One of the first people that Harley Camden met in Occoquan was Dirk Carter, a member of Riverside Methodist Church and a military veteran who served in Viet Nam. After Harley’s first sermon, Dirk invited him to lunch at the American Legion Hall.
“I’m a lifelong Methodist,” said Dirk to Harley, after they sat down. “There are times when I think that the denomination is getting too liberal for me, but then I remember all the great people that I’ve known in the church. Mrs. Peterson, my Sunday School teacher, she was so nice to me. Reverend Smith got me through some tough times with my parents when I was a teenager. Chaplain Gerde, who kept me from losing my mind in Nam. All Methodists. So I’ll never leave.”
“Glad to hear it,” said Harley. “The church has been good to me as well. I was an Army brat and we were always moving around. But just about everywhere we went, there was a Methodist church. It gave me a sense of stability.”
Not peace, but a sword
The waitress brought Dirk a beer and an iced tea for Harley. Dirk said that he had been a fighter as a kid. “Always getting into scraps over stupid stuff,” he admitted. “Always had a chip on my shoulder. I was probably on my way to reform school, but then one Sunday I was sitting in church. Didn’t want to be there, but my parents made me. Reverend Smith read a verse I had never heard before: ‘I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.’ That got my attention. Words of Jesus, no less.”
“What did that mean to you?”
“It let me know that Jesus was not a wimp. Willing to fight for what mattered to him.”
No greater love
“Of course,” said Harley, “Jesus did not literally use a sword.”
“Sure.” said Dirk. “But it got me thinking more about what it would mean to be a Christian and a fighter. I came to see that the two were not mutually exclusive, and when I turned eighteen I joined the Marines. Eventually, I heard another verse that really became a key one for me. I think the chaplain said it in Nam. Again, some words of Jesus, ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ I really saw that verse come to life on the battlefield. I swore to myself that I would show that kind of love.”
Harley was impressed. “Dirk, I like the way you bring your work and your faith together.”
“Well, I’m no saint,” he admitted. “Far from it. I need forgiveness, and I ask for it every Sunday.”
Read chapters 3 and 4 of City of Peace as well as the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:34, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” and John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
- How do you visualize the “sword” that Jesus brought into the world, and what divisions did it create?
- Jesus gave his life for his friends, in his ministry and on the cross. Where do you see people doing this today?
Join the conversation through a comment below.