A time for war and a time for peace…
Whoa There, Christian Soldiers!
After retiring to Florida, my parents joined a nearby megachurch with everything they wanted: dynamic worship, solid preaching, opportunities to serve, terrific people, etc. When next I visited and attended service with them, I saw all they liked about the church. But before I got settled in my seat, I also saw something seriously disturbing. With no formal call to worship, the church sailed into a song I’d never heard. The music, loud like The Who and influenced by U2, sounded cool until I caught the lyrics clamoring to rise up against Satan’s armies and take back the land. I said to my father, “This is a war song! These people are angry!”
Later, we discussed it. It seems I’d been off Fundamentalism’s grid so long I missed its promotion from underdog to warrior. Despite their measured tone, my parents were emphatic in their conviction believers are engaged in epic warfare. This wasn’t Christian soldiers marching as to war. It was actual war. “You taught me the point is winning souls, not skirmishes,” I said. They replied, “The world’s out of control. Until sin is defeated, souls will be lost.” I countered, “Christ already defeated sin. You’re fighting an imaginary war!” Besides, the Bible says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12.14; KJV) I asked them to explain this how combative stance revealed Christ’s love to the world. Mom changed the subject.
Know Your Enemy
God’s Word confirms a state of war exists between good and evil. But with increasing regularity, wide swaths of believers have misidentified the enemy. There’s no excuse for this, as Paul names our adversaries outright in Ephesians 6.12. They’re not flesh and blood, he says, but “rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” So why have Christians declared war on each other? If the world is out of control, shouldn’t we unite against spiritual wickedness run amok? Shouldn’t we call for peace within our walls? The discord weakening the church happens when you don’t know your enemy. We’re consuming all our time and energy on doctrinal conflicts when we’d be better served by building consensus—agreeing to disagree, if need be—to join the real battle with a solidified resolve.
Religious infighting leaves us twice defeated. It hands victory to the enemy and creates conflict between God and us. Isaiah 1 gives us a vivid picture of this. It shows God’s people and Him in a virtual standoff. They’ve abandoned His truth for their ideas and pounded each other into bloody pulp. “From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil,” Isaiah says. Blinded by arrogance and enslaved by tradition, they keep going through the motions, completely oblivious to how far they’ve strayed from their meaning. Finally, Isaiah steps aside so God can tell them how angry He is for Himself. “Your sacrifices—what are they to me?” He asks. “Who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? I cannot bear your evil assemblies. They have become a burden to me.” He tells them to shut down their controversies, cease their pious displays, and return to basics: “Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Having got their attention, God lowers His voice. “Come now, let us reason together,” He says, offering to purify them of their sins. “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.”
We’re no better now than Israel was then. We’re engaged in too many imaginary battles on too many fronts while our real adversaries have a field day and our basic responsibilities go untended. It’s time to reason together—with one another and our God. He offers two options: resolve our conflicts and prosper or become casualties of war. It’s time to reach consensus. Because we live in wartime, it’s urgent we make time for peace.