Comrades in Arms

“Sing to me of heaven as I walk alone
Dreaming of the comrades that so long have gone
In a fairer region, ‘mong the angel throng
They are happy as they sing that old, sweet song” (Ada Powell, 1914).

Singing those words always brings a sardonic smile to my face. I lived in a communist country for years, so the word “comrade” has taken on a completely new meaning. The man in the street was “Mr. so and so.” Politicians and dignitaries were: “Comrade so and so.” Hence we rejoiced at the famous deeds of “Comrade Castro,” “Comrade Mao,” and so on.

By the way, do you know what the abbreviation for “comrade” is? In our official newspapers we learned that it was “Cde.”, as in “Cde. Stalin.”

Of course the meaning of “comrade” in the dictionary is one who shares with you under difficult circumstances, in your struggles, side by side.

It was hard to reconcile that with the shining new Mercedes Benz that crowded you off the road, chauffeur-driven by “Cde. so and so.” When you had to queue in long lines for bread and rice at stores while Cde. so and so’s wife went to Harrods in London on regular shopping sprees. She hardly seemed like your comrade.

All of which is to say that the comrades the song speaks of were our comrades, serving God on earth, sharing our tears, our hopes, and our work. Unlike the communist party hierarchy, we remember the real comrades, our brethren and fellow laborers, who served God side by side with us in the kingdom.

“Greet Pricilla and Aquilla, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me” (Romans 16:3).

And one day, as the song says, we will see our comrades again.

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