by John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Isaiah writes of a wonderful future coming in the years just ahead of us: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4).
We all look forward with great yearning to the day when peace will spread over the world like a cool, refreshing breeze. All hatred and enmity will be swept away, and a future without dread will begin at last. No longer will mothers have to fear losing their sons to the scourge of war, nor will children worry about their fathers dying in military conflict.
Throughout history men have recognized the horrendous waste and suffering produced by war. Sophocles, the Greek dramatist (c. 496-406 BC), wrote, "War does not of choice destroy bad men, but good ever." Prussian General Helmuth von Moltke (AD 1800-1891) said, "Every war is a national calamity, whether victorious or not." England, after enduring both World Wars, surely understands von Moltke's sentiments. Though ultimately victorious, the English paid dearly in the lives of her men, in her ruined cities and in her spent economy. The sad reality is that the price of victory is often nearly as high as defeat.
God hates war and all of the death, maiming and hatred produced by it. As I John 4:8, 16 says, "God is love," and He does not want to see warfare, so contrary to love, develop among His people. In His vast experience, He knows that war produces hatreds that last for generations and destroys people's lives, reputations and potentials.
Today, we have the ancient Arab-Israeli conflict threatening to heat up once again. Vicious fighting and hostage-taking has erupted in Bosnia after a short lull. War after war, atrocity after atrocity, fills the pages of our newspapers: Rwanda, Mexico, Chechnya, Afghanistan and many others. The entire world seems aflame.
Even nations not in the actual conflicts are affected by war. Sides are taken, citizens are polarized, opinions are voiced and hatreds are formed. Conflict infects the warring factions with an attitude that reaches out with strong arms to involve others in it. In this way, war is like a vortex or whirlpool that draws nearby parties into its pain and destruction. The only safe precaution is to be anchored firmly outside of its power.
Our Present War
As Christians, we are in a war now. The Devil and his demons are intent upon destroying the plan of God and His people. They have carefully planned and executed this war—now in its final stages—conducting a series of sneak attacks that have led to differences in doctrine and church administration. As a result, the church has divided, and small groups of God's people have sprung up around the globe. With the church breaking into so many splinters, the forces of evil must feel great satisfaction.
The world around us does not understand the great spiritual conflict raging among us, and sometimes God's people forget as well. We must be aware of our enemy, the one we are really fighting against, and avoid being pulled deeper into the conflict. Paul admonishes,
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12)
The shattering of the church (Daniel 12:7) has caused some to have great anger, hatred and judgmental and condemning attitudes. Some have even prayed and fasted for the death of the church leader who, they feel, destroyed the truth that had been given to them! Would God approve of us "defending" true Christianity with ungodly methods? Of course not!
Others have opined, "Our group is the only one going to the Place of Safety." Some have said that their group "is the only true church." Still others have made it clear that if a member leaves church A and goes to church B, he will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. If Satan can fill God's people with such hatred and anger toward other groups and involve the leaders of these groups in sheep wars—shepherds stealing sheep from other flocks—he and his demons will feel they have done a good job.
If we are not very careful, we can be pulled into these same unrighteous attitudes. Some have mistakenly concluded that just because they are fellowshipping with a particular group, they will be safe. But Satan will try to destroy God's people wherever he can find them. If we think we are free to judge and condemn others from the "safety" of our fellowship, we open our minds to the arch-deceiver, who will do all he can to fuel our evil attitudes until we are consumed with them!
Perhaps we had ideas about how things should have occurred, how we would have done things or how others should have reacted. Yet, we may never have thought that MAYBE God is allowing events to occur this way for His purpose—to produce the best results in His children. It is so important that we do not permit ourselves to get sucked into this vortex of hatred, self-righteousness and condemnation.
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:13-16)
God's Special Treasure
If we allow ourselves to enter this whirlpool of conflict and open ourselves to the mind of Satan, we must take our eyes from God and His leadership. Instead of allowing Him to work in the lives of His children, we take upon ourselves the prerogatives of God. In doing so, we set ourselves up as judges in place of God—it is open rebellion!
Some have tried to force others to take steps regarding the truth that they are not yet ready to make. Others have tried any means at their disposal to dissuade relatives, friends and acquaintances to change their minds about supporting a particular group. Judging and condemning come easily in times like this. If we allow these attitudes to surface in our lives, we can become addicted to them.
Does this mean that we should not make judgments? Of course not. The key is to judge situations, circumstances and actions—not people, which are God's responsibility. God expects us to judge what is right or wrong, wise or unwise. We can judge what is taking place within the church, and take positive action to seek out truth and those who were preaching it. We can judge the times in which we live and realize we should be feeding on a strong spiritual diet to prepare us for God's soon-coming Kingdom.
Does this mean we should not be discussing what is taking place and pretend it is not happening? Not at all. We should be talking to each other more than ever before!
Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. "They shall be Mine," says the LORD of hosts, "On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him." Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. (Malachi 3:16-18)
God listens to what we say. He wants to hear us speak to and help each other during these stressful times. He does not like to hear judgmental and condemning conversations among His people, but words of encouragement that spur others into standing fast in God. He likes to hear brethren urging each other to fix their attention on the true teachings of God and to have faith in what He is doing.
Soon, God will make us His jewels, a special treasure for Himself, and those who have conducted themselves wisely will be most prized by Him. We need to realize the dangerous times and attitudes into which we can be dragged. We must stay focused upon what God is working out in our lives and in the lives of others—wherever they may be fellowshipping. By doing so, we can fight against Satan's influences and overcome them in faith. God is preparing His own special, peculiar people (I Peter 2:9; see also KJV), and He will bring them all to a full and wonderful salvation!