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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Friends of Happiness, Soldiers of Grace (What is the Salvation Army?)

If I was to ask you what is the Salvation Army, what would you say?

I guess it depends on your experiences of the Army or the context in which you have encountered us. To some we are a social services organisation, others a church, some people even see us as simply a musical group appearing on the streets at Christmas.

I suppose we are all of these in different ways and in different contexts. My favorite description of the Salvation Army is from our founder William Booth; this is from a speech which if anyone is interested can be found on YouTube:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AA0pCYKGbYI
(The audio is a little fuzzy due to the age of the recording but clear enough)

The description that Booth gave us at the start of this speech is "The Salvationist is the friend of happiness"

He goes on to talk about serving the Lord with gladness. I love this idea, the media and sometimes even other Christians would have us believe that Christianity is something to be mourned when in fact it is something that should bring great joy, we are forgiven and sanctified by God, we are His people and His friends surely this is something to be celebrated that should spur us on to a life of contentment, joy and ultimately freedom.

However, the Christian life does not end with our own happiness, but must continue with our service to a fallen world. Another quote from William Booth from his book 'in darkest England and the way out' published in 1890. This is a truly remarkable book, which although now out of print is available to download to tablets, phones and E-readers for free. if you want to know why Salvationists do what we do and what we believe, it's in these pages, as well as the foundation for modern social services.
So to the quote, the nature of Salvation service:

"We want a social lifeboat institution, a social lifeboat brigade, to snatch form the abyss those who, if left to themselves, will perish as miserably as a crew of a ship that founders in mid-ocean." 

I hope you will forgive a second quote from the same book on the nature of our fellow man:

"Let us recognise that we are our brother's keepers, and set to work, regardless of party distinctions and religious differences, to make this world of ours a little bit more like home for those whom we call our brethren."

This is the point of the Salvation Army, and really of the whole of Christianity, while we may fall and fail often as all we are is imperfect human beings, this is what we aim for to be joyful in our knowledge of and relationship with God, but to also be servants, without prejudice or judgement an Army that brings out the best in ourselves and in our fellow man. To be both: 'Friends of happiness and Soldiers of Grace'

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