“Shock and awe” is a military doctrine developed in 1996 to do just that to our enemies through sudden, massive deployment of actual, or apparent, overwhelming military force. Our military leaders sought to suddenly paralyze the enemy by destroying their will to resist, if not their actual ability to resist.
Public response to that doctrine, however, proved disappointing, as many bought in to the major news media’s negative opinions about its application in the Middle East. Whether or not it actually worked is a mystery to John Q. Public, who knows only what he hears reported.
What It Was
Oddly enough, the first example ever of Shock and Awe also happened in the Middle East, when God's people Israel finally invaded the Promised Land to eliminate the corrupt, idolatrous people living there. Much of the Bible’s Pentateuch recorded for us that military campaign, and how Israel’s disobedience caused it to ultimately fail.
That failure cost Israel the holy heritage God promised if they had obeyed. Yet, nothing surprises the Eternal One, who knew before time how he would remedy humanity’s sin. That Remedy, that perfect, loving Sacrifice in the person of God’s only Son after his own kind, became our Way to the Father, our perfect Truth, and our eternal Life.
Christ’s Shock and Awe
After Jesus completed his perfect work of reconciling fallen man to his Father, he ordered a campaign of shock and awe when he issued the Great Commission to his disciples, and to us.
Matthew 28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Shock and Awe, yes, but not as the world conducts its wars. If his church at large had obeyed his commands and followed his teachings over the years since he and his apostles walked the earth, we would have completed turning the world up side down, as the Thessalonian Jews accused the apostles of doing.
Acts 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.That was Shock and Awe of the spiritual kind, and it cost Christ’s followers dearly, ranging from fines, such as the above excerpt shows, to their very lives. Most of us shudder at reports of the torturous deaths the martyrs suffered, and are unable to imagine ourselves following the same path. If we were able to ask those martyrs how they managed to face their horrible fate they would probably tell us they couldn’t imagine it either … before they faced it.
That Was Then, This Is Now
We Western Christians will never face such a threat, as long as we continue reducing Christ’s way to formalized religion, participating in some of the world’s more mundane corruptions, and balking at the prospect of facing horrible tortures such as unpopularity, vocational penalties, family scoffing and the like. The tragic fact is most of us are quite thankful for the differences.
Some of today's more aware brethren pray for revival in God’s church to bring us back to first-century vitality, quietly hoping God will choose someone else for the hard work. Others recognize the potent, poisonous Kool-Aid we cheerfully consume in the name of Christian liberty, and respond by establishing punitive rules and judging all those who fail to measure up. Of course, neither strategy will produce the revival needed to carry out Christ’s Great Commission.
I’m afraid the only solution to these shortcomings will include reaping what we’ve sown, as did God’s stiff-necked people Israel. While that reaping must include severe tribulation, the resulting purge will leave the purified remnant necessary to complete Christ’s earth-shaking orders.
I both dread and anticipate that time. If I survive until then I hope to face it with God’s Spirit providing the strength to endure, and to carry God's campaign of spiritual Shock and Awe to the needy world, as Christ's Great Commission directed.