(NOTE: This was written in response to a movement among certain denominations to mobilize young children into a "Christian Army." The concept reflects, by inference, actual warfare. The leaders may understand that we fight a spiritual warfare, but the children probably do not. They associate war with the violence they see on TV and in the games they play. Physical force in the name of religion is a false and dangerous teaching, as a bloody history will attest.)
The old song says, "Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war." Yes, we are Christian soldiers, and yes, we are at war. But the concept needs to be distinguished from carnal warfare and translated into spiritual warfare. A few words from Christ, our Lord and Master, ought to make the difference crystal clear.
"My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight so that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now My kingdom is not from here." (John 18:36, NKJV)
And then from the mighty Apostle Paul, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6: 12, 13) Then there follows a detailed description of the "whole armor of God," but all of it is life-preserving, not life-destroying as in carnal warfare.
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:3-5)
When Peter amputated Malchus' ear, Jesus replaced it. (John 18:10). When James and John suggested calling fire down from heaven to destroy the inhospitable Samaritans, Jesus rebuked them saying, "The Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." (Luke 9:54-56)
And finally, the not-often-quoted John 3:17: "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." God's eternal purpose and Christ's eternal mission have as their goal to save and not to destroy.
Would it not be more fitting for Christians to be pictured not as militant soldiers going to war to destroy life, but dressed in servants' clothes on the streets tending to the needs of the "least of these," sharing the love and hope that abide in Jesus, warring against hunger, homelessness, lostness, etc., their one weapon the Sword of Truth, and their enemies not flesh and blood? Not, in fact, marching behind the cross of Christ, but picking up the cross and carrying it up Golgotha's ugly hill following their Savior? Or kneeling in Gethsemane? Marching militantly behind the cross of Christ is a sad and dishonest portrayal of the gentle Jesus. He died quietly on the cross, forgiving his executioners with His last painful breath.
We would do well to remember that Jesus gathered little children into His arms and said, "Let the little children come to me and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." (Mark 10: 14..,15) We need to be very careful what we teach the little ones for their angels do always stand in the presence of our Father.
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Another fine article. Jesus made the distinction of timing in his statements. It is not yet the time for a war in the 3 dimensional limitations of this world. That day is coming. The return of the Lord will be a very bloody affair following a catastrophic period on this planet. Right now, we need to preach the kingdom and reach the lost by our actions reflecting the love of Christ.
Thank you for writing this article. I feel it is well written and comes from the heart. Yet, i'm torn between both ways of thinking about it. Without defensive warfare, would Hitler have been stopped? Without defensive warfare, would more than just the Twin Towers have fallen? A gunman just murdered a teen girl in Colorado when he took seige of a school. He molested her and 5 others first. I can see how kids need to realize a spiritual war can be played out the physical world. Yet, i completely understand the purpose of putting on our spiritual armour to make us prayer soldiers....
Thank you for helping me to think about this further, Scott Paschal