“For warriors it is essential to keep the spirit of combat in mind twenty-four hours a day, whether walking, standing still, sitting down, or reclining, never forget it. A warrior who wears two swords at his side but does not put the spirit of combat into his heart is nothing but a peasant or merchant wearing the skin of a warrior.” ~ Code of the Samurai (Bushido)
Over the past several months I’ve been engaged in a study of war. I wanted to better understand, if I could, the tactics of war and see what they might have to teach about the nature of the spiritual war we face every day as faith leaders.
Granted, I’m no scholar in the tactics of warfare, and my study has strictly been a layman’s attempt. But I have taken a deeper look at several major conflicts in history ~ including WWII, WWI, the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, the Peasants War (from the Reformation), and even as far back as the Greek war against the Persians. It’s been a fascinating, albeit deeply sobering, ride into the darker side of human nature.
So in honor of Memorial Day, I thought I’d share the 10 primary insights I’ve gleaned from my study. I call these the 10 Rules of Warfare. I’ll leave it to you to discern how each of these may apply to the spiritual battles you face as a leader every day, but I’ll offer a few of my own thoughts here and there too.
RULE #1 ~ Know the terrain. To me, this has two spiritual applications. First, know the terrain of my own soul ~ that is to say, my identity, my values, my mission in the world, the particular feel of my own shadow. Stay alert to the inherent strengths and weaknesses of my internal landscape (heart, mind, will, body). Where is the high ground I need to hold? Where are the places I am most likely to get trapped or tripped up? Where are the blind spots? Second, know the territory I’m going after. Get clear on what my objective is. What am I going for? What am I reclaiming? How will I know when I have it? Get clear on what victory looks like, and lean into God for the proper strategy to attain it.
RULE #2 ~ Know what your enemy is doing. I was amazed how often this determined the outcome of the battles I studied. And yet, how rarely we soberly consider what the enemy’s specific plan is for our lives, our church, our city, etc.
RULE #3 ~ Never underestimate the enemy. Always assume he is as smart and determined as you are, and perhaps more so.
RULE #4 ~ Always keep your supply lines open. Without regular connection to your power source, you will eventually exhaust your supplies, lose hope, and be captured or killed.
RULE #5 ~ The enemy will react to any advancement along the battle front by rallying all of his forces against that point. Be prepared for this.
RULE #6 ~ Likewise, the enemy will marshal the bulk of his forces to break through any part of your line he perceives as weak or poorly defended.
RULE #7 ~ The element of surprise is a powerful tool, but only if you use it strategically and to its fullest advantage. One example of the element of surprise used poorly is the battle of Anzio during World War II. You can read about it here.
RULE #8 ~ Though unfortunate, it’s sometimes unavoidable to let the enemy know what you’re about to do. However, the longer you give him to prepare, the harder it will be to defeat him.
RULE #9 ~ Choose your battles wisely. Have clear, strategic objectives for every battle. Don’t fight just to beat the enemy in front of you. Fight to win the war.
RULE #10 ~ When attacking to break through an enemy’s line, the standard approach is:
- Get all the intelligence you can ahead of time on the enemy’s position and strength. Scout the land. When appropriate, send in advance teams behind enemy lines to secure key roads and bridges.
- Before committing troops on the ground, bomb the enemy with relentless and overwhelming force until the last possible moment.
- The instant the bombing stops, send in the troops, making sure every soldier has a clear objective.
I came away from my study with a deep sorrow over war and the tragedy it brings on people and nations alike, and an equally deep appreciation and respect for the men and women who have fought in wars on behalf of all that is good and right and true in the world. I also came away with a deeper insight into the spiritual war we find ourselves in as followers of Christ, and the realization that I still have a lot to learn about fighting well.
What do you think of these “Rules of War”? Do you think they have application to the spiritual war we face as leaders? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.