The front row held their shields up to their noses while the row behind held their shields above the heads of the front row. The third row held their shields above the heads of the second row and so on.
The principle seemed to be that if you had the back of the guy in front then someone else would have yours. No one operated independently of the rest. Together they were strong. Together they conquered.
Christianity conquers by love, not force, but the military image is useful.
1st Century Christian writer Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 12 that the Church, though made up of many different individuals must work together as one body to effectively serve our Master and please God.
Jesus Himself goes further, insisting on the value of every human being, not because of age, sex, social position, abilities or even usefulness but simply because we are created in God’s image. (Genesis 1 v 27) He insists we care for and include the poor and weak, dramatically asserting that anything we do for the disadvantaged we do for Him. (Matthew 25 v 40)
And maybe there’s a key life principle there, that instead of living selfishly to please ourselves, we should live to please the Lord and Saviour.
Each Roman soldier trained to kill or die, to operate sacrificially as one of the team for the triumph of Rome. When church members live and work together as one, treating others with Christlike compassion and respect we bring honour to Him, and this turns out to be the cause worth living for! As Paul puts it:
‘Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ (1 Corinthians 10 v 31)