Love, truth, unity: the weapons of God
Gideon did not need a huge army to win his battle. His sharpest weapons were his faith and his trust in God. Read on why he is an example to follow, and not just for ministers.
“I would like to express my gratitude and to thank all of you for your work and the service done in the past months.” This is how Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider began the divine service for ministers in Sydney, Australia, on 30 April 2022. He based his sermon on a passage from the story of Gideon: “Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?’” (Judges 6: 14).
At the beginning of the service, Chief Apostle Schneider summarised the story of Gideon. The people of Israel had been under the domination of their enemies for seven years when an angel came to Gideon and said: “The Lord is with you.” Gideon’s answer was all too human: “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” There was no answer, no explanation. Instead, the Lord told him to go and save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Gideon prayed for signs to make sure that God was with him. And the Lord gave him signs.
Gideon formed an army of 32,000 warriors. God told him though that this was far too many and told him to send those home who were afraid and not really willing to fight. By way of an unusual criterion, namely the way they drank water, their number was eventually reduced so that in the end only 300 warriors remained. Even their weapons were unusual. With trumpets, empty pitchers, and torches they went to war. “Go and do what I tell you, and I will do the job for you.” That was the message. And God did indeed win the victory.
What does that mean for us today?
This was the question with which Chief Apostle Schneider brought the congregation back to the present. “Today, God tells us, and that is His message: ‘You know, I love mankind, I am on their side, I want to deliver them.’” Mankind suffers from sin, he said. We can all see the consequences: injustice, suffering, and pain.
“I can understand Gideon,” Chief Apostle Schneider said. “We too could also say: if You love mankind, how can You allow so much suffering?” Even today, there is no answer, no explanation. What God tells us through the Holy Spirit is: “I want you to contribute to My plan of salvation.” That means every Christian is urged to proclaim God’s love, to profess Jesus Christ, and be His witness. And the ministers have the additional task of supporting the Apostles in the mission that Jesus entrusted to them.
Signs that give strength
The signs that God gives today are the sacraments. “Through these signs—baptism, Holy Sealing, Holy Communion—the message is always the same: I am God. I love you. I have called you.” And for the ministers the sign is ordination: “You have received the authority to dispense the sacraments and to proclaim the gospel,” the Chief Apostle reminded the ministers.
If we have enough faith and believe in these signs, the sacrament, something happens: faith in these signs creates might and power. “As ministers we have received additional power, additional authority,” the Chief Apostle said. It is the authority to dispense the sacraments, the authority to teach the gospel. “That is our strength. On the one hand, we have our faith in God and in our mission, and our love for God. And if we want to become stronger, we have to grow and manage to have more faith, more love, and more trust. And, on the other hand, we have the authority of the ministry.”
A small flock
“So now we are ready,” the Chief Apostle said. “We believe in the power and authority we have and now want to serve as believers, as Christians, and as ministers. And we want to work together. And then we realise, oh, we are not that many.” God did not want to force anybody, which is why Gideon first sent home those who did not want to fight. “And this is why the number of believers is not that big, especially nowadays it is decreasing. God says, respect their will. God did not select the warriors based on their skills. How He chose is something we cannot grasp with our human understanding. Even so, the Chief Apostle says: “Trust in God, and work out of love.”
The weapons of God
There are plenty of ideas of what it takes to fight for Jesus and proclaim His gospel, the Chief Apostle said. If we could do miracles, had political influence, or had money… But these are not the weapons of God. “What weapons did we get from God?” the Church leader asked and listed:
- the truth of the gospel
- love: love people and let them experience God’s love through you
- the unity of the people of God.
The Chief Apostle said that, equipped with these weapons, the ministers would also be able to accomplish their mission. And that is not to deliver human beings from their sins. “That is God’s work; something we cannot do,” he reminded the congregation. The mission of the ministers is to prepare the bride of Christ. And this can be done together with Christ. “And God will save mankind.”