The Art of War is a famous military treatise by Chinese general Sun Tzu on how to defeat your enemy in various contexts. It was written in the 5th century BC and is composed of 13 chapters. Each one is devoted to an aspect of warfare, and how it applies to military strategy and tactics.
According to military historian Kidder Smith, "The Art of War remains the most influential strategy text in East Asian warfare and has influenced both Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy, lifestyles and beyond." The wikipedia reference says that "Sun has long been considered to be one of history's finest military tacticians and analysts, his teachings and strategies formed the basis of advanced military training for centuries to come."
In spiritual terms, the enemy of God's people, satan has a military book of war. It is the equivalent of a play book in a game of subtlety. In terms of stopping people from being won to Christ, there are a number of anti-christ tactics used by the enemy. I would like to focus on one in particular - disunity.
Unity is powerful. One of the main reasons for this is that it mirrors the Trinitarian nature of God as Father, Son and Spirit. In John 17 we get an insight into what is sometimes called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. In John 17:20-21 Jesus prays:
"I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
Jesus is focused on "those who will believe in me through their message." That is future believers who hear the message through the future church. Just as the Godhead is one, the church should reflect this unity, and when those who have not heard see the love people have for one another, they are drawn to believe in the Sent One, Jesus. To be in connection with the Trinity is to be in connection with each other. To reject this unity is anti-christ behaviour.
Satan, as we know, rebelled against this unity in heaven and was cast down to earth (Revelation 12:7-10). He carries with him the offence of being excluded which is the effect and fruit of disunity. That is why satan works so hard at causing christians to be offended and creating disunity in their own churches. Not only is it a reflection of the nature of satan who is called the Accuser of the Brethren, it is also toxic to the good news. Satan who was once in the heart of the glory of God is jealous of any human who is in unity with God and who shares His glory.
In John 17:22-23 Jesus continues his prayer:
"I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
There is a divine order to unity that releases a sense of belonging in the world, which extends itself out to those who hear the gospel. However if offended church people cause disunity this nullifies the potential of the good news because it is in direct opposition to the nature of God and the atmosphere of heaven. We cannot pray your kingdom come into an anti-christ environment.
This is why disunity is a tactic of the enemy of God's people. It has a double impact, it discourages the glory and presence of God and it suppresses the power of the gospel. No wonder this is so high up in satan's book of war tactics.
What must good news people do in response to this? It is easy for those of us who are evangelists to get frustrated because of a lack of missional activity in the church. Our frustrations can morph into something unhealthy and next we are causing a blockage to the gospel instead of being its champion. Have a good attitude to leaders who are often doing their best with limited resources and a lack of training to navigate in a post christian world.
Watch our hearts. Do not allow offence to get a foothold. Satan thought he was entitled to more than he was, and despised the opportunities God gave him. Appreciate the space you have to grow in your gifts and if you feel constrained ask God to open new doors.
Avoid grumbling and whispers of any kind. Be alert to this, it is subtle. Offended people look for bed fellows to agree with them, watch out for gathering others to our offence. Satan took a third of the angels with him and continues to try and thwart the kingdom of God.
Work hard at unity at three levels, within our own relationship with God, our connections in local church, and at a translocal level, the body of Christ. Notice it says in Romans 16:20 "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." There is no peace in disunity.
The goal as good news people is to have the gospel heard and received. If disunity is a primary tactic to stop the spread of the message, then we must recognise it for what it is, a ploy of the enemy and do our absolute best to move in the opposite spirit - peace and unity.