Christian warfare: where pacifism is not an option

Did you know that all of us are at war, and there’s nothing we can do but fight or surrender? I’m not talking about Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere the U.S. military is active, ever has been, or ever will be.

Jesus Christ, the rightful Lord of the universe, has a rebellion on his hands. The rebel, named Satan, captured the human race by deceit at the beginning of time and rules as the god of this world. He can’t win, but his final defeat hasn’t yet occurred.

Whatever else it means, this spiritual warfare happens within each of our minds.

“Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all of your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.”–1 Peter 1:13, NRSV. Peter addressed these words to Christians, the people who are on Jesus’ side of the war. Although there is much to say about spiritual warfare, I’m concentrating today on specifically Christian warfare. By definition, Christians set hope on the revelation of Jesus Christ and no one else does.

Prepare your minds for action

Family studying the BibleEverything we do and everything we say begins with a thought. Thoughts tumble through our minds all the time, and we choose which ones to heed and which to let go.

Pay attention to what’s happening in your mind.

Among the stream of thoughts, look especially for two kinds:

  • thoughts that conform to the reborn spirit we received when we accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior
  • thoughts that conform to the old sin nature that still wants to have its own way.

Do you know that we have no human enemies?

The moment you start to think of a family member, a neighbor, a co-worker, a rival, or anyone else as the enemy, you are thinking thoughts of the sin nature, controlled by Satan.

You will begin to feel resentment, and very likely a desire to act in ways that will seem to strengthen your position and weaken the other’s. Your body will start to pour out all kinds of corrosive hormones, and corrosive thoughts will take over your mind until you begin to speak and act on devilish principles and not from Christian character.

How, then, are we supposed to treat these people who seem to oppose us? With love.

The Bible nowhere says that we must like everyone or trust everyone or allow everyone to have their own way, But from beginning to end, it commands love for everyone.

The most important commandment is to love God with every fiber of our being. The second, similar to the first, is to love every other human we meet or think about. As Paul explains in Romans 13:10, love does no harm to the other–no matter what the perceived threat might be–and therefore fulfills that second law.

Does anyone find it easy to love those we consider enemies? If any such people exist, they have attained that ease of love by fighting for it. They have successfully engaged in Christian warfare for a long time in order to prepare their minds for the actions Christ demands of us all.

Discipline yourselves

Worship serviceIf our thoughts can come either from Jesus or Satan, we must not only be mindful of them, we must train ourselves to act on Jesus’ input and reject Satan’s.

We must discipline our minds to discern the difference between good thoughts (words, actions) and bad thoughts (words, actions).

We tend to use “discipline” as if it meant “punish.” It means “train.”

Understanding the true meaning of the words we use, hear, or read, remains an important discipline. What have any of us ever learned without discipline? We learned to tie our shoes, drive a car, use a computer, and whatever else we know by constant repetition of the actions, words, ideas, etc.

Along the way, we have all learned some bad habits. How many weekend athletes have improved their performance by adjusting their golf swing, throwing, running, or other basic skill? And how do they do it? By constant, mindful repetition.

Preparing our minds for the Christ-like kind of action likewise requires that we discover our bad mental habits and, by constant practice, replace them with new ones.

Whenever a thought comes to us about how to respond to an “enemy,” that is precisely the time to remember that we have no human enemies and learn to reject the thought.

Christian warfare takes place at those moments when we recognize the temptation to regard someone besides the devil as an enemy. Recognize also the further temptation to act according to the habit of the sinful nature and not develop good, Christian habits of love.

Set all your hope on grace

  • Whenever we look to our own logic or cunning to counter the threat from a supposed enemy, you have taken your eye off Jesus.
  • Whenever we set our hope on our own resources for anything, we fail.
  • Whenever we set our hope on help from other people, we fail.
  • Whenever we set our hope on anything we think we deserve, we fail.
  • Whenever we set our hope on anything other than God’s grace, sooner or later it will let us down, and we will fail.

But thanks be to God who has called us more than conquerors through his grace.

As Christians, we say that God is all-knowing and all-powerful. We call him Lord.

Why, then, do we act and talk and pray as if we understand our situation better than he does? Why, then do we act and talk as if we must solve all our our problems with human strength?

We sing, “My hope is build on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” When the warfare comes to us, do we really believe it?

We were Satan’s slaves before we ever accepted Christ. Until we break the habits of being Satan’s slaves, we will continue to follow them.

Christian warfare is all about relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to build new habits. Since it’s really part of the war between our old master and our new Lord, we can’t possibly avoid it.

But here’s the good news: if we’re properly dressed for battle (that is, we have put on Christ), properly awake and alert (mindful of what our minds are up to), and looking in the right direction (at Jesus), we can’t lose. We can be bruised and battered, but in the end, Jesus wins. And so do we.

Photo credits
Family reading the Bible: Some rights reserved by pacificglow07 (link no longer work as of Jan. 2015)
Worship service: Some rights reserved by pikchergirl
Global prayer poster:
Some rights reserved by thorntonsdigital


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