Business in Wartime: Rebelling against the “Natural Order”

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This is an excerpt from Beth Snodderly’s article, which you can read in full here.

What is the responsibility of the Body of Christ? This could be answered by another question: within the believer’s sphere of influence, what is offensive to God? Jesus taught His followers to bind that and loose God’s power in God’s name. Believers can “un-humiliate” God and give Him a channel to work through. They can overcome the enemy’s evil choices with good choices that echo God’s will. Ronald Sider stated in an interview with Christianity Today:

“There’s now a new kingdom community of Jesus’ disciples, and …embracing Jesus means … beginning to live as a part of his new community where everything is being transformed” (2005: 72).

Work spaceIn the end, the Body of Christ must conduct life’s business in the light of the Christian wartime mandate. Martin Luther (and later the Puritans) saw work (or “vocation”) as a holy calling (Veith 1999: 4) but omitted the aspect of war against evil. The emphasis on using God-given gifts and talents in everyday life reflects the assumption of a cultural mandate given in a peaceful world that just needed to be taken care of, in which only what God wanted to happen would happen. But obviously things happen in this world that are not God’s will. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, yet we clearly see people rebelling and dying without repentance all around us. His will isn’t ruling this world yet. Followers of Christ are living under a wartime, not a peacetime mandate (Winter 2005c). Barnhouse points out that there is now more than one will in the universe (1965: 37). So what does God expect of the Body of Christ in this context of conflict?

Ordinary Christians working in business, industry, politics, factory work, and so on, are “the Church’s front-line troops in her engagement with the world,” wrote Lesslie Newbigin. Imagine how our churches would be transformed if we truly regarded laypeople as frontline troops in the spiritual battle. “Are we taking seriously our duty to support them in their warfare?” Newbigin asked. (Quoted from here) (Pearcey 2004: 67).

How can action be taken through business and work that will contribute toward the defeat of evil? Which vocations are needed for the functioning of a Kingdom society that is at war? Which are not needed and should be avoided? What limitations does business have in combating evils that the marketplace either isn’t aware of or isn’t willing to fund? What criteria can help a person engage in business in a way that contributes to the missio dei?

Examples:

Manner of life: how believers conduct themselves at work (in a legitimate business, not a non-essential luxury) can be their means of engaging in missional warfare. Yamamori has stated, “there is an appalling lack of business ethics in China” (2001: 99). The opening of this country for western business “is an unprecedented opportunity for Christians to influence China profoundly by exercising kingdom values” (2001: 101).

Types of businesses that sustain life so others can be on the front lines contribute to the war effort: Believers involved in jobs such as food production and distribution, transportation, or production of necessary technology can consider their work to be a meaningful contribution to the Kingdom. (This is not meant to be a complete list, by any means, of valuable businesses that sustain life and advance the Kingdom.)

Politics: believers can participate in overcoming the disease of war and other social ills. David Bornstein has researched social entrepreneurs around the world who have had a profound effect on their societies. “Social entrepreneurs advance systemic change: they shift behavior patterns and perceptions” (2004: 2). An example of entrepreneurship helping to overcome political disease is found in a Kingdom business operating a noodle factory in North Korea. The noodles are sold in other countries, generating income to provide basic sustenance for starving workers in a country devastated by sinful political structures.

Agriculture: Kingdom social entrepreneurs are needed to lead efforts in overcoming diseases of nature such as famine and malnutrition. Joshua Fugimoto, an 80+ year old agricultural Christian worker, spent years in Bangladesh experimenting with ways to grow vegetables in a climate with long droughts followed by monsoon rains. Groups of believers following his agricultural principles are now producing nutritious crops several times a year, instead of only one poor crop per year, giving families the strength needed to combat the evils of disease and poverty.

Community Development: godly people can lead the way in combating social diseases such as poor education or pollution, including contaminated water. Yamamori and Eldred describe a number of entrepreneurs who deliberately set out to engage in business with Kingdom purposes in mind. Unfortunately, in the authors’ review of these case studies, their list of Scriptural principles for Kingdom business does not include the aspect of the war against evil that all believers are engaged in whether they realize it or not (2003: 253).

Scientific investigation: kingdom workers are needed to uncover the origins of disease for the purpose eradicating it for the glory of God. Ralph Winter was pessimistic about the role of business in this area, however. He wrote, “Unfortunately, I don’t see business of any great help in this. … I don’t see any significant effort … aimed specifically at the defeat of the works of Satan” (2005e: 7).

Business and Ministry Partnering in Wartime

To bring about transformation and the “reglorification” of God, The Body of Christ needs to rebel against the “natural order” that still lies in the power of the evil one and join God in defeating the works of the devil through legitimate vocations and businesses. War, famine and disease are the areas of influence of three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse—all leading to death. Combating these in Jesus’ name combats the forces of darkness that seek to kill and destroy. But Winter pointed out that business is powerless to accomplish things for which people do not feel a need. So often ministry, with the financial backing of believers, must do what business alone cannot deal with because the necessary action is an “unfelt” and unfunded need (2005d). Ministry is something all God’s people participate in—not just cross-cultural workers. Our mission is to defeat evil and restore God’s glory. The business of life is to participate meaningfully in this mission and to pray by our actions, “Your Kingdom come Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Continue reading the rest of the article and the reference list here.

Beth Snodderly, D.Litt. et Phil.

Beth Snodderly is a past president of William Carey International University and is the editor for both the William Carey International Development Journal and the Ralph D. Winter Research Center. She holds the degree of Doctor of Literature and Philosophy in New Testament from the University of South Africa. She authored the book Chaos is Not God’s Will: The Origin of International Development and has edited several volumes including, First the Kingdom of God: Global Voices,The Goal of International Development, Evangelical and Frontier Perspectives on the Global Progress of the Gospel, Reflecting God’s Glory Together and Agents of International Development and Shalom.