Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Command to Go, and The Centurion Who Couldn't Find The Barbarians

I wrote this story to illustrate that many of us wander searching for some experience when we need to devote ourselves to obeying God's command. I hope you are challenged by it.

            Quintus Gaius was a commander of a hundred solders, we would have called him a centurion. He was once a slave named Quartus which means number four and was captured in a war and given the choice to join the legion or be slain. So he made his mark in the scroll and was enlisted as a foot solder to be marched north across the empire to a distant land he never knew, a land where it snowed.  The way of the legion was new to him and he had a long time learning the way of living and fighting in the legion. The legion was organized and had cleaver ways of doing things that made it invincible against almost any other army. And over the years Quintus Gaius rose from foot solder to leader of 10 to captain of 50 and finally the highest, centurion. He got so used to fighting in the way of the legion that he completely forgot the ways of his primitive homeland.

            In the land of snow where Quintus Gaius was stationed an invasion occurred from the east. 80,000 barbarians crossed the river when it froze and began to occupy the northern lands. The barbarians did not fight in the legion way. Instead of marching in nice neat ranks, row upon row, across the field to charge with their spears and shields they fought guerrilla warfare.  They would break up into bands of 50 and 100 and ravaged the countryside, only joining together at prearranged times and locations.  The legion would march all day to a place where it expected to engage the barbarians in a pitched and decisive battle, but would only find a handful that would flee into the woods. After weeks of marching around without results the general called all 60 of the legion's centurions to his command tent.  The general laid out a new plan for battle, instead of marching as one army of 6,000, each centurion was to take his command of 100 and go on a “seek and destroy” patrol the next morning and to return 3 days later. It was a novel idea of leaving army form and adopting the barbarian’s guerrilla warfare style, but since the legionnaires were better equipped and better trained and had more experience they could divide their forces and not be endangered by superior numbers. So in the dark before dawn each centurion marched his hundred men out through the mist to find and battle the barbarians; some went north to the hills, some went east to the swampy marshlands, some went south to the valleys, and some went west to the forest.

            Quintus Gaius marched his men until one of the scouts came running up to him and said he saw the fires of a barbarian camp off to the left. But Quintus Gaius said, “No it is only a mist from the cool night air,” and ordered his men to march on going past the barbarian camp hidden in the forest.
            Later he rested his men under some shady trees and one of the men said “Centurion, I hear the sound of barbarians singing their drinking songs in the woods.”  But Quintus Gaius said, “No, I think you hear the sound of the wolves and wild bears fighting, and they do not interest us.” The barbarians watched from the trees as they marched away.

            Quintus Gaius marched his men over a hill and some of the men said, “Centurion, we see the glitter and shine of the sunlight on the barbarians spear tips beyond.” Quintus Gaius said, "No you only see the sunlight shining on the river," so they marched past the hiding barbarians.

            Later as they marched on a little boy in rags ran up to him and said he was captured by the barbarians and escaped just that morning. The boy offered to lead the soldiers to where they could find the barbarians. But Quintus Gaius ignored the boy and said. “We are legionnaires, we do not need a child to lead us,” and marched his men in the opposite direction from where the child indicated. 

            They came to a village that was burned by the barbarians and the survivors said their families were taken captive and the barbarians went into the hills. Quintus Gaius and his men followed the trail into the hills but the trail was mixed up with the shepherds’ tracks and his men ended up finding a flock of sheep.

            After 3 days of wandering through the land the centurions all returned to the main army camp. In his tent the general received reports that each centurion had found and defeated the enemy who were dispirited and retreating across the river. Quintus Gaius was the last centurion standing before the general.  With his helmet in his hand he confessed he had no report of victory; he brought no prisoners or captured standards. All the centurions were given rewards except Quintus Gaius who was broken in rank back to foot soldier. A foot solder had a hard life in the legion and Quintus Gaius died a year later of exposure from sleeping on the ground with only a woolen blanket for protection.  All because he kept going the wrong way and never fulfilled his command to fight the enemy.

            If God is working in one place I want to go there. If He is working in the east I don’t want to go west. If He is working in the south I don’t want to go north. I see God working so I want to go and fulfill his command to the church.

(C)Adron Dozat