“Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:10).
AWOL (Absent Without Leave) is a military term that describes a soldier’s unauthorized absence from duty but with the intent to return. A step beyond that is desertion. A combatant who deserts
his post can be severely disciplined or even executed. Such unauthorized absences are not uncommon. During WWI about 600 French soldiers were executed for desertion. Only eighteen Germans were executed for deserting during the First World War, but under the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany, over 15,000 faced firing squads.
In the United States, more than 12 percent of American soldiers deserted during the War of 1812. The desertion rate of the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War dropped to 8 percent. Of the 2.5 million Union Army soldiers during the Civil War, there were about 200,000 desertions, while the Confederate Army lost over 100,000 to desertion out of one mil- lion soldiers. Over 20,000 soldiers were tried for desertion during World War II. Forty-nine were sentenced to be executed, though all but one of those sentences were subsequently commuted.
Demas was a deserter. At one time this fellow labourer with Paul was mentioned in the closing of a letter to a church. “Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you” (Colossians 4:14). He was also listed as one of Paul’s workers at the end of a letter to Philemon (1:24). But something happened, for Paul later wrote to Timothy that Demas “has forsaken me.”
Why did Demas give up his faith and abandon his work with Paul? The apostle explained that during his first imprisonment in Rome that Demas “loved this present world.” Unlike Mark, who chose to suffer for Jesus and gain eternal riches, Demas traded heavenly blessings for worldly goods. While he may have felt wealthy and free on this earth, it cost him everlasting life.
Let’s always remain on duty as faithful servants of Christ, as Paul wrote: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Precious Lord, may I be faithful until death, that I may receive a crown of life.
For Further Study: 1 John 2:15; Jeremiah 17:5; Revelation 2:10