On May 30, 2014, the leadership of Cru Military was formally transferred from Jeff Oster to Joe Ludwikowski. At the ceremony, Joe described the legacy of the faith of the centurion.
The Centurion’s Story
As I prepared for this moment, I thought, “Lord, explain to me fully the legacy of Cru Military. Help me to understand what I’m coming into. What is my part and whose shoulders do I stand upon?” I started to think about several of the men in the room today. I thought about Dick Abel… all that he means to this ministry and the many, many things that he has done. I thought about Jeff (Oster) in the same vein. As I was thinking about legacy and where I fit, I thought more in terms of men, but the Lord redirected my thoughts and I want to share it with you.
A soldier’s faith
In Luke 7, we see Jesus having a special interaction with a soldier. This soldier-centurion had a servant, whom he loved very much and this servant was ill. It concerned this soldier and somehow he talked with some Jewish leaders about his concerns. These Jewish leaders appreciated this Roman centurion because he was part of the occupying army but he treated them like people. He helped them build. He helped them live in peace.
So these Jewish leaders went to Jesus and said, “This man’s servant is sick. Jesus, will You come and heal him, for he deserves this?” And so Jesus begins to walk to the soldier’s house. The centurion finds out about it and says these incredible words. He says, “You don’t have to come to my house. I don’t deserve for you to come to my house. For I am a many under authority and I have men under me. I tell some come and they come. I tell some to go and they go. And I know that if You could speak the word, my servant will be healed.” Jesus hears these words and He turns to these religious leaders and says, “I have not found such faith in all of Israel.”
The eternal impact of the centurion’s faith
The Lord showed me those passages and I began to think about legacy and about Cru Military and about movements all over the world in the global military community in a different way. I could imagine, in my – as a preacher once said – sanctified imagination, two centurions getting together a few months later at Pontius Pilate’s monthly centurion lunch.
This centurion who had his servant healed is sitting next to the centurion who was at the cross, who looked up and saw Jesus die and said, “Surely this was a righteous man!” The two centurions are sitting together waiting for Pontius Pilate to show up and they start talking.
One centurion says, “You know I had that detail with that guy, Jesus, and I saw Him die and I just haven’t been the same since. Something is welling up inside of me and I don’t know what it is.” And the other centurion looks at him and says, “Brother, I can tell you what it is. This same Jesus healed my servant,” and they begin to talk.
I can just imagine, in my sanctified imagination, as Cornelius is transferred all over the Roman world and he begins to talk to other centurions about Peter coming to his house, telling him about Jesus Christ, about how his whole family believed and was baptized that day.
250 years later
I know that this had to have happened because just a short 200 and some odd years later, there was a division within the Roman army, 6,600 men, the Theban Division. They were from Egypt. Rome, at the time, was facing an insurrection in Gaul and the emperor sent the Roman army to Gaul to fight the battle. The Thebans were part of this effort, 6,600 men… all believers.
Now the Roman army put down the insurrection. The Thebans were led by a guy named Maurice. As a matter of fact, today the National Infantry Association has a medal called The Order of Maurice. This is the story behind that medal.
After the war was won, the emperor said, “We’re going to celebrate a couple different ways. First of all, we’re going to offer sacrifices to pagan gods and secondly, we’re going to murder a bunch of civilians,” most of whom were Christians. The Thebans said, “No. We will not participate.” So the emperor had 10% of them killed… 600 of them killed. He said, “Recant. Participate.” They said, “No.” He killed another 10%. Now here’s what they said to the most powerful man in the world. These are centurions, who have been touched by another centurion, who had been touched by another centurion, who’d been touched by Jesus.
“Emperor, we are your soldiers, but also the soldiers of the true God. We owe you military service and obedience, but we cannot renounce Him, who is our Creator and Master, and also yours, even though you reject Him. In all things which are not against His law, we most willingly obey to do as we have done, hitherto. We readily oppose your enemies wherever they are, but we cannot stain our hands with the blood of innocent people. We have taken an oath to God before we took one to you and we cannot place any confidence in our second oath if we violate the first. You commanded us to execute Christians. Behold, we are such. We confess God the Father, the Creator of all things and His Son, Jesus Christ, God. We have seen our comrades slain with the sword and we do not weep for them but rather rejoice at their honor. Neither this nor any other provocation has tempted us to revolt. Behold, we have arms in our hands but we do not resist because we would rather die innocent than live by any sin.”
When the emperor received this response, he had the remaining of the 6600 soldiers executed.
Cru Military, a legacy of the centurion’s faith
Now how do we get from one day with Jesus healing a centurion’s servant to, just a short 250 years later, 6600 believing soldiers who gave their lives willingly rather than renounce Jesus Christ? God began to explain to me that our movement, the movement that Cru Military is a part of, is not a result of a vision statement that we wrote in the last couple of years.
It transcends the passion of Col. Jack Fain and his desire to see every man and woman going to Vietnam know Jesus Christ. If I may say so, it transcends Dr. Bill Bright and the vision that God gave him for the entire world. Our movement began the day Jesus healed the centurion’s servant.
We are Cru Military and we’re looking for centurions.