Christian Fighter Pilot Living
In a very basic sense, the Christian in the fighter pilot world lives a “ministry of presence.” Living among those to whom a Christian hopes to minister opens a door that the TV evangelist, street corner Bible thumper, and pulpit preacher will never have. Few fighter pilots would give those people the time of day—they’ll simply change the channel, cross the street, or watch football on Sunday. The Christian fighter pilot, on the other hand, they know and work with. When a Christian fighter pilot lives a wise and successful professional life, they will respect and trust him. If he lives a Christ-centered life, they will see Jesus in him. That is the essence of a Christian fighter pilot’s ministry of presence.
Importantly, though, just as being a Christian in a foreign land does not inherently make a man a missionary, simply being a Christian in an unChristian fighter pilot world does not mean he’s a ministering pilot. While a Godly presence is one of a Christian fighter pilot’s strongest potential ministries, to impact the fighter pilot world he needs more than “presence”—he must live an active Christian life. Living “active” Christianity doesn’t mean delivering sermons at work, but living a Christ-like life and making God-honoring choices that are consistent with Biblical commands. Without taking up the space of 66 books on the topic, suffice it to say that a Christian life is moral, honorable, edifying, and glorifying to God. Succinctly, it is one characterized by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The life of a Christian must reflect Christ; John said that those who claim to know God but do not live a God-honoring life are liars (1 John 1:6, 2:4).
In deliberately living an active Christ-centered life a Christian fighter pilot should let others hear him give God credit for all the things that happen in his life, rather than attributing them to fate, luck, or his own skill. He must let people see that he glorifies God when he has good times, and that he continues to depend on him when he has bad times. Such a God-honoring life—which is a stark contrast in lifestyle and principles to most other fighter pilots—will differentiate a Christian from his peers. Contrast is important. My wife, a former Air Force officer herself, related a story of talking to another officer at an official function when the topic of religion arose. The officer mentioned that he was a Christian, to which my wife reacted with surprise, saying “I never would have guessed you were a Christian.” Her reason was simple: he behaved the same as every other non-Christian officer. The self-professed Christian took offense, but my wife’s point was valid—if his life was no different, how could she have known?
Christians are supposed to be different, not “conformed” to the world. Other pilots will see that difference; some won’t care about it, some will be curious of it, and others may even be hostile towards it. It is distinctly possible that other pilots may avoid a Christian fighter pilot because of his Christianity. They may view the Christian as a “Holy Joe,” a term that is old military slang for chaplains but can also mean a “sanctimonious or overly pious person.” Regardless of perception, if a Christian leads an active life his fellow fighter pilots will know who he is, what he believes, and for what he stands. A Christian fighter pilot must be confident in his faith and ready to give an answer for the hope within him—the same pilots who were hostile toward him may be the first to one day seek him out (1 Peter 3:15).
It’s possible that on his first day as a fighter pilot another pilot will walk up, ask him the reason for his faith, and accept Christ as a result. It’s also possible that he may never vocalize Christ to other fighter pilots; he may only be planting the seeds that will open them up to the next Christian they encounter (1 Corinthians 3:6-8, 10). Every non-Christian peer will react differently to a fighter pilot’s life example and Christianity; the Christian fighter pilot must profess Christ to each of them as they will receive it. Ultimately, the mere example of a fighter pilot living a Godly, moral, and successful life will have a significant impact on the men and women around him.