Bravery in Action (Or Missing in Action?)

Many would be aware of how a gallant Australian soldier was recently awarded the Victoria Cross. Last week Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith received the honour for his courageous actions in the field of battle in Afghanistan as he took on Taliban insurgents.

The brave SAS soldier in effect single-handedly saved his fellow soldiers in a major fire fight. Back in June of last year he helped to rescue his team which was pinned down by heavy enemy fire. He saved them by taking on a number of enemy machine gunners.

All up some 60 Taliban were killed in a six-hour battle. The high point involved Roberts-Smith and two others pinned down close to the machine gun nests. His two comrades were unable to engage the enemy, so Roberts-Smith moved ahead, taking on the machine gunners. His heroic actions saved the day – and his companions.

Part of his citation reads as follows: “For the most conspicuous gallantry in action in circumstances of extreme peril. … His acts of selfless valour directly enabled his troop to go on and clear the village…” The details of his exploits are recounted in detail in the citation.

But what I especially wish to highlight here is what he said, as he reflected on being in the thick of the action. This is what he said: “I saw my mates getting ripped up, so I decided to move forward. I wasn’t going to sit there and do nothing.”

I quite like that. Not only is it a great attitude to have in the field of combat, but it applies much more widely. I am thinking here about the Christian life. The Bible consistently portrays the believer’s life as one of battle, warfare, and constant fighting. I have written about this often, eg:

The New Testament frequently provides military imagery in describing the Christian life. We are in a continual state of warfare with sin, self, and Satan. We are clearly told that behind all the action in this life is a cosmic battle which we are all involved in.

It is a spiritual warfare which we daily engage in, but this of course manifests itself on so many different levels. The battles believers take part in are too numerous to list here, but let me just mention a few obvious ones. Consider some of the many external threats we face:
-False religions
-Attacks by unbelievers
-Secularist crusades
-Cultic invasions
-Moral and cultural challenges
-Various assaults on the Christian faith
-“The world, the flesh and the devil”

And then there are all sorts of internal battles as well, which include:
-False teachings and doctrine
-Immoral behaviour
-Spiritual abuse
-Apostasy and backsliding
-Wayward leaders
-Lack of church discipline

These are just a few of the battlefields that we find ourselves in. Every day we are engaged in some sort of battle, some sort of attack or some sort of assault. And the casualties are high and continue to mount. All around us we find believers who are burnt out or worn down or fed up.

Every day pastors around the world are giving up the ministry. They have had enough. They are sick of all the criticism and ingratitude and abuse. Every day believers are being shot down in defeat or discouragement or immorality or pride or worldliness or liberal theology or men-pleasing, etc.

Indeed, believers are falling like flies all over the place. If they are not falling to pornography, family breakdown, various addictive behaviours, or besetting sins, they are falling to false doctrines, pseudo-spiritualities, worldly ideologies, or New Age mumbo jumbo.

All over the battle field our brothers and sisters are fallen, tied down, outgunned and overwhelmed. All over the world Christians are wounded, under attack, outnumbered, or putting up the white flag of surrender. But the most tragic reality of all is that many believers do not even know we are in a battle.

So many believers seem to think the Christian life is like a cruise ship instead of a battle field. So many believers think the Christian life is supposed to be all about their own happiness, comfort and satisfaction. Few believers realise that the Christian walk is a continual state of warfare.

As Leonard Ravenhill lamented, “Many believers live as if this world were a playground instead of a battleground.” Or as he also put it, “The Church used to be a lifeboat rescuing the perishing. Now she is a cruise ship recruiting the promising.”

A.W. Tozer also spoke of our soft, mushy and gutless Christianity: “Yes, if evangelical Christianity is to stay alive she must have men again, the right kind of men. She must repudiate the weaklings who dare not speak out, and she must seek in prayer and much humility the coming again of men of the stuff prophets and martyrs are made of.”

Today on all sides our brothers and sisters are engaged in various levels of heavy fighting. What are we going to do about it? Are we going to get involved in the battles of the day, or will we just attempt to sit on the fence, watching the carnage all around us?

In the context of our many spiritual battles, I again remind you of what this brave Corporal said: “I saw my mates getting ripped up, so I decided to move forward. I wasn’t going to sit there and do nothing.”

[898 words]

7 Replies to “Bravery in Action (Or Missing in Action?)”

  1. What amazes me most is how much of the attacks seem to come from those on the left in the church, and just how brutal they are in the attacks.
    Paul Wakeford

  2. Maybe we should all become Catholics again 😉

    I know that church has many problems, but at least it has that top-down doctrinal authority and hierarchical structure that ensures compliance with “company policy” by the clergy.

    Mary O’Connor

  3. Thanks Mary

    Many good Catholics would say just the opposite: why are so many rebels running things in our church? Why aren’t they being disciplined or moved aside?

    But I don’t want to get into a discussion here about such things. I would rather reply by saying that the answer is not for all Christians to flock to one denomination. The answer is for all Christians to recover their first love with Jesus (Rev. 2:4) and make him number one in their lives. That is what we need so desperately today.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. Yes, loving Jesus passionately is what it’s all about. This is a major theme of the Book of Revelation: passion for Jesus and fighting the good fight even at the cost of our lives. See my article “Reading Revelation Romantically” in JPT 18.2 (2009) and James K.A. Smith’s book Desiring the Kingdom.
    Jon Newton

  5. Yes it’s often the left in brutal attacks. But worse is the sneak-thief – the wolf in sheep’s clothing – under the radar of many slumbering in the pews.

    E.g. a recent prolonged exchange re attitudes to practicing homosexuals as church members terminated with written statements of position:

    A) “My position is not nor has it ever been one that supports homosexuality per se – however I would be find (sic) a Church that wittingly or unwittingly sets stumbling blocks for homosexuals on their journey with God to be less than gracious in the full Christ-like meaning of the word by either allowing them to fall into sin or by intentionally preventing them being full members of God’s people.”


    B) “My position is and has always been that we should love sinners and earnestly seek their salvation. In relation to homosexuality we should never condone that lifestyle by allowing people who insist on remaining in same-sex sexual relationships to remain in membership or to hold any office in the church.”

    No one was willing to clarify statement A), even apart from the obvious typo, yet A) steadfastly left open the direct implication that we should not deny practicing homosexuals from being full members of the church. But who will rock the boat?

    Such attacks can be clothed in love, acceptance and forgiveness (70 times 7). But insistence on repentance is said to be legalistic, unloving and judgmental.

    Peter Newland

  6. “In the world you will have trouble —– ”
    “Fear not, I am with you —– ”

    So far so good —- that’s all going as promised.

    “Take up your cross and follow me —— ‘
    “Go into all the world and tell the good news , baptising in —”

    Hmmmm !!! I think we’ve found the major glitch.

    Anna Cook

  7. Thanks Bill
    So well said, and a great reminder of the perspective that Christians must take. Even in FB threads I find our deepest beliefs are constantly challenged by the barrage of words written on a whim. Its so easy to simply agree or laugh something off rather than use it as an opportunity to advance Christ’s message and remain faithful to Him.
    Jo Petrovic

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