Padre Pio commented once that “only a general knows how and when to use one of his soldiers” There is as wide a variety of men and strategies as there are battles to fight.
I suspect the Celtic part of my ancestry led me to embrace the idea that you can get a lot further in battle with an axe and a kind word than you can with just a kind word but I am also inspired by the diplomacy and patience of an Englishman, William Wilberforce who stood valiantly against slavery for most of his life, completing the task of its abolition across the whole British Empire just three days before he died.
The key to success for this great man of God was that he not only had a clear vision of what was right and wrong in the sight of God but also he knew why his opponents (almost everyone at the time) could not see it. As he put it in one of his speeches “...how self interest can draw a film across the eyes, so thick, that total blindness could do no more; and how it is our duty therefore to trust not to the reasonings of interested men, or to their way of colouring a transaction...”
He knew and made allowance for the weaknesses of man. Self-interest can justify absolutely anything in the mind of the one who wants it badly enough. Anyone can produce a litany of reasons for pursuing whatever he desires; he justifies what he wants so he can have it regardless of whether or not it is right.
Wilberforce knew it and patiently made the blind to see, lifting the film off gradually through prayer, words and deeds until the nation understood, through a gift of grace, the horror of slavery and the ugliness of their own selfish hearts.
The same is true in the smaller details of life and this is where it becomes personal. What are the motives behind our daily decisions, choices, and speech? Do we give reasons for our actions to justify them or are they pure enough that there is no need to qualify them?
Every human heart is the battlefield and it’s only the amazing grace of God that can win the day as it enlightens individual hearts, heals the blindness of self-interest.
Whatever kind of Christian soldiers we are, whether savages or diplomats, we must hold our place in the line and with the weapon of prayer we will overcome.