To Battle We Go: The Three General Orders
By: Dr. Steve Kellner
One of the first things a new trainee learns in boot camp, other than doing whatever the Drill Sergeant says “Right now!!” are the Three General Orders. These orders were written for soldiers on guard duty, and especially guarding the “perimeter” of a unit in a combat zone. However, they apply as well to all soldiers in all situations. They are, as follows:
1st General Order
“I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.”
2nd General Order
“I will obey my special orders and perform all of my duties in a military manner.”
3rd General Order
“I will report violations of my special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in my instructions, to the commander of the relief.”
These orders are, as the name implies, purposely general. They don’t cover the particulars of a mission, but the big picture. The first order requires a soldier to fully carry out his or her duties no matter the circumstances and to never quit their post. The second covers obedience to leaders and applies the same level of commitment to the tasks they assign. The third covers the importance of reporting violations of orders, both personal (turning yourself in) and by others, because of the danger these represent to the unit.
The military is quite serious about following these orders. For example, soldiers have been executed for falling asleep on guard duty in a combat zone when it resulted in casualties in their unit, and that penalty is still in place today although seldom if ever carried out. Soldiers are also legally liable to report violations by those in their units, including those of their leaders.
So, what would the Three General Orders for Salvation Army soldiers look like? Here is an attempt:
1st Salvation Army General Order
“I will fulfill my role in my corps to the best of my ability, and I will be faithful even in hard times.”
2nd Salvation Army General Order
“I will accept the authority of the officers and local officers appointed to lead me, and I will endeavor to fully live up to the commitment I made when I signed my Soldier’s Covenant.”
3rd Salvation Army General Order
“I will hold myself to the highest standards of holy living and ministry excellence, and I will lovingly require the same of my comrades and leaders.”
The first order refers to the biblical injunctions to “do whatever you do as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23) and to “persevere in the race marked out for us,” (Hebrews 12:1). The second addresses the lack of respect for the spiritual and temporal authority of our leaders, a serious problem in our society, in the church, and in our Army today. Hebrews 13:17 reminds us to “obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls.” No army can operate effectively without acceptance of the authority of its leaders.
The third order addresses to need for soldiers to hold themselves to a high standard of holy living and ministry excellence, and to hold those around them, including their leaders, to the same biblical standard by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). It is not loving to allow a brother or sister to continue in spiritual error or slipshod ministry detrimental to them and to the corps.
Thankfully, we don’t have to convey as significant a punishment for violation of these Salvationist general orders. But we do need to be just as serious about following them if we hope to fight a successful war against sin. You have your orders!