The liberation from German control of the strategically important port city of Brest, France was paid for with the blood of many soldiers.  U.S. Brigadier General Charles Canham was thus in no mood for diplomacy or deception as he and a few army soldiers entered the German headquarters to demand surrender of his counterpart LTC Bernard Hermann Ramke.

Ramke was stalling for time while his staff secretly sent a wire to Berlin from an adjoining room. Ramke asked General Canham to produce his military credentials as a condition of surrender.  Displeased with such a request from a defeated enemy, Canham pointed to the well-armed American soldiers in the room and snapped “these are my credentials.”

By the end of the war, Canham had been awarded every American medal for valor except the Congressional Medal of Honor. He also received awards from France and Britain for his bravery and accomplishments. Just weeks prior to the meeting in Brest, Canham was shot during the Omaha Beach D-Day invasion but refused evacuation to safety.

These events at Brest were soon publicized, and Canham was credited with having paid the highest tribute possible to his soldiers.  Canham credited power and authority to his army rather than claiming it for himself. The statement “Soldiers are Our Credentials” is still a creed in the United States Army today.

Credentials are evidence to entitlement to rights or privileges, or anything that provides the basis for confidence or belief. (Webster’s College Dictionary).

As Christians, how might we respond if asked for our credentials?

We would be correct to answer that our conversation (manner of life) demonstrates that we are followers of Christ, for Jesus said that if we love him, we will keep His commandments (Jn 14:21, Jn 15:10, Mt 7:21). Outward and inward obedience is evidence of the rights and privilege of discipleship. Claiming to be a Christian while disregarding the Lord’s commands amounts to denying Christ’s authority.

In a more fundamental sense though, the highest basis of confidence we have in being children of God is in the power that made it possible, not by our own accomplishments.  Obedience is essential but we are Christians first and foremost because of the power that makes it possible.  Jesus, the Son of God, defeated the enemy by living a life of perfect obedience, by paying the price of victory with His blood, and by demonstration of His power over death in the resurrection (Acts 2:24).

The apostle Paul stated his own credentials in this way.  “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).  He proclaimed the gospel as the Power of God (Rom 1:16).

Christ is the supreme evidence to entitlement, rights and privileges that Christians claim. Without Him we have no credentials at all.  

Asked for credentials, we point to directly to Jesus, the Christ.