Today’s Corinthian passage will always have a special place in my heart for a very sentimental reason: When I was active in church as a teenager, I distinctly remember this passage was on one of my beloved t-shirts. On the back it had the passage below a drawing of a knight on horseback, gleaming sword in his hand, riding up a crooked path up to a castle where a demonic giant was waiting. It was a great reminder when I was a kid of the reality of spiritual warfare.
We’re surrounded by a silent war. This isn’t like World War Two, when everyone was mobilized, the war was on the front pages every day and you could hardly escape noticing it even if you wanted to, and which was blessedly short. No, this is a lot more similar to the Cold War, a long-term struggle between two superpowers who rarely come into open conflict, but who usually worked behind the scenes and mostly through proxies. Think of the spy networks who worked silently in the background. If they did their jobs right, you never thought about them, but they were constantly there. The intelligence organizations which helped keep us safe—and which still do—are rarely in the headlines, and then mostly when someone screws up.
But even if most people rarely thought about our struggle during the Cold War in their daily lives, it still affected them, mostly in ways they wouldn’t normally notice. And it’s the same principle in the war discussed in today’s passage. But there are huge differences which we need to note. Let’s take a look at what we can glean:
· The stakes are much higher than in any war fought by men against men. Granted, the stakes were pretty high during World War Two and the Cold War, but they’re nothing compared to this. Men’s souls are at stake. God is robbed of glory due him while people wallow in sin and Christians are disobedient (which is Paul’s main concern here). Every merely human war only has temporal consequences. This is of eternal significance.
· The weapons are very different. Men use guns, bombs, chemical weapons, human intelligence and resources, whatever we can come up with by our own means. Or in the current culture war in America, a lot of battles are fought in the legal/political arena: Passing laws, going into court, winning elections, etc. In the really important battles, we don’t use those: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.” What are the weapons we use? Prayer. The Word of God. The Good News of Christ. Personal holiness. Accountability towards each other.
· The Enemy is very different. Please take a long hard look at the Ephesians verse. Read it again. Let it sink in. Ultimately the church has only one enemy. The hardcore atheist who goes on a lecture tour--on how stupid and harmful Christianity is—is not my enemy. Nor is the homosexual activist who proclaims how wonderful his lifestyle is, and how his “marriage” is just as legitimate as mine. Nor—as much as I abhor abortion—is an abortionist doctor who kills babies who are 10 minutes short of being born. Those people are not my enemies. My Enemy is a spirit who’s been in rebellion against my Lord since near the beginning of time. This in no way relieves anyone of any responsibility for the choices they make. But judging them is not my job, and fighting them on the battlefield of whatever sin they’re indulging in or promoting at the moment is not productive.
· The battlefield is on a different plane. This is related to points # 2 and 3 above. Notice what effect our weapons have: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We fight against Satan in the realm of thoughts, ideas, philosophies, and worldviews. We use every biblically legitimate means to share the Good News with the lost, making it as appealing as we can. We carefully clear away people’s misunderstandings about the Bible (a prime purpose of this blog). When someone promotes falsehood, we call them on it. And of course the entire process must must must be saturated with prayer.
There is, however, one major parallel I see between World War Two and this one. The French, thinking they were about to fight the last war all over again, beefed up the Maginot Line, “a series of fortifications, obstacles, and weapons installations” along the French-German border. The French invested tons of money and resources on the Maginot, and the Germans. . .went around it and invaded with relative impunity. The French were fighting on the wrong border using outmoded thinking, and getting flanked by the Germans cost them their country.
As Christians get more and more frustrated with losses in the culture war—on issues like homosexuality, abortion, freedom of religion, etc.—it’s tempting to resort to “the weapons of the world.” I’m not a pacifist, so I believe that guns and physical weapons have their place in the world. And I'm not saying that Christians shouldn't be involved in the "culture wars." But in the real battle--the battle for peoples’ minds and peoples’ souls--we have to be fighting the right enemy, using the right weapons, on the right battlefield, and following the strategy of our Commander. And when/if we do, we can’t lose.
And here’s a song from Twila Paris which I think is incredibly apropos: "Rescue The Prisoner."
Father God, I for one am reporting for duty. Wherever you send me, whatever my orders are, the answer is “Yes sir.” What’s my mission today?
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