There’s a War On

In a recent Newsletter article, “The Good News of Low Participation,” I referenced a study from the Claremont School of Theology on why fewer people participate in a church today than did 20 years ago. Nine reasons were listed. An additional reason came to mind several nights ago while watching a movie about World War 1.

A soldier in the movie was knocked unconscious when a shell exploded nearby. When he woke up hours later in the darkness, he was alone. Around him lay dead horses and men among the smoldering debris, but he saw no signs of life and no sign of his unit.

What do you think this soldier did? Did he sling his rifle over his shoulder and casually stroll through the woods, whistling a happy tune, enjoying the night air and admiring the beauty of the starry sky? No! Holding his rifle at the ready, he found cover, and then immediately began looking for his comrades. His first priority was to find his unit. Why find his unit? He had to find his unit because he knew there was a war on. He knew survival depended on getting to his unit. Alone, he was in danger. The enemy wanted to kill him, capture him, or do him harm. Rejoining his unit was his first priority.

It occurred to me as I watched this that another reason for low participation in churches today is that many Christians don’t know that a war is on. They feel no need or urgency to join in close fellowship with other believers because they feel no danger. Instead, many of us have a peace-time mentality. We stroll through life, whistling a happy tune, and trying to enjoy the scenery. We don’t realize that Satan is at war with God, and since the believer belongs to God, we are Satan’s target. He hates us and wants to do us harm.

In the New Testament, we see this war “world-view.” For example, the apostle Peter urged his readers: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8). The apostle Paul wrote, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (2 Corinthians 10:3,4) . He wrote the Ephesian Christians: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.… put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand,” (Ephesians 6:13). Paul writes Timothy, urging him to “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer,” (2 Timothy 2:3). Latter, he encourages Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith,” (2 Timothy 4:7). The apostle John describes his vision of a warrior Jesus: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war… The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations,” (Revelation 19).

There is a war going on. Satan wants to devour God’s people. He wants to hold people captive in his dark power (Acts 26:18). He wants to defeat the mission of Jesus Christ. This war makes it dangerous to be separated from your unit. An isolated Christian is easy to deceive, easy to discourage, and easy to defeat.

However, there is safety in numbers. Together we can encourage one another, help one another, and pray for one another. We can help each other to recognize and stand against the “devil’s schemes.” Together we can fend off “all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

There is a war on. Life is dangerous. We cannot survive and accomplish our mission in isolation. We need each other. We must stick with our fellow soldiers. We need the church.