As you know we are in a war – a physical war in Iraq and Afghanistan as a country. We are also in a spiritual war as Christians and a Church. We have just come through a very tough spiritual war in our church. Here are 6 lessons that I have learned from this so far. These lessons obviously apply to our battle the last two years but it also applies to any individual battles we have with the enemy.
Lesson #1 – War is Bloody, Hurts, and is not Glorious
I realize that the Bible commands us to fight against the enemy. I realize that Jesus is called the “Lord of the Army (Hosts)”. I realize that if we don’t fight against the enemy we will be consumed by the enemy. But I also realize that war is plan B. It was never God’s will that we would have to fight back against an enemy and reclaim land inch by inch. War is a result of our sin that allowed our authority to be transferred to an evil enemy. He has and continues to exploit our sin and rebellion. Yes, it was our rebellion that brought us to this point. We are fighting. But it’s not fun and it is not without pain. When we fight against the enemy we are fighting against our own past sins as a people that have led us to where we are at. The only glory that comes is when the principles of God are restored in the earth. This glory is worth it, but let’s admit, the battle is bloody, it hurts, and in the short term is not glorious.
Lesson #2 – War is not Just About Winners and Losers
War is not as clean as dividing people into winners and losers. That is our nature to make things simple. But there is a third category of people that is often hard to tell at first if they are winners and losers. That third category is the wounded.
In every war there are casualties. Some of the casualties are severe, some are not. Some of the casualties you can see the injury on the outside – a physical wound. Other casualties are haunted by memories – Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS). PTSS occurs in spiritual wars too. This is easily seen by the number of people who drop out of church forever because of a bitter fight that occurred.
We all have opportunities for wounds in a spiritual war. We all get hit sometimes from the fiery darts of the enemy. These are usually words spoken to us that were not God. When we receive these hits (hurts) we can take one of three reactions. Depending on the reaction we take determines how well we go through the war. Some people believe they never get hit in a war. My response to this is rather blunt. If you are never ‘hit’ then you have either not been fighting or else it is a very minor skirmish that did not last long.
The first reaction that a person can take to a hurtful word or other hit is immediately realize that the words can cause serious long term damage to our soul if it is not dealt with. The person then knows how to deal with their wounds so that they don’t become roots of bitterness in their lives. They know how to heal their wounds or get help, take a rest, and then get back into the war at the appropriate time. They realize they have limitations and know when they have reached them. At this time in the Body of Jesus I believe this is a very small percentage of people. We need to develop training to raise this percentage up. If we are going to be warriors for the long haul and not drop out we need this skill. We need to take our periods of ‘rest’ to teach people how to do ‘triage’ on themselves and those around them during a war to minimize the damage. This is a priority of the church. A surviving war manual.
A second reaction to a wound is exaggeration. They are in pain but because they have never been hurt before they think the wound is greater than what it is. Just because we think it is bad doesn’t mean it is life threatening. We can make our wounds worst by flailing around or giving ourselves the wrong medicine. Again, we need more experienced soldiers on the field to help us judge the situation. I am finding that this is probably the largest category of the wounded. The problem is that people in this category never listen to their medics around them. They are dying and they know it and you can’t tell them otherwise. How do we deal with this category of wounded? A ‘medical procedure’ needs to be developed.
A third reaction is one of denial. I have noticed that sometimes when people get hit they claim they are all right when they are not. Pride or fear of what will happen keeps them from admitting that they need help. This category of people end up the most wounded at the end. They bleed to death and may even die all the while denying anything is wrong.
We as a church need to get better at identifying wounds and preventing wounds from festering. To be a great army we have to be good at handling the fire that comes our way. It is not a weakness to get wounded. It is a fact. It will happen. Even Generals get shot if they are on the front lines. Relationships can hurt greatly when they get twisted in a wrong way. But we don’t have to die from our wounds or leave the army.
Lesson #3 – We Can Get Shot by ‘Friendly Fire’
Friendly fire – accidentally shooting your fellow soldier – happens not just in real military wars but also in spiritual wars. Friendly fire is the most painful wound of all. Mistakes are made because our vision is clouded by being so close to the enemy on the ground, inexperience, the smoke of artillery fire making it hard to see, difficult circumstances, etc. But we have to realize that no one means to shoot anyone. Words are often said in frustration and mistakes made because we are tired and not sure what to do next. As soldiers in a military war that are wounded because of friendly fire have to forgive quickly we have to do the same. We have to learn to repent quickly, forgive quickly and walk in humility. We may be the one shooting someone accidentally next time. Just as the military has learned that better communication is one of the keys to preventing friendly fire the church needs to develop better communication methods in a war that are quick, precise, and timely. Communicating in a war is different than communicating with a friend over coffee. We need a ‘communication procedures manual’ for war times.
Lesson #4 – We will Carry Battle Scars for the Rest of Our Lives
Whenever you have a wound there is usually a scar left behind. This is OK as long as there is no infection left in the body under the scar. The challenge is to learn from the hits, gain wisdom, and not disqualify ourselves from further battle because of bitterness, disillusionment, resentment, or anger. Jacob walked with a limp in his ‘wrestle’ for the rest of his life. But he went on to become the image bearer of a great nation – Israel. If he had stopped and became bitter over his wound he would have lost the entire war.
Lesson #5 – It’s Often Hard to Discern the Enemy from Victims
In a battle people get hurt. These hurts almost always come from things said or expectations that were not realized. If these hurts are not dealt with properly by taking them to Jesus with forgiveness and humility they can become festering wounds. When the wounds get bad enough people will usually withdraw and at times lash out in anger at others. At this point everyone else asks, “what happened to so and so”? At times I have seen people wonder if the person that is hurt is really from the enemy sent to cause problems.
The Bible is clear that the enemy will send people into your midst to cause problems. But we have to learn to discern the enemy from victims of the war. Victims are not the enemy. Victims are people on our side that have gotten hurt for whatever reason and are having trouble knowing how to get healed. They ‘lash out’ at us because they are frustrated, disillusioned, and scared.
If you find yourself in a situation where you ask, “what happened to so and so”, I thought they were with us, you are probably facing a situation of a wounded friend and not an enemy combatant. Pray for discernment and wisdom on how to proceed next to heal the person and ultimately the relationship.
Lesson #6 – There Will be People that Run From War to Avoid It
Leaving the conflict for reasons besides rest and recovery in order to reenter the war is a short term solution. It will cause you to lose the bigger war. Leaving the battle wrongly automatically allows the enemy to win. Yes, when you leave you may be in peace and you may not incur any more wounds. Peace by this definition means the absence of conflict. But in reality you have become a prisoner of war (POW). POW’s are conflict free in their jail cell. They know what they will do each day and someone brings food to them on a schedule. There are no surprises and there is an absence of conflict.
But there is also an absence of freedom, destiny, and abundance of life. POW’s will never be any more than they are in that jail cell. This is a common path of many Christians. But this is a choice that we will regret sometime in the future. The only choice I see is to fight the war, keep getting better trained, know how to get your wounds healed when you take hits, take a rest when necessary, and run out the enemy inch by inch. Every war that is successful – meaning you don’t quit or stay in the hospital forever – means the country of freedom that you are fighting for is a little larger now for you and those coming after you. If you take this approach, then sometime in the future you will be able to show your battle scars to your children and grandchildren and they will know that you were one of the freedom fighters that kept them from being enslaved by the enemy.
Your War Correspondent….