by Jim Reapsome
Many missionaries are on the field today because they have wanted to get into the battle for men’s souls.
"Sound the battle cry! See, the foe is nigh…"
"Soldiers of Christ, arise, And put your armor on…"
"There’s a royal banner given for display to the soldiers of the king…"
"Fight the good fight with all thy might!"
Christians at thousands of missionary conferences have been challenged and ‘inspired by these and similar words from our hymnals. Many missionaries are on the field today because they have wanted to get into the battle for men’s souls.
Of course, the sentiments of the hymn writers were those of the apostle Paul as well. He reminded young Timothy that he was in a battle. He told the Ephesians they were engaged in spiritual warfare. He told the Corinthians, "The weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4,5).
Who is the foe? Paul identified him as the devil; he wanted believers to see beyond the "flesh and blood, " then he could prepare them to use spiritual weapons, not worldly ones.
We in missions theoretically admit that Satan is the enemy, that he is the one whose stronghold we are attacking when we advance with the gospel. And to be effective, a missionary should know something about Satan’s tactics in his area. This is part of identifying obstacles to belief in Christ. But for the purpose of getting "noncombatants" at home to help the "troops" on the front lines — i.e., by praying and giving – missionaries sometimes pay too much attention to various enemies. That makes their work much more dramatic.
Therefore, for example, in the mail from missionaries one can read a lot about the "enemy" of communism. He is perhaps number one on the list today. A recent communication finds this enemy especially at work now in Africa; he is said to be especially concentrating on Rhodesia. But of course he is also working in Europe and Latin America, and in Southeast Asia he has already won.
But missionaries also have other "enemies well: cults are growing all over the place; materialism is an enemy; so is indifference; sufficiently dangerous to arouse the home base are the inroads of Islam, Hinduism, resurgent Buddhism, and the religio-political mass movements of Japan.
If the missionary cannot find enough enemies in the non-Christian camp, there are plenty hiding in the bushes and behind the rocks of Christendom. After all, one’s worst enemies are those wolves in sheep’s clothing, aren’t they? So, the ecumenical- conciliar movement is an enemy, obviously, but then there are some enemies closer home, because some missionary correspondence identifies enemies in other "groups" and "movements" that may not follow the same dogmas down to every jot and tittle.
None of the foregoing is intended to pooh-pooh the reality of spiritual warfare on the mission field, or at home for that matter. Yet to our knowledge no missionary has said his enemies are lazy, undisciplined, affluent, nonpraying, nonwitnessing American Christians.
Be that as it may, the point of this editorial is that the more missionaries try to stir up support and sympathy by writing and preaching about their enemies, the more they are in danger of doing what the apostle warned against-using worldly weapons devoid of divine power. And while they resort to such methods to revive some American’s flagging interest in missions, the American gets more interested in the missionary’s enemies than he does the missionary’s spiritual needs.
"We live in the world, but we are not carrying on a worldly war," said Paul. To look at some missionary mail today, one would wonder if the missionary has grasped the practical implications of that fact.
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