Part 1 of 2 in the “Foxhole Buddies” series.
Can you imagine fighting in a war? I sort of can’t. Of course people do it every day, but since it isn’t my life it takes imagination to picture being down in a foxhole, crouching with fear, bullets whizzing by every other second.
In the midst of this, I imagine looking over at the guy or girl beside me, fighting on my team, and wondering if they really like me. Do they respect me? Would they take a bullet for me?
Now, these questions may seem strange, but they aren’t. They are completely appropriate questions that need to be asked and answered. What’s strange is the timing–why would I wait to ask these questions when I am in the midst of danger, at the exact moment that I should be focusing on the actual battle—the actual ENEMY—who mercilessly fights me at every turn? Once I’m down in that foxhole, it is too late to question if my fellow warriors have my back.
The thing is, we are in this situation every day. When we stand for Jesus, we are in a battle—with a real Enemy. And the people with whom we choose to fight are very, very important.
A few years ago I was introduced to the concept of a “person of peace” regarding evangelism, from Jesus’ instructions to His disciples in Matthew 10 and through the example of Lydia in Acts 16. There are really helpful examples of investing well into the people of peace God puts in our lives as we seek to spread the Gospel, and we have adopted it as our primary mode of evangelism. (The explanation of people of peace was introduced to me by Mike Breen in Building a Discipling Culture, chapter 13.)
However, over the years I have found another enlightening application of this concept, and that is that I always want to have people of peace serving alongside me on my leadership team.
Basically, I want to never have to question if the person in the foxhole beside me is really on my team.
So what is a person of peace? Someone who listens to me, respects me, affirms me, serves me, gives me the benefit of the doubt, and opens doors for me. Someone who wants to spend time with me—in fact, people of peace are often those who pursue us relentlessly, those folks we can’t seem to shake. They are people who love us completely, even when we aren’t completely sure why. They don’t have to be in our season of life or really anything like us—they don’t even have to be believers. I have a few people of peace in my life who still haven’t chosen to follow Jesus, but they have introduced me to others who have.
I have learned over time that if I am to lead a team well, it must be full of people of peace for me. People who listen to me, respect me, affirm me, etc. People who are grateful to serve alongside me and let me know it. People who give me honor just as I give it to them.
There have been times when I didn’t only have people of peace on my leadership team, and it felt a bit like trying to jump 50 feet in the air with ankle weights on. They weren’t bad people or even unaffirming necessarily, there just wasn’t true chemistry there with ME. And unfortunately, we weren’t as effective as a team as we could have been, partially because as the bullets flew by I wondered how much that person would really give for me if push came to shove. When you consider how much of a burden leaders already have on their shoulders, it isn’t wise to add another one this heavy.
David knew what it was like to have people of peace around him—we see a beautiful picture of it in 2 Samuel 23:16. In the middle of a battle when David mentioned he was thirsty, “The three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David.” Um, what? In the middle of a war, they just break through enemy lines…..to bring David some water.
Now that’s what I call people of peace. They had several thousand great reasons to not go that extra mile, but they chose to serve their leader out of love and devotion. And the reason is clear from the next verse when David pours it out, out of honor for their sacrifice: he loves and shows honor to them as well. There is deep loyalty and commitment there, and love. David doesn’t have to wonder if his men love him—they show him that they do through their actions, their repeated affirmation of his leadership, and their concern for even his personal life. These are good people—and what’s more, they are people of peace.
So take a moment to ask yourself about the chemistry on your team. Perhaps there is that one person who is very gifted, or committed, or faithful…but something is just the tiniest bit off. There is a little something there that pops up now and again that makes things a little uneasy. You can’t put your finger on it…let me do it for you: he/she is not a person of peace for you. And so in those moments when you desperately need an encouraging word or someone to go the extra mile to show their love for you, you are not in the least bit surprised that this person doesn’t step up. The thing is, they may be incredible—on someone else’s team. But in your foxhole, you need folks whose loyalty and devotion are obvious.
Do not wait until the bullets are flying overhead to make sure those on your team would take that bullet for you—find people of peace and the burden will be lifted from you in ways you never could have imagined. And then, when all of your focus is glorifying Jesus, the Enemy won’t know what hit him.
COMING SOON: Part 2: Taking Care of Your Foxhole Roomies
Image courtesy: Fra Skyttergravene / From the Trenches (1919)