Wartime Empathy

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Uriah the Hittite

My lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.

Watchman Nee

Watchman Nee was arrested in China by the Communists April 10, 1952. He died in prison June 1, 1972. His wife, Charity, had been allowed to see him only periodically. She died in 1971. The Communists offered to let friends in the West ransom Nee from prison if he would leave the country. He refused, and like Uriah said,

Why should I use my privilege and secure freedom when thousands of my fellow-believers are suffering without hope of deliverance? I have taught the Word and left behind the written messages; now I must live that Word and not desert my God-appointed post.

The Saints at Bethlehem

Could Uriah really help Joab at the front lines by keeping vigil in Jerusalem? Why not go in to his wife? Why not eat and drink? Why not relax? The battle is far away.

Could Watchman Nee really help the church in China by staying in prison? Isn't it an injustice to his wife to refuse release? Would there not have been a new ministry in another more comfortable country?

Perhaps. Or could it be that we efficient Americans could learn something very deep about the power and honor of wartime empathy? About keeping vigil 8,000 miles away? About “pointless” self-denial for the sake of distant soldiers?

Noël and I have braced ourselves to keep vigil for you.

Just where are the front lines?

Pastor John