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Two Soldiers

World War II was at its height. Forces were engaged in what was known as, “The Battle of the Bulge” -- or “The Christmas War of 1944.” The fighting was fierce in the bitter cold and snow.

The Allied Forces bombed and established control of a strategic area. The commanding officer turned to several of his men and said, “Sweep across that field, and kill all German soldiers still entrenched in the snow. I want no prisoners. Absolutely none!”

One of the American soldiers selected gives his account of what happened next. “As I walked, I immediately shot and killed two wounded and suffering soldiers.” He continues, “Then, suddenly I approached a tall, young guy with a broad Teutonic forehead. He was leaning against a tree. He wasn’t wounded -- simply exhausted. He had no food, no water, no comrades in sight, no ammunition. Fear, fatigue, defeat, and loneliness overwhelmed him. He spoke English with a beautiful vonderful-vorld-type accent.”

“When I noticed a little black Bible in his shirt pocket,” he reminisces, “we started to talk about Jesus and salvation. “Wouldn’t you know it, that lanky German soldier turned out to be a born-again Christian who deeply loved the Lord. “I gave him water from my canteen; I even gave him crackers. Then, we prayed and read God’s Word together. And we wept together too.” His voice began to tremble, as tears splashed down his cheeks. His face began to reflect anguish.

“It seems like only yesterday. We stood a foot or so apart, as he read a Psalm from his German Bible. Then, I read Romans 12 from my King James translation. He showed me a black-and-white picture of his wife and daughter.”

The soldier took a deep breath. “You see, in those days, I was a young man in my early twenties. I had just graduated from a Christian college in Illinois and hadn’t had time to sort out my thoughts on the war.

“Maybe that’s why I did what I did.” I bid my German brother farewell, took several steps away, then returned to the soldier. Romans 13, the ‘thou shalt not kill’ commandment, the promises of eternal life, the Prince of Peace, the Sunday school distinction between killing and murder, the irrationality of war -- all swirled in my mind

“When the German soldier saw me returning, he bowed his head and closed his eyes in that classic prayer posture.

“Then it happened. I said three crisp sentences that I still repeat once or twice a week when I have nightmares about the war, ‘You’re a Christian. I am too. See you later.’ “In less than a second, I transformed that defenseless Christian soldier into a corpse.”

Courage: You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, Jon Johnston, 1990, SP Publications, pp. 155-157