It began in 1831 as a means of strengthening France’s forces in North Africa. Additionally, ridding France of foreigners in the volatile political climate following the 1830 Revolution.
A Torturous Duty
Its founder, the “Citizen King” Louis Philippe, saddled this unit with the very worst and most dangerous duty. Since there were no Frenchmen in its ranks, he considered it “disposable”. He also used it to do the “dirty work” of the French military. In the early years, it faced combat so frequently that one in four of its members would die from bullets—or disease. Of course, I’m talking about the French Foreign Legion, the second-class citizens of the French Armed Forces.
But there was an unexpected outcome of chronically facing the most torturous duty. Adversity forged the Legion into one of the most feared and formidable fighting units. True, the Foreign Legion went through a troubled beginning with a high desertion rate and disciplinary problems. Yet the “redheaded stepchild” treatment it received from France inspired a remarkable unit cohesiveness. Relentless hazardous duty made it battle-hardened.
One example of the Foreign Legion’s ferocity came from the battle of Cameron, where on April 30, 1863, three French officers and sixty-two legionnaires held off a Mexican force thirty times its size, killing a fourth of its men. To this day the Foreign Legion stands out as France’s elite fighters.
A Lesson Worth Learning
Does God have “redheaded stepchildren” in His family? Are there second-class citizens in His kingdom? Many disciples have felt themselves mistreated by God when they’ve been made to endure long periods of tribulation. They seem to get more than their share of trouble and adversity. They enjoy no shortcuts to success. The Lord assigns them the toughest yet most inglorious duty.
But what they’ve misinterpreted as “second-class treatment” is the very opposite. As the years go by they learn that the fires of affliction will have purified their motives, strengthened their faith, and forged them into men and women of character. “Those whom the Lord loves,” we read in the Bible, “He rebukes and disciplines. Endure hardship as God’s essential childrearing. God is treating you as true children. If you are without discipline, then you are illegitimate children and not true sons” (Hebrews 12:6–8). Don’t be fooled. Quite often what seems like “second-class” treatment, is actually first-rate training. And it will most certainly bring about in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).
Dear Father in heaven, I get so weary of all the pain and affliction. Why must I have it so difficult while others are permitted to escape hard times? Please help me to walk by faith and trust your love and wisdom. Bring about good from all the adversity of my life. Amen.
In article photo: Tire flip by The U.S. Army licensed under CC BY 2.0