The great, old classic movie Gone with the Wind contains a poignant scene which portrays the turning of the Civil War against the South. It’s the moment when families of Confederate soldiers, including Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Hamilton, frantically scan the casualty list from the battle at Gettysburg to see if their loved ones are on the list. Some families receive good news. Others receive bad news.
In war there’s one certainty soldiers don’t like to talk about—the casualty list. The church, which is engaged in spiritual warfare, has a casualty list, too. These are people who remain physically alive and well, but spiritually dead.
Casualties are people who are far from God, but not like secular atheists or indifferent agnostics. The casualty list consists of people who are in the church, but they’re fighting for the other side. They’re not out in the world–the entertainment industry, or the schools, or newsrooms, or the halls of Congress. Instead, they’re in pulpits and pews. They carry their Bibles, sing the songs, pray the prayers, and enjoy the potluck dinners. They’re present every time the doors of the church are open. They come on time and give their money in huge chunks.
These casualties are not even missing in action. They’re insiders, not outsiders. Yet they don’t fight for holiness, ministry or justice. Their champion is the enemy of God. Jesus encountered such casualties often. They’re the only people Jesus criticized in public. He did it to their face. And they hated him for it.
If you’re a fan of espionage stories, it might sound like those on the casualty list are double agents. At the very least, they’re fakes and frauds.
Spiritual casualties wear the clothing of Christ followers. They could have become good soldiers fighting the good fight. But they didn’t. They resisted the love and grace of Jesus and cast their allegiance to the opposite side. But they never left the church. Now they fight against truth and grace. These are not seekers struggling to find the way to God but coming up short. They’re not POWs waiting to be rescued. These are not people digging for truth, but remain trapped in the wrong worldview. Rather, these are double agents committed to the dark side of the force. In effect, they have said to God, “I have another master. That’s my final answer.” Game over. Put ‘em on the casualty list. It’s real.
This Sunday we’ll talk about the casualty list and how you can be sure not ever to go on it. If you want to prepare, check out the super short, next to last book of the New Testament. It’s less than two pages long and was written by Jude, a brother of James—and of Jesus. If you’ve never read this brief letter, it may shock you.