothes, has given a delineation of the real Christ, the kind of a Christ men both need and want.
1. Jesus was strong and fearless. As a young Galilean carpenter He was within the draft age when He laid aside His tools and went out to fight for His ideals. He must have been a young man with robust physique to have withstood the strain of those three years.
He was afield most of the time and suffered great privation for the Son of Man had not where to lay His head. He made it clear to all who would follow Him that there was no glamour about discipleship; only hard fighting and privation and self-denial and, at the end, possible sacrifice. In the last great battle He paid the supreme sacrifice; and at no time did this man among men ever show fear. His quiet sustained heroism was a constant encouragement to His timid disciples. Men in the trenches got a new insight into the meaning of the life of Jesus and because of this many of them were deeply conscious of His living companionship.
2. Jesus commands obedience. He speaks “Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I command you" and lo millions of strong men obey, not from fear nor a painful sense of duty but from love. They instinctively recognize His right to command. None have rendered Him greater obedience than the most outstanding generals of the war, as General Joffre, Marshal Foch, Sir Douglas Haig, and General Pershing, all of whom grant Him homage. As one examines the religious faith of all the great leaders among the Allies both statesmen and soldiers he finds the overwhelming weight of evidence in favor of Christ.
3. Jesus was just; He lived the golden rule before He taught it to men and He taught it most effectively by His life. The laboring men of the world feel deeply that, if the industrial world were only organized on the principles of Jesus, they would get justice, not only individual and economic justice, but also national and international justice. That the world needs this conception of Jesus is clearly stated by Bishop Gore in the following words: “It is true that during the dominance of the old philosophy of selfish individualism there have been prophets of a truer faith who showed how rotten was the basis upon which we were seeking to rest our civilization.” Such were Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin, and such was the man just mentioned, who was truly the greatest prophet