Regarding Scripture: II Corinthians 10.3-5
We see fighting all around us, from the war of nations to the war of words. Some wars are tremendously dreadful and violent, while others are needed and casualties are minimal. One thing is certain, for most people, a fight is the last resort to resolve conflict. So how do we reconcile Scriptures that tell a Christian to fight the good fight1 and the passage which we are examining this week? Should a Christian engage others? Is it a battle? How do we fight?
In II Corinthians 10.3-4 Paul is telling us that while we are human, Christians do not use human means and methods to fight or contend like a soldier. We might recognize that Christians do not use swords, knives, guns, and tanks to fight the Christian battle, but are we aware that if we, as disciples, use strong-arm tactics like guilt, shame, tone of voice, and body language, we are engaging the spiritual battle in the wrong way? On occasion guilt and shame are needed, but when needed they should come across the way we felt growing up when our fathers made us feel about two inches tall. For most people, (whether they pick up on these or not) tone of voice and body language make the difference between rebellion and submission. Since our goal is to fight the strongholds of imaginations and the things (like philosophies and life styles) that exalt themselves against God, then as Christians we need to be aware of our personal action in voice and stance.
Should a Christian engage others? We engage people all the time, from the market place to the highway. Knowing that it is impossible to live an isolated life, the challenge now is the manner in which we engage. We should be like Christ, one who was gentle, kind, compassionate, forgiving. Yes, He battled the Pharisees and Scribes and seemed to lay into them, but are we also aware that this was done because they were hypocrites, supposing knowledge and leadership skills, because they made life difficult for the average person? Jesus did not treat average people with such animosity.
Is the Christian life a battle? Only in one sense because we fight against the schemes of the devil and the powers and world forces of darkness and wickedness.2 Yet, if at all possible, we need to live at peace with all people.3 What makes this difficult is that not everyone wants to live peaceably. No, the Christian life is not a battle like a hot war zone, but in a sense, we are to go to war by engaging the minds of those around us. The world challenges Christians to reexamine biblical principles and our Christian faith, likewise our responsibility is to challenge them to reexamine their assumptions, philosophies, and life styles. This is the battle of ideas – the culture war.
How do we fight? This may be the hardest question to answer, because this is probably where the resistance will be encountered. To address this question, first, who is sent to battle and war? Are babes and young children sent to battle, or are men and women? Second, are soldiers sent to the field without training and equipment? Third, are all military personnel on the front lines? If so, where do the support lines come from – civilians? One of the culturally beautiful aspects of the current American war is the deliberate and intentional design to limit civilian casualties. Do we, as Christians, seek the same or are our battlefields so mismanaged that we leave nothing but destruction from our engagements?
The battle for the minds, the battle for the hearts, the battle against the philosophies (wisdoms) of men and women is difficult, but manageable. The challenge is: do we fight these battles using the tactics of the enemy (our adversary the devil), by using lies and underhanded methods; or do we fight these battles using the tactics of our Commander (Jesus Christ), by using truth, compassion, and forgiveness? Our aim is not to shock and awe our opponents, but to seek and save the lost, to convert a lost soul. This takes kindness of mercy. It takes tolerance of relationships. It takes patience of time.
1 1 Timothy 1.18, 6.12
2 Ephesians 6.12
3 Romans 12.18