When we are confronted with a challenging situation, we often get two options: battle the problem, or run away (i.e., “fight or flight”). While many of our daily lives – hopefully – do not require steps that are quite this dramatic, there are occasional times when danger presents itself. I remember a day that my wife and I were hiking in the Pacific Northwest, and a huge moose arrived on the path behind us. Since we were clearly out-classed for a flight, but still needed to get back to our hotel (rather than live out the remainder of our days in the woods), we had to just wait out the lumbering animal. You might say that we “fled”, even though that only meant walking a hundred yards or so down the trail. The moose was a problem that we were not going to engage that day.
So, how do we deal with some of the other challenging problems in life? I’m not talking about just trying to decide what sort of chips to buy at the store, or what to do after accidentally sending out an e-mail to the person you were gossiping about in its contents. Instead, these challenges include the big problems: times when a life is at risk, a major life decision needs to be made, or there is some other urgent problem with a potentially significant impact.
In the list of really big challenges in life, I would include our spiritual condition. When we sin, we aren’t just “in hot water” with God; we actually make ourselves dead: separated from Him (which is why we needed Jesus Christ’s help for a radical change in our status with a holy God). Similarly, when we see other people whose lives are going in the wrong direction (with respect to God), we don’t just need to help them “be better” or “do good things”. We need to show them the path to be rescued from eternal life apart from God.
In that light, let’s consider the tenth chapter of the book of John. When talking about His purpose and His nature, Jesus contrasted His role as the Good Shepherd (and the gate to the fold) with a “hired hand”:
A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
John 10:12-13 NLT
When a business is in trouble, some employees will typically start to look for work elsewhere. And, in many cases, where the company is expected to go under, we would hardly blame its employees for seeking out a more reliable paycheck. However, the owners of businesses that are struggling will often fight and sacrifice for the good of the organization. Some do so because they take pride in what they have built. Some are concerned about the well-being of their employees. Some just don’t want to let go. Regardless of their reasons, they stand up to problems, and try to protect their business. (Special credit to many of these business owners who have overcome near-impossible odds over the last year.) When something is really important (or at least important to us), we are much more likely to keep fighting for it, rather than moving on.
Considering the value of souls that have chosen to separate themselves from God (especially those that don’t know how to get back), we realize that they are far more important than a job or a business. They are even more important than literal sheep (despite Jesus’ use of sheep as a metaphor for people in this chapter).
So, when we consider the importance of souls (including our own), and the example of Jesus in giving up His very life for them, how do we react when we encounter a spiritual challenge in the life of someone else? Maybe this is a chance to tell a friend about Jesus Christ, or to answer a spiritual question for them. Perhaps it will require stepping up and taking on the risk of ridicule or reduction, as we dispel a lie that was prompted by forces of evil. When we are given the opportunity, making the choice that Jesus commanded and demonstrated for us will sometimes be dangerous. Occasionally, it may be as intimidating as standing up to a wild animal who is threatening others.
Going back to the start of the article, I propose that we have two main types of choices in this situation: We can engage the problem and fight for the truth that saves other people from a life without purpose and peace (in this world and the next). Or, we can flee, taking flight and running away from these opportunities, leaving others at the mercy of those who would destroy them (consider 1 Peter 5:8-9). I assure you, if followers of Jesus will not fight to bring other people to Him, the powers of evil will not stop their attacks until their targets have been eliminated.
May those of us who follow Jesus stand firm and be strong for the sake of others. We have the weapons to fight evil, but we need to stay in the fight long enough to win the battle. Don’t run away from this problem. Fight for truth. Remember that lost souls are not our enemy; instead, evil is an opponent that must be driven back if others are to be saved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.