Several months ago, I wrote a two-part reflection on how I have experienced God’s presence while serving as a Soldier on active duty for 20 years and while working as a civilian for the past 14 years. One of the things I discovered was that God developed my character and caused me to grow in spiritual maturity. One of the ways I grew in character was through careful mentoring by officers and sergeants who were intentional in developing young leaders. In part, this was done by teaching the Seven Army Values, which are defined above. I have recently come to the conclusion that these values nest with, support, are parallel to, and are not in contradiction with biblical Christian values.
As you might imagine, the military culture is different from other workplaces. However, there are many similarities as well. Let me describe the importance of organizational values, paint a picture of the ones that are ingrained in those who work for the U.S. Army, and show how they support biblical values. My purpose is to demonstrate how Christian workers, working in God’s presence, can support their employers by submitting to their values and even taking them a step further.
What is the importance of organizational values?
In general, organizations articulate their priorities so that all members of the team are on the same sheet of music. These shared guiding principles, if adhered to, will provide focus and direction when there are conflicts of interest or ethical decisions to be made. If those values are taught and reinforced often, all employees will know exactly what is expected of them. For example, positive values such as employee loyalty, a focus on customer satisfaction, and holding to a high ethical standard would bring any organization of any size success and unity among the workforce.
For the Army, there was a perceived lack of ethics from the public that came out of the Vietnam War that had leaders at all levels quite concerned. A sensational massacre of local civilians by a small group of U.S. Army Soldiers comes to my mind. This event and other major scandals over the years led army leaders to pursue a serious decades-long pursuit of a professional ethic. Now, Soldiers (and Department of the Army civilian workers like me) know what right looks like.
What do these values mean to military personnel?
It is fairly obvious why these particular values are important. A strong sense of loyalty, both up and down the chain, leads to a commitment to submit to their leaders’ orders and to take care of each member of their team when needed. Treating their leaders with the respect they deserve, in words and actions, and treating all people with dignity and respect makes strong teams. The development of selfless service and personal courage in the face of overwhelming odds enables Soldiers to be willing to give their lives in defense of their country and to overcome their fears to fight and win.
For me, whenever these Army values were taught (formally or informally), I had no problem adapting, since most of them had already been emphasized as I was being raised by my parents.
How does the Bible support these values?
General Dennis Reimer, 33rd Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army once stated, “Army values are thoroughly consistent with the values of American society.” Since this country was originally founded on biblical values, I maintain that they also align with things that Christians value also.
I am not saying that the Army is a Christian organization. All I am saying is that is not too difficult to find Scriptures that reinforce each and every one of these Army values. Let me illustrate:
- Loyalty: “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matt. 25:21)
- Duty: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Col. 3:23)
- Respect: “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17)
- Selfless Service: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
- Honor: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Eph. 4:1)
- Integrity: “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” (Prov. 10:9)
- Personal Courage: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:9)
What are the values in your organization?
For the vast majority of readers who are not currently serving in the U.S. Army, I encourage you to locate and reflect on your own organization’s values. It may have been in your new employee orientation packet or handbook that you received when you were first hired. It may be on posters throughout your office complex or factory. It may be talked about on a daily basis by your boss.
Whatever these values are, by fully supporting them, you can be the kind of employee that will prove to be an asset. As a Christian employee, your motivation to support your boss will be well-grounded by a desire to serve as one who will not be a burden to them (Heb. 13:17). You will be a worker who actually works for (and works in the presence of) the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 3:23-24).
About the author:
Russell E. Gehrlein is a Christian, husband of 39 years, father of three, grandfather of four, and author of Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping other ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. After serving 20 years on active duty, Russ now works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Fifty articles posted on this blog have been published on numerous Christian organization’s blogs or websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, Acton Institute, and The Gospel Coalition.