War has casualties. Taking care of them brings them back into the fight. It also increases the morale of the entire fighting unit because everyone knows they might be the next casualty. There are three kinds of casualties in physical war:
• Casualties from training (For example, during World War II, more planes and pilots were lost in training than in combat.)
• Casualties from drunkenness, drugs, and venereal disease
• Casualties from enemy action
There is no basic training or advanced training in the spiritual war. The soldier is in combat as soon as he is saved.
In the spiritual war, drunkenness, drugs, venereal disease, and other kinds of immorality which do not result in complete physical disability still cause spiritual disability and prevent effective evangelism. These casualties are to be disciplined by the church so they will repent and come back into action.
“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (1 Cor. 5:11–12).
There are physical casualties from enemy action in the spiritual war. The first death for Christ that Scripture records was Stephen in Acts 7:59–60. The second was the Apostle James in Acts 12:2. There were more people killed in the twentieth century for believing in Jesus than the total of such deaths over the previous 1,900 years. However, death is not our main problem. The main problem is the sin casualties. Christians who are spiritually sick are poor witnesses for Jesus Christ.
In the early part of the Vietnam War, I visited an officer at Walter Reed Army Hospital. He had been badly burned when his jeep hit a land mine. A Vietnamese soldier who was with him was also critically injured.
These two men were fellow soldiers. However, when they became casualties, a great difference suddenly manifested itself. The American went to a U.S. hospital and made a full recovery. The Vietnamese went to a Vietnamese hospital, where he almost certainly died. My friend told me how thankful he was to be in the U.S. army instead of the Vietnamese army. He had also been wounded in the Korean Conflict, so he knew what he was talking about.
The difference in that situation lay in the quality of care given to casualties. The American army put a priority on caring for casualties; the Vietnamese did not. In other wars, in other armies, there has been a still greater difference: no care at all! Casualties were left to die. Their deaths had a significant impact on the men who remained uninjured. They were not willing to risk themselves in combat when they knew nobody cared enough to rescue them if they were wounded.
The U.S. had to relearn that lesson the hard way with Navy pilots in the Southwest Pacific in early 1942. The Navy decided not to risk other planes and ships and the lives of more men for the rescue of one man if a pilot had to ditch because his plane was shot up or had run out of fuel. The decision was based on economy; but the morale of the pilots went down so far that the decision was soon reversed, and the next pilot in the water was rescued at the expense of several other planes. Rescue and care of casualties is given high priority in the U.S. Armed Forces.
After the First Battle of the Philippine Sea, Admiral Mitscher’s decision to guide his Air Groups home by turning on all the searchlights on all the ships of Task Force 58 was one of the great morale (and moral) decisions of the Second World War. He risked the lives of thousands to save the lives of a few.
I personally observed the priority given to rescuing casualties during the Korean War when, for three years, the U.S. Navy kept minesweepers and a rescue destroyer in Wonsan Harbor, in spite of the fact that all of the land around the harbor was held by North Korea. We were stationed there to pick up pilots who were forced to ditch in the harbor.
We Christians are engaged in a spiritual war that is far greater than World War II. It includes all people and nations everywhere. We have learned much about the conduct of war on the spiritual plane. We have learned about evangelism; we have learned about training and what is called discipling, but we have not learned about caring for our casualties. We have not learned about caring because we do not care. We have been taught to spend our time with the faithful few, not with the unfaithful many. The faithful few are a delight to be with, so the esprit de corps is seemingly high. But outside this group the casualties are many, and we cannot keep hiding from them. I cannot exist comfortably in an army where the overwhelming majority of the casualties are being ignored. I cannot maintain high morale in such an army. Such morale would be fake. Purporting to have it under those conditions is blinding oneself to reality.
This is because Christians are more than just an army; we are a body.
“But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12:24b–26).
The healthy parts suffer, too, since they are part of the body. If they are not suffering and caring, it is either because they are not part of the body or because they themselves are not healthy.
(To be continued…)
*Excerpted from Weapons & Tactics. To purchase, visit ccmbooks.org/bookstore.