Desertion (apostate, runaway, traitor)
World War II
Over 21,000 military personnel were convicted and sentenced for desertion during the 3.5 years of American involvement in World War II. Of these 21,000, 49 were given the death penalty, but only Eddie Slovik was actually executed for desertion.
According to the Pentagon, more than 5500 military personnel deserted in 2003–2004, following the Iraq invasion and occupation. The number had reached about 8000 by the first quarter of 2006. Another report stated that since 2000, about 40,000 troops from all branches of the military have deserted, also according to the Pentagon. More than half of these served in the US Army. Almost all of these soldiers deserted within the USA. There has only been one reported case of a desertion in Iraq. However, “Desertion numbers have dropped since 9/11. The Army, Navy and Air Force reported 7,978 desertions in 2001, compared with 3,456 in 2005. The Marine Corps showed 1,603 Marines in desertion status in 2001. That had declined by 148 in 2005.”
The UK military has reported over 1000 deserters since the beginning of the war in Iraq, with 566 deserting since 2005.
According to a report from Focus on the Family, an estimated 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failures, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches. (1998)
Judas Iscariot– (Matthew 26:14-16)
Was Judas merely a “follower” of convenience and comfort? Once he discovered that “his king” was not there to give him position or prestige, suddenly it wasn’t worth it.
Hymenaeus & Philetus – (II Timothy 2:17-18)
Perhaps surprisingly to some, these two are preaching next week in a local church near you. That’s right! Honestly, such saintly congregates may be some of your best friends or possibly a family member. What! Do you find this hard to believe? Look at who these two were and what, according to Paul, they were doing. They would be welcomed in most churches and are tolerated in many committees or inner circles; they preach the Gospel of Christ with fervor, but never mention the resurrection. They had surrendered the truth for something people wanted to hear. People are too quick to surrender the truth for superficial tranquility. The truth is the truth and it is not convenient, comfortable, complimentary to our flesh, and most certainly divides. Those who boast “love” apart from the truth are babes at best or false prophets at worst. In the positive, we can must proclaim truth in love, but never abandon truth for love.
This is the most apparent defector of a faithful follower in all of scripture, but you would hardly notice it if you’re not careful. Demas’ desertion was done with such subtleness and gradual progression, that he himself was likely surprised at how easily it came.
We can look at scripture and observe what his relationship with the Apostle Paul was really like, come with me, back to early A.D. 62, about the time Paul was under house arrest in Rome. We’ll start in the letter to Philemon verse 23. The apostle Paul is writing to Philemon and asking him to consider his slave Onesimus as a brother in Christ and to forgive him his running away and stealing. After Paul asks Philemon to prepare for his anticipated visit, he mentions those who are with him in Rome. Paul was under persistent discrimination and life was anything but comfortable and easy. But notice the relationships conveyed in his mentioning of Epaphras. A faithful preacher in the city of Colosse, and fellow prisoner. Paul goes on to share with Philemon the good company he has around him, introducing Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow laborers.
Did you see it, the Apostle Paul noted these men as “fellow laborers”. This is no small commendation from the likes of Paul. These men had been serving along side Paul, witnessing Christ and enduring faithfully the same things that Paul experienced. Obviously, these men were significant and co-laborers of the Apostle Paul during this period of his imprisonment.
A few months later, Paul still imprisoned in Rome in late A.D. 62, he pens this circular epistle to the Colossians. In the closing of this epistle we find yet again the closing remarks of the Apostle Paul and his gratitude for those who faithfully co-labor with him. In chapter 4 verse 14 we find that Luke and Demas are with him still. He does not mention the others (Epaphras, Mark, or Aristarchus) at all, but more importantly his affirmation of these men pale to that of previous letters. He is careful to identify with Luke being not only a physician, but beloved. This speaks to his feelings toward Dr. Luke; evidently he had strong affection for the man that most likely aided him not just medicinally, but spiritually also.
On the other hand, Paul only mentions Demas’ name here. It would appear that in a span of only a few weeks Demas has gone from “fellow laborers” to a mere mention. Wow! Have you gone to someone’s house and or seen someone out someplace and sensed that they were not the same person you experienced earlier. Sometimes we ourselves get this way with our close friends and family. Once in a blue moon, ok, now and again, my wife and I get that way too. She or I will be offended or upset about something and as a result our communication is hampered. Anyone who had observed us earlier would have noticed the difference; a distinct temperature change having taken place. This is exactly what we see here between the Apostle Paul and Demas. Subtle it may be, but clearly less affectionate than before.
Finally, we find one more reference to Paul’s companion Demas, this time in his pastoral epistle to Timothy. Here we find that Paul, who apparently thought he would be visiting Philemon only a few weeks or months earlier, now finds himself aware of his impending fate. This second epistle to Timothy is Paul’s last letter, he acknowledged that his life is being poured out as a drink offering (quite literally now). In this letter, his swan song, we can know that what Paul is here writing from his death bed. Still, it is here, while in his climax of persecution and harm, Demas abandons him. Chapter 4 verse 9 tells us clearly that Demas had forsaken his friend and departed. It doesn’t take a biblical scholar or learned theologian to recognize that Demas abandoned more than a friend, he simply walked away from his cross for something less costly.
You and I are called to pick up our cross and follow Him. Doing so will cost and we shall be persecuted for His names sake. Many of the pews in our churches are empty as a direct result of two types of people, those we have been wounded by other church members (an entirely different message) and those who have abandoned their faith for something less costly. The apostle Paul reminds us in verse 8 that his treasure and gaze was “on that day”, whereas Demas was more concerned with getting his reward “today”.
Can your pastor or eternal brother and sister depend on you? Fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith!
A bondservant of Christ and eternal brother to you