In part 1, I argued that we may have both personal enemies and enemies of the gospel. In part 2, I argued that we may have personal battles to fight, in addition to the spiritual battle mentioned in Ephesians 6. At the end, I said that the really important thing is:
Keeping The Battles Straight
There are those who are enemies of the gospel, and there are those who are our enemies. There are battles we fight in because of our earthly citizenship, and there is the spiritual battle. I think the really important thing is not to mix them up.
In Old Testament times, there was a sense in which Israel’s wars were God’s wars and Israel’s enemies were God’s enemies. As Americans we cannot make the same claim. Israel was the people of God; America is not.
Soldiers in World War II 70 years ago or in Afghanistan today may have been doing their Christian duty but the same would have been true for Christians fighting against the US troops in the same wars. Christian citizens on either side had the opportunity to honor Christ by their patriotism, courage, and self-sacrifice.
What about the church? Isn’t it the kingdom of God? Yes, but only in a restricted sense. We believers are citizens of God’s kingdom, but that kingdom hasn’t come to earth in its fullness yet. Until it does, we are like foreign ambassadors, waiting for our Commander in Chief to arrive. Perhaps when he does we will fight. Until then, our role is to suffer and love and share the gospel.
That’s why the Bible mentions that our enemies are spiritual enemies and our weapons are spiritual weapons. God never intended the church – as opposed to Israel– to use military force to extend the kingdom.
We have to be careful not to talk as though our wars are God’s wars, or use God’s name to endorse our side of an earthly conflict. My concern is that whenever the US has faced enemies – whether the Nazis, the Communist threat, Muslim terrorists, or even, depending on your point of view, political liberals – we have tended to use the rhetoric of holy war to recruit for our side. As a loyal American, you may feel you need to fight a war on terrorism. Go ahead – just don’t call it God’s war. Doing that is a kind of blasphemy, a way of taking God’s name in vain.
It isn’t just the US that does this, of course. Most countries are guilty of it.
What about metaphorical battles?
We aren’t supposed to use military force to fight for the kingdom of God, but what about fighting socially or politically for what we believe? Can that be a legitimate way to wage war for God?
I don’t know if it’s wrong to wage a culture war in the name of Christ. Maybe it’s perfectly OK. After all, it’s not a real war; that’s just a metaphor. We don’t really intend to hurt or kill anyone, we just want to win votes and influence public opinion.
It’s still really easy to mix up our agenda with God’s, though. Even if our opinions are Biblically based, it doesn’t automatically mean God is fighting with us for control of our society.
Sometimes I think we forget that we are supposed to give God what is his, and leave to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s – and when Jesus said that, I don’t think he meant just taxes, but the whole agenda of fighting for our economic, political and social rights in a world that is hostile to God.
So I guess I would answer Pastormac’s question:
I understand in a big view that the devil is always the enemy, but are you saying that people are never the enemy? Was Hitler an enemy? Was Osama Bin Laden an enemy? Is it ever appropriate to treat flesh and blood people as enemies?
by saying that
- While another person may be an enemy, he or she is never the enemy.
- If we are fighting against people in a literal sense, we are fighting our own battle, and not God’s.
- It’s not necessarily wrong to be fighting our own battle, as long as we keep in mind whose battle it is.
- If we are in a culture or political struggle against someone, we can perhaps consider them to really be our enemies, but we should not consider the struggle against them to be really a (literal) battle. “Battle” is only a metaphor in their case.