Together but Separate - The Warrior's Journey®

Together but Separate

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

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“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.”  (2 Corinthians 6:14-16) 

Togetherness characterizes life in the military. Almost everything we do is done as a group. We train, work, eat, and often sleep in the company of other service members. The military cannot accomplish its mission unless we are willing to work together as a team. Then how can we possibly obey Paul’s command to be separate from the world? 

First, remember what Paul had told this same church in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10. “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.” Paul understood that interaction and cooperation with unbelievers was inevitable in this world. Though Christian believers are strangers and sojourners in this world (1 Peter 2:11), yet God’s word commands them to obey its laws and support its government with their taxes and prayers (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; 1 Peter 2:13-17).     

Let’s not forget that Christ’s great commission, to make disciples of all nations cannot be fulfilled unless God scatters His people as seed throughout the world. Jesus said that believers are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16). Salt cannot fulfill its purpose until it is shaken out of the salt shaker. Light cannot illuminate a house until it’s distributed to every room. Nor can we be witnesses for Christ unless we exemplify Christ’s love before unbelievers and share the Gospel with them. How can the military be reached with the Gospel unless there are Christian servicemen spread among its members? 

Paul’s meaning here in 2 Corinthians 6 is that there are severe limitations to our cooperation with the world. First, all allegiances to country or military are subordinate to our allegiance to Jesus Christ. If the government or a commander demands that we do what is clearly against God’s word then “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Second, we do not engage in sinful practices. We cannot avoid serving alongside immoral people, but we must avoid immorality ourselves. Third, on our off-time we should choose to fellowship and worship with our fellow believers. This is critical to our spiritual growth and preservation. Take an ember out of the fireplace and its glow will soon fade. But place it back among the other embers and its flame will be restored. 


  • How does Paul’s instruction affect associations like marriage and partnerships? 
  • Is cooperation with the world something that should be endured or enjoyed? 
  • Shouldn’t we gravitate to those with whom we will spend eternity? 

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