I have never seen the movie all the way through, but I remember a movie coming out when I was a child called Behind Enemy Lines. As one might expect, it is a military movie about being behind the front lines of the enemy. Funnily enough, it should be the description of the church as we further the kingdom of God awaiting our returning king. We are living in enemy occupied territory, but not enemy owned territory. Christ broke the dominion of Satan in the world on the cross, but we are awaiting the final blow to evil in his return. We are still living behind enemy lines. We as the church should be planting our flags in “enemy occupied territory.”
Let me be careful to explain what I mean by this. I am not calling non-believers the devil or anything like that. As Paul tells us, we are not at war with flesh and blood, but with dark spiritual forces (Eph 6:12). Too often, we as the church are strictly inwardly focused and as the world becomes more hostile towards us, we turn in and get defensive. Yet, look at some of the cities where Paul planted and/or wrote letters to churches in the New Testament – Colossae, Thessalonica, Corinth, and eventually Rome – these were some of the dominating cities and crossroads of the Ancient world. Paul did not go where it was “safe” and only reach those who already believed. Paul went to the heart of the opposition and proclaimed the dominion of the kingdom of God in victory.
In the West, everywhere we turn is faced with opposition to the kingdom of God. Sitting in enemy occupied territory, are we proclaiming Christ’s victory over the dominion of Satan and preparing for his return by living out his calling on our lives to continue spreading his gospel?
On the cross, Christ took back his creation as it was in the beginning and is reconciling it back to God from the hands of Satan. In no way, shape, or form does Jesus need us for this job, yet he invites us to partner with him out of love just as he invited Adam to partner with him in tending to Creation in the beginning. Where Adam failed to tend to creation, Jesus perfectly completed. And he is now inviting us to walk alongside him in love and relationship.
As we partner with God in the spreading of the kingdom, we do not receive extra holiness or rewards. It is only by grace that we are saved. Yet, through walking alongside God in the expansion of his kingdom we grow closer to him. We get to know him more. Just as my son grows and does things with me, he will know me more and grow to love me more, we do the same with our Father in heaven. We are in enemy occupied territory, but he no longer owns it. Christ has taken back his creation and is reconciling it to himself. As the church, we can partner with him in this.
How does this look then?
We so often think of the mission field as being overseas or in some run down urban or rural area. But the mission field is everywhere we turn. It is the non-believers we live next door to or work alongside. The schools our children attend and the restaurants we frequent. We proclaim God’s love and goodness and we love them as we do so. So let us as the church set up behind the lines of Satan and spread the love and freedom of Christ to a world which needs it. Satan’s dominion leads to destruction and decay, but life in Christ leads to an abundant life of freedom and growth. Let us not forget our mission and our joy (Luke 10:17-20).
Remember, our enemy is not people. They are loved and created by God, and in need of the love of a Savior. Our war is with Satan and his foes of darkness which we battle. Christ set up his ministry and life in enemy territory and often went to those under Satan’s control (Mark 5) to bring them healing and restoration from Satan’s dominion to the kingdom of God. May we bring this same love and life to those in the world. May we not neglect our own, but together as a community of believers be looking out to the world to show the love of Christ.