Eligibility Requirements

This morning I met the recruiter for our area for the U.S. Army, and her boss who covers a much larger area (including some 360 high schools, I believe he said). In the course of our conversation he told me something that surprised me a bit: he said that only two or three out of every ten high school students right now meet the eligibility requirements for the Army. Interestingly, though, he said that most of those who are ineligible are ineligible not for academic reasons but for moral and ethical reasons. He mentioned marijuana use and alcohol use, which I might have expected. He also, however, mentioned something I don’t think I had ever thought of in terms of the Army–the incredibly foolish things people post on their Facebook and MySpace pages, and the blatantly stupid if not obscene handles some people select for their e-mail addresses (the preceding terminology is mine, not his).

This conversation left me with two thoughts about the U.S. Army, and one about the Lord’s Army. Regarding the U.S. Army, my first thought was that there must be a very ideal correlation between the number of new recruits the Army needs these days and the number of well-qualified applicants, since at various times in our history the Army never would have been so picky. That the Army is so much more selective now, by the way, is a good thing, in my opinion. Not only does modern warfare and defense require much more technologically advanced knowledge than it has in the past, but I think I would find plenty of company when I say that the threshold for qualifying for military service should be considerably higher than having a pulse and a desire to blow things up.

The second thing this made me think of was how long-lasting and consequential ill-advised decisions made in the heat of the moment or in youthful ignorance can be. The background checks mentioned by this recruiter are things I have done. As someone in a position to make hiring decisions, I have Googled applicants and checked to see if they have Facebook content that is available to the public. (I avoid MySpace like the plague). I have looked at e-mail handles, too. And I know you know the ones we’re talking about. The ones that might be funny when you’re in high school or college, but when included on a professional resume or application demonstrate an incredible lack of tact and professionalism at best and intelligence at worst.

Regarding the Lord’s Army, though, this conversation reminded me again of how glad I am that the eligibility requirements there are much less exacting. In fact, if I did everything perfectly when it came to earning good grades, keeping my Facebook page clean, and never getting in any trouble with the law, all while sending all of my e-mails from an e-mail handle dripping with Christian-ese, the Lord would tell me I had not been accepted. Only by admitting that I could do nothing on my own to earn my way in and that in and of myself I am completely unworthy to join His Army can I even hope to become eligible. And only by accepting that Jesus Christ came to earth as a man, lived a perfect life, died upon the cross and rose three days later, winning the battle over sin and death, can I get in.

As we approach Thanksgiving, this is the thing I am more thankful for than any other: I am in the Lord’s Army, and only because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life.”

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