In wartime, of all times, it’s important to know who your enemy is. For Britain in the First World War it was Germany and their allies. That’s why many differences between the main British political parties were laid down in August 1914 when war began. Everyone got behind Herbert Asquith’s Liberal government of the day, and they intentionally worked more closely across the parties. However when Asquith’s government was rightly criticised in 1915 for shortage of munitions and for the naval failure at Gallipoli, rather than forcing a general election, the leaders of the main parties embraced government by coalition until the end of the war. This was initially led by Asquith and then from 1916 by Lloyd George. They knew who the enemy was – and it was not each other.
There’s something about war that brings a clarity of purpose. Things that seemed important before are no longer so vital. War causes people to concentrate on the main things, and to do them well. Minor differences now mean very little because there’s now a bigger vision and a greater prize to aim for.
Organisations today that get caught up in internal political squabbles would do well to remember this. The church, which I serve, has an unfortunate history of doing just this – arguing and dividing over minor points of doctrine whilst forgetting that there’s a war on. At least, that’s what the Bible says, telling us that Christ-followers are called not to fight against each other, nor against other people, but against unseen demonic powers – ‘against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 5:12). We do this through prayer and action. But even in the church, it’s easy to lose sight of who your enemy is.
That’s why the Bible says that followers of Jesus are called to ‘make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4:3), which means working hard to maintain internal peace, so that the job we’re called to do can get done. Leaders have a crucial role to play in this, modelling unity through their words and in their conduct. This doesn’t mean leaders create a forced uniformity or stop all sorts of difficult discussions and disagreements happening. It just means they happen behind closed doors, ensuring that unity is cherished and especially displayed in public, and when a decision is made that all get behind it. After all, there’s a war on, and there’s too much at stake to do any other. As evangelist and speaker J John so eloquently put it: ‘the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!’
If you’re a leader, do you know who your enemy is? How should this affect the internal politics of your organisation? And what are you doing to maintain unity, ensuring that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing?