The Phalanx

 

John Keegan – The Book of War, 1999:  “Without discipline, however, armies are ineffective instruments, needing leadership to order their numbers and concentrate their power. The concentration of power at the highest level achievable with hand-held weapons reached its apogee among the Greek city-states of the 5th century B.C., where the Phalanx, a densely ranked mass of spearmen, won battles by sheer weight and momentum in a few minutes of deadly pushing and stabbing. Since the survival of each of its members depended on maintaining the closest possible bodily contact with neighbours, the Phalanx generated and intense spirit of collective effort, which in turn was reflected in the civic life of the Greek states. … In its heyday, the Phalanx was invincible.”

When Jesus sent out His followers with nothing else, He sent them with another believer (Luke 10:1-6). The Christian life is not to be, and maybe cannot fully be, lived without other followers.

I want to offer a quick note that I think is vitally important for the audience that is reading this material. There is much more that will follow about this concept and its significance to us as men: friendships, community, brotherhood, etc. is pretty profound. The word “brethren” is used hundreds of times in the Holy Scriptures.

But for now, just the basics.  

Maybe Jesus was trying to teach His followers that this one of the most basic things about living in His Kingdom.

We cannot do this alone.

In the last of three battles, one version pits 110,000 Persians under Mardonius (Xerxes head general) against about 10,000 Greeks. They fought through the day and whent he dust settled, around 60,000 Persian bodies littered the field mixed with less than 1,000 Greeks.  It was one of the most one-sided battles in all of history. How was this done?

The Greek armies developed a way of fighting in which the men learned to see themselves as part of a formation – not as individuals. They learned to see their shields as defending not just themselves, but the men to their sides and behind them. In fact, they learned to see the area protected behind their shields as spreading all the way behind them to their wives, children, homes and nation. The soldiers were called “Hoplites” because of their ‘Hoplon” shields (the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae are the most famous). The formation and philosophy was and is called “The Phalanx.”

Their devotion to their brothers defined them. The shield was the physical expression of that devotion.

In the phalanx formation itself, each man’s shield covered himself and the man on his side, as well as the men behind. Each depended on the other. When, about 500 years before the birth of Christ, Xerxes led an army of perhaps well over a 1,000,000 men (some say two million) into Greece, the Greeks defeated him in only three main battles. On land and sea, the Hoplites made use of this philosophy of warfare to win even though they may have never had an army larger than maybe 30,000 men (some say ten thousand)… and usually outnumbered at least 10 to 1.

They knew what we too often forget. I meant what I said before.  If we are to remember that we are heroes, we will need brothers to remind us, pray for us, challenge us, confront us, love us, live with us and die with us.

We are not and cannot be in this alone.

Please remember to involve other men in your lives, into the lives of your family, of your children, your church, etc.

 Mainly, though, into your life. We make use of teams to take care of things at work that are nowhere near as important to us as our lives and families – why not involve others? This will mean you, as a father, brother, leader, husband and man, will have to get to know other men well enough to let them help mold and train you. 

They will also be there to help you mold and train your children. You will have to be able to trust them not to abuse or mistreat your child – but even more – trust them not to teach your child something you would hate!

This patrol must involve pastors, youth ministers, and other church staff. However, it also needs to include your friends… and if you are typical of many men in America, you don’t have any real friends you know that well.

My encouragement to you is to pray and begin to work to create those kind of relationships. You will need them in your life and your kids will need them in their lives too. Check out Stu Weber’s book Locking Arms, Steve Farrar’s King Me, Smalley & Trent’s The Blessing, Dobson’s Bringing up Boys, Kimmel’s Raising Kids for True Greatness, and Robert Lewis’ Raising a Modern Day Knight. These men were and are in it with us as well. We are all in this together.

Incidentally, Lord willing, this will also be the name for a ministry to churches to help them develop powerful and integrated Men’s ministries.

Brother to Brother, Shield to Shield, Soul to Soul, Iron to Iron.

Deo Volente’