Military Mottos and the Bible

Question
I am a 26 year veteran of the US military and was wondering how military mottos can be reapplied to biblical principles? They are so much a part of my life and they assisted in living out duty, honor, courage, and country that I desire to reapply these in Christian ethics.
Answer

While I am not aware of the full history behind US military mottos, they can be "somewhat" re-applied to Scripture. However, it should be noted that they probably did not originate from Scripture. One exception may be the CIA (which, while not a branch of the military, makes for interesting conversation) has "And Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make You Free" (John 8:32) inscribed in the lobby to the CIA headquarters in Virginia and allegedly describes the philosophical foundation of the CIA. However, looking at the larger context of John 8:32, in John 8:31 Jesus says, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples." This may not always be the case with the CIA. As seen in this case, there may be a danger in attempting to make our mottos fit Scripture, when in fact they don't.

However, in an effort to "improvise, adapt, and overcome" (unofficial mantra of the Marine Corps), and considering fact that God uses secondary causes to teach his saints, I will list some examples in alphabetical order below:

Air Force

The motto for the Air Force is "Aim High ... Fly-Fight-Win." Christians are called to aim high - that is, set our hearts on "things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1). We are to fly - that is, "mount up with wings like eagles" (Isa. 40:31 - also see Life of an Eagle). We are to fight "the good fight of faith" (1 Tim. 6:12). Of course, the weapons of a Christian's warfare are a little different from that of the Air Force (Eph. 6:10-18). And ultimately, the Christian does win (Rom. 8:35-39), and we win not according to our might, but God's (Zec. 4:6).
Revelation 12:11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

Army

"This We'll Defend" is the motto for the U.S. Army. To adapt this principle into Christianity, we could say the truth concerning God, Scripture, salvation, etc. are worthy of defending. Some have even become martyrs doing so (Acts 22:20; Rev. 20:4).

God calls on his people to be defenders of the truth. Within Christianity, apologetics is the discipline that deals with a rational defense of the Christian faith. We see the principle of defending THE truth in the Bible in several places:

Philippians 1:7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in Gods grace with me.

Titus 1:9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

Jude 1:3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

Coast Guard

The motto of the U.S. Coast Guard is Semper Paratus, or "Always Ready." This immediately reminds us of 1 Peter 3:15: "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." However, Christians need to be ready for much more than just defending their faith (see US Army above). They need to be ready for many things - for example, suffering, living out the gospel despite circumstances. They need to be ready for the larger context of 1 Peter 3 which says:
1 Peter 3:8-19 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, "Whoever would love life 
and see good days 
must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, 
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit

Marines

The Marine Corps adopted Semper Fidelis as its official motto in 1883. Semper Fidelis means "Always Faithful." Of course, the Bible teaches faithfulness, or covenant loyalty. Christians are called to be faithful; without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). God calls his people to be faithful in fulfilling their vows (Nahum 1:15), even in the direst of circumstances (e.g., Daniel in the Lion's Den - Dan. 6:1-28). We are to be faithful in prayer, study, giving, and service. We are to be faithful to our families. We are to live "for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).

We are also to be faithful because the one who has called us is faithful. Moses said, "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands (Deut. 7:9). Paul agrees, saying, "God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful"(1 Cor. 1:9).

Navy

There is no official motto for the U.S. Navy. However, Non sibi sed patriae (Not self but country) is often cited. In addition, "Honor, Courage, Commitment" is another we may hear.

"Not self, but country" may be re-applied to Christianity if we have in view a "heavenly city" and certainly not the USA as a country). In Hebrews 11:10, we see Abraham sought such a city: "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (cf. Isa. 14:32; Heb. 11:13-16; Rev. 21:1-4). One day all God's people will be literally in the new heavens and new earth. This is part and parcel of our glorious future.

As to self, Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Paul teaches us "not I, but Christ, his kingdom, his ways."

As to "Honor, Courage, Commitment," the Christian is to honor God, live out his life with courage, and remain committed. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever" (WSC 1.1 - cf. Psa. 29:2; Eccl. 9:10; 1 Cor. 6:20; Col. 3:23; 1 Pet. 4:11). We are to be courageous (Deut. 31:6; Josh. 3:1-9; 1 Chron. 28:20; Psa. 27:1; 56:3-4; Isa. 41:10-13; Matt. 10:28; 1 Cor. 16:13; 2 Cor. 4:7-11; 2 Tim. 1:7; Heb. 13:5-6). We are to be committed. With honor and courage, Christ committed himself to the cross (Isa. 50:4-7; John 10:18; Heb. 10:5-10; 1 Pet. 1:20). Nothing would stop him from his goal, not Peter or even twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:47-54). He laid down his life (John 10:11); he poured out his life to death (Isa. 53:12). When we were yet without strength (Rom. 5:8), he gave himself up as an offering and a sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:2). No matter what befalls us, Christians are to be committed to Christ as much as he was committed to the will of God (John 6:38). As Paul wrote:

Philippians 1:20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Ultimately, though Christians will not fully and perfectly live up to the even the re-application of the mottos above, God will sustain them, and thus they may have this confidence:

Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Always pray for our troops.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).