We’re In The Lord’s Army

Six people were killed on Saturday, and thirteen injured, when a gunman entered a townhall meeting held by Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D–Arizona), and opened fire. The congresswoman was among the injured. Today, politicians are calling for an end to gun rhetoric that has become popular among pro-gun public figures such as Sarah Palin and others. Each side, of course, blames the other.

Some are saying that the shooter was incited by the militaristic rhetoric of conservative pundits. While the gunman’s motives are yet unknown, the discussion got me thinking about some of the militaristic terminology we use in missions today. We “mobilize” missionaries when we mean to “send them out.” We “enlist” the “support” of “prayer warriors” as we “strategically” “engage” the people of our “target” audience. Might the words we use lead some, both believers and unbelievers, to come to the conclusion that Christians are warring against non-Christians?

The problem with thinking of ourselves primarily as “Christian soldiers” (rather than “Christian peacemakers”) is that we’re always looking for someone to fight. The spiritual enemy is very real, but we’re easily distracted by the human ones (both real and suspected). The Bible includes militaristic imagery (Ephesians 6 tells us to “put on the full armor of God”), but it’s clear that our war is a spiritual one. In the scriptural analogy, unbelieving peoples aren’t the enemy, they’re the captives.

I’m choosing to replace the militaristic terms in my missions vocabulary with words that better communicate my intentions. In any land, among any people, I mean no harm. I’m not that sort of soldier. I’m here to bless, reconcile, and bring peace in the name of Jesus. That’s my mission (okay, so that’s one military word I may have to keep!)

8 thoughts on “We’re In The Lord’s Army

  1. I can understand the difficulty in explaining to other cultures the militaristic tones and expressions of the Bible. When you chose to change specific words that are scriptural to meet your needs because other cultures may not understand them instead of using analogy, anecdote, and other literary means to explain why those words were used then you start paving a path to change scripture itself.

    John 1:1 goes from “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word was with God…” to “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was like a God and the Word was with God…”

    I implore you to not change scripture to meet your needs, but change your approach to scripture so that you may truly meet the needs of others while remaining true to scripture.

  2. Scott,
    If you read closely, you’ll see that the words I’m leaving behind aren’t actually used anywhere in the Bible.

    We “mobilize” missionaries when we mean to “send them out.” We “enlist” the “support” of “prayer warriors” as we “strategically” “engage” the people of our “target” audience.

    I’m not proposing that we change what scripture says. In fact, I’m calling for us to be more faithful to scripture by reserving the war analogy for our spiritual struggle against the Enemy, as opposed to applying it to missions, as we have done.

    I’m choosing to replace the militaristic terms in my missions vocabulary because it tends to lead me to forget who it is we’re fighting and what it is we’re fighting for.

  3. In my context in Latin America, I’ve had to be mindful of not using militaristic language as you’ve said. This is due to the long history of many invasions, incursions, and occupations that the U.S. military has imposed on many nations in Latin America. But one ironic twist for me has been how much traction the idea of “guerillas” have in some of these countries. So on a few occasions (and with much caution) I’ve done children’s and youth ministry clad in olive green fatigues and a black beret – very tongue in cheek, mind you – and this has been very well-received. When some of the pictures made it to facebook I had people in the US wondering if I’d become a communist revolutionary haha (not really but they did make jokes abt it). But, hey, Che Guevara is revered in most of Latin America – even in the Christian community.

    But these days I stay away from military costumes in Mexico b/c I could very well be shot by the drug cartels. Discernment is key!

  4. Working with a people who have been invaded during most of their known history, and who subsequently are incredibly peaceable, we learned the hard way early on with the militaristic tone. While we didn’t use it around them, it got used on our other blog for our American supporters, and the nationals read this. We quickly were accused of colonial invasion with our “American religion” of Evangelicalism.

    We’re much more sensitive to the language now, though it still is spiritual warfare.

    –C. Holland

  5. Oh…snap! Army Adventure Camp…seriously, you really can’t make this stuff up. The kit even comes with 25 “Stand Firm” plastic soldiers and it’s all packed up in an Army Adventure Tank Backpack (while supplies last). I really would love to hear their music CD.

    My new project will be to make a PROJECT MAYHEM Vacation Bible School kit for these suburban American children.

Comments are closed.