Editorial – Fight for your enemies!
Who is on the Lord’s side? Those who love their enemies – and go to war on their account! David Andrew reflect on God’s kindly warfare …
As disciples of Jesus, we have good news – the very best news – for our enemies… and unless we go to war, we cannot obey God’s command to love them.
If this seems confusing, it’s time that we revisit, and seek to understand the church’s call to warfare. It’s time to take a fresh look at the mission of Jesus Christ. ‘Bethlehem’s little baby’ came into this world as a soldier – to conquer, to express enmity, to disarm, to destroy, to laugh at the futility of His enemy’s defences – and to gather an army ‘terrible with banners’, an army of former slaves, who would express His relentless aggression against every continuing trace of His enemy’s work – an army whose entire motivation would be their Commanders’ selfless love… Still confused? (See: Genesis 3:15; Colossians 2:15; 1 John 3:8; 2 Timothy 2:3; 2 Corinthians 5:14)
My choice of military vocabulary is deliberate. The infant in the manger did not mature to become a warrior. As He lay there in helpless, vulnerable infancy in a cattle trough, adored by the poorest of parents and socially outcast shepherds, He was a warrior. The news of His arrival was welcomed just as the Nazis would one day welcome the Normandy landings and a mad, jealous puppet-king slaughtered countless little boys in the futile hope of murdering this terrifying infant-King. The nativity was Heaven’s D-Day – many horrors of war lay still ahead, but this baby’s birth had turned the tide of war. His infant cry was the shout of God in our camp. Hell shuddered. Angels longed to understand – but this birth made victory certain. God’s ways are high; His strategies seem to us impossible, or at least improbable – and that’s why we need God’s help to think…
It will help lift our confusion if we recall that the child in the manger was God incarnate – omnipotently divine, impotently human, simultaneously upholding the universe by the word of His power and utterly dependent on Mary and Joseph to meet His normal infant needs…
If we don’t understand His aggression, if this military Jesus seems strange to us, it will help to reflect that no humans were targeted in the unfolding of this drama – He had come to die for His rebel enemies and to destroy their enemy “Since therefore the children share in ﬂesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). If we try to understand God’s military mind through earthly categories of ‘peace and justice’, détente and diplomacy, we will imagine that our moral standards are higher than God’s and His Old Testament campaigns might have been less bloody if He could have learned our strategies of compromise and appeasement! Just follow our bloody track-record in today’s Godless headlines to see the folly of this reasoning!
The Bible states boldly that “the LORD is a man of war; the LORD is His Name”, (Exodus 15:3) but this statement was breathed into print by an infinite mind and we mortals have no right to grab a quick ‘food to go’ interpretation as if ‘man of war’, when applied to the God of peace, equates Him with any human counterpart.
No Divine tantrums
It’s true that He raised up Joshua’s army to wage war against the inhabitants of Canaan but, true to His “slow to anger” nature (Psalm 103:8), He waited four centuries until, in His eyes, their evil culture had ripened beyond redemption.
This is exactly what He predicted to Abraham four hundred years before it happened: “As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and ill-treated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:12-16)
No-one reading this – not the fiercest, atheistic critic of God can claim such a definition of ‘slow’ for their own anger. Four seconds, for some of us trigger happy chaps – but four centuries? Let no-one accuse the only Righteous God of quick-tempered, knee-jerk judgment. He is “righteous in all His ways and good to all that He has made” (Psalm 145:17) – but when it comes to evil, His patience demands respect and His generous boundaries are still to be feared. He gets angry slowly – but He gets angry…
Let’s get God’s viewpoint on our rebel race: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? … I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:23, 32).
Now recall that the Son “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…”. (Hebrews 1:3) In His own words, He came on the Father’s mission “that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) By now, it should be possible to see that God’s ‘warfare’ is for, not against, our race. Whatever we are to understand by Christian warfare, the primary rule of engagement is ‘love your enemies’ – and that’s from the top…
Soldiers? Yes, really!
If we have misunderstood God’s warfare and consider it a tasteless subject for people of superior moral calibre who prefer to love their enemies, it’s probable that we have no better understanding of our own ‘military’ calling. Why would the Word of God, which records Jesus dying with a prayer of forgiveness for His enemies – and welcoming a freshly penitent thief into paradise – have so much to say about our Christian ‘soldiering’? Could it be because we are naturally ignorant of the real enemy – and therefore also of the true nature of our calling? Time to join up some dots: IF we find the warfare dimension of Christian discipleship distasteful… IF we prefer to ignore those parts of the Bible which depict God at war and which call us to be ‘soldiers of Christ’… IF we think that loving our enemies exempts us from involvement in warfare…IF we imagine that these ‘enemies’ we love (if we do!) are the real and only enemy…THEN our real enemy has tricked us into looking in the wrong direction.
It’s basic warfare strategy: inform, disinform, misinform, confuse, disorientate… use every trick in the book to separate your enemy’s thinking from reality – convince your enemy to plan for one eventuality while you plan quite another… The big issue is where do we Christians get our perception of reality? From Facebook? (I wish I were joking)… from the BBC? (Now I am joking). How do we regard the Bible? Is ALL Scripture ”Godbreathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), or just parts of it? If so, which parts – and who decides what’s authoritative and what’s past its shelf-life? This magazine is a small enterprise, but it exists to maintain one clear position: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS REDUNDANT SCRIPTURE. It’s all God-breathed and, if He has put it on His page, we need to take it seriously.
Demons? Yes, really!
Now consider: “…we are not ﬁghting against ﬂesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 – NLT)
The enemy is not human – and therefore common to all humanity. Our race faces the hatred of only one racist – albeit that he hides his presence behind many bigoted human protagonists. The devil and demons are part of reality. There’s a war on. Civilian life is not an option for Christians. We’ve been provided with full armour and an unanswerable sword – and no less than Christ Himself indwelling us by the Holy Spirit. Our human enemies have the same enemy we have – but they are blind to his existence (as we once were), blind to the war, blind to reality. If we love our enemies, we will go to war on their behalf. The real enemy will not give up his blind trophies without a fight – that’s why our warfare is not optional.
Our D-Day dawned in Bethlehem’s manger, the decisive victory was won when the Soldier of the Cross cried “It is ﬁnished”. Death died when He rose from the tomb. All our victories ride on the back of His. But we won’t have victories unless we fight.
To love is to fight
It’s time we stopped polarising truths that belong together. “Love your enemies” equates to ‘fight the good fight of the faith”. Jesus came fighting for His enemies – that was us, before we were saved. It was “while we were enemies” that we were “reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10). His Gospel preached to us “as of first importance” was God’s means to rescue us from the dominion of darkness and bring us into the kingdom of His Son. Some who were saved before us put themselves in harm’s way to bring God’s light into our darkness. Their message was both welcomed and opposed, they were both popular and hated.
This is also to be our normal mission experience: “Our lives are a Christlike fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 – NLT)
Notice: “Our lives…”, not just our prayers. “Your will be done” is not a prayer for parrots. It’s a prayer that must be answered through our fingertips.
It’s time for our prayer focus to graduate from mere welfare to warfare.When billions are shouting “My will be done”, “Your will be done” is a war cry. It’s a prayer of freedom (see p.15). It’s a weapon. It’s the devil’s defiance defied. It’s captives freed, Heaven throwing a party and Hell in mourning… ‘O Church arise, and put your armour on…’