The movie, No Greater Love, is the first theatrical documentary filmed on location by an active duty military officer. Chaplain Justin Roberts who produced the film, served in the 101st Airborne in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan-one of the most embedded strongholds of the Taliban. Roberts became known for going to the frontlines next to the men he served armed only with a camera and his Bible. His heart is to team up with veteran organizations and churches to help others understand what these warriors have gone through. We interviewed Roberts in 2017 and talked with him about how his upbringing led him to become a chaplain and what it is like to serve as a chaplain to 800 men.
Roberts reflects on how his past motivated him to become a chaplain.
“My father was a drug dealer and a violent man, but before he left town he went to a church and had them give me a Bible. I’m guessing he felt it would be a way for good things to imparted into my life in his absence. When I was thirteen, my father attempted suicide which left him with permanent brain damage. After that, I felt that suicide was the best option for myself as well. The only thing that was holding me back was that Bible he had gotten me. I felt that I had to at least crack it open and give it a shot. If it didn’t have any answers then I would just end it [life]. On the very first page a woman had written out the path to the ‘Romans Roads.’ She wrote out the verses and page numbers for me to go to and showed me Christ’s purpose in my life and His relationship to me as a Father. On the last page, she wrote out how to accept Christ in my heart, where He has been ever since. I knew I wanted to go into ministry since that point, but I also knew that I wanted to serve my country. It eventually dawned on me that I could do both as a chaplain. Little did I know that as a chaplain I would wind up serving in one of the most suicidal battalions in the Army.”
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:12-14
Roberts shares what it is like to serve a battalion of over 800 men and provide support and guidance to them and ultimately, what it is like to lay down your life for others.
“I think it’s important to note that I was part of a team. Everyone thinks that the chaplain is the minister in a battalion, but in truth there are a lot of brothers and sisters of the faith in every unit. And, they are being used by God just as much as any chaplain. And, people from all different kinds of beliefs come together in the unit to provide care. I know we as Christians at times would like to believe that we hold the monopoly on love and care, but we don’t. I learned more from a foul-mouthed First Sergeant in how to be a chaplain than I ever did from any minister. The reason was that his actions were more caring, courageous, and truly self-less than I had ever witnessed from any pastor I had met. In this way, he understood the heart of the gospel better than most. He would die for you. His men knew that. I knew that. I could write a book about all the actions he took that proved that to us, but behind every action as a single focus to care for his unit. To me, that was at the heart of what a chaplain should be, so I tried to emulate that. In choosing who we help first we try to triage emergencies when they happen, but battles don’t play out in a clean cut way. If you are across a valley from someone who has just been hit, sometimes there is no way to get to them.”
Pray for the men and women who are deployed. Pray that God would protect them. Ask God to give them wisdom and discernment as they make decisions. Ask God to give them physical and mental strength as they are in combat. Pray for their return home, that they would be able to get plugged into any resources that they need and that the church and community would support them.
Serve the families of our soldiers. When a husband or wife is deployed, there is a strain on the family. If you know a family where one of the members has been deployed, ask how you can serve them. It could be making a meal or inviting them to join your family for a meal. It could be picking up their kids after school or taking them to an activity with your kids. It could be getting them a gift certificate
Pray for our country’s chaplains. Pray that God would give them favor with the men and women they serve. Pray that the Holy Spirit would soften the hearts of the soldiers that don’t know Christ and that they would be open to a relationship with Him. Pray that God would give them creative ways to minister on the battlefield and stateside to the soldiers and their families.
To read our entire interview with Chaplain Justin Roberts, click here.