Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
In almost every major war preceding World War I, men met face-to-face on the battlefield. The weapons used by soldiers had not changed much in thousands of years, so engagement distances were limited to 100 or so meters at most. By World War I, the bolt-action rifle had been perfected, machine guns were everywhere, some artillery pieces had a range of 80 miles, people fought in the skies for the first time, and some soldiers even had portable machine guns.
Commanding officers didn’t care, though. Soldiers always charged into battle; that was a thing. This was how they had fought for thousands of years, so why change now? They threw soldiers’ lives away over and over again, each charge being erased by the enormous volume of bullets. Why hadn’t they changed tactics after the first couple of failed charges? 9.7 million soldiers died in World War I (https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/reperes112018.pdf). A hefty percentage of them would have survived if the commanding officers had just changed tactics.
Christianity is warfare (Eph 6.12; II Cor 10.3-6; II Tim 2.3ff). We fight our own nature, the influence of evil, and the involvement of the enemy (satan). Christianity is also a rescue operation – we’re trying to save people! Just as with any war, the enemy is always trying to stay one step ahead. Ours is the most advanced threat anyone could face! No stakes are higher, no enemy more powerful, and he’s primarily concerned with causing as much damage as possible. He knows he’s doomed (cf Matt 8.29), which makes him an enemy with nothing to lose. We KNOW he’s used evolving tactics over the millennia.
The message Jesus gave us is timeless and can never be changed. The way Jesus wants his church to operate is timeless. Doctrine cannot be changed. But this gospel is not confined by an era or aesthetic. The message is relevant across time, culture, and understanding. If we confine Christianity to a form that hasn’t been in common use for a long time, do we not demonstrate a lack of faith in his timeless message? Worse yet, it would mean our rescue operation is several steps behind the enemy’s offensive.
We have the most powerful entity as our ally, but this mission is ours. What God wants to accomplish will be accomplished. Since this mission is ours, we must execute it as effectively as possible! How? The message is timeless, so it works in any culture and time. Match it to our culture and time in every way that doesn’t compromise (I Cor 9.19-23), and let God’s power do the rest.
“Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting powers of darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6.12).