Fighting the Wrong War

455754A3-CA52-4520-9313-AAFC7457B4A7Recently I was listening to the radio, and a phrase from a song  hit me. The singer proclaimed that he is “at war with the world”. I flipped this around in my head for a bit, remembering that I too sung these lyrics as the radio played. Something seemed off to me about this sentiment, though, this time as I listened and contemplated. For starters, John 3:16 tells us that God loves the world in such a way that He sent His Son for its salvation. Although I think that “the world” in this instance is Creation, and that what is being said is that God loved His creation in such a way that He sent His Son for it’s redemption, the fact remains that part of that is the world of men that we so often refer to as “the world”. Therefore, God loved His creation of human beings in such a way that He would suffer so that we might know redemption and reconciliation.

It doesn’t seem from this passage that God is at war with the world. However, surely we could look at a passage like Romans 5:10 and get to “war with God”. Yes, from Scripture we see that there is a war between Man and God, but it does not appear to be the other way around. It seems more like Man’s petty ragings against their holy Creator. And if we thought about it, what would it really look like if God had waged war on mankind? I’m thinking that the flood would look like child’s play in comparison.

Let’s look at another passage about the world as well. In John 17 Jesus prays what is often known as the High Priestly Prayer. Part of the prayer is where we get the understanding that we (His disciples) are to be in the world, but not of it. The passage reads as follows:

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” John 17:14-16

Note that Jesus does mention that the world has hated His disciples, to whom He has given the word that was received from the Father. However, they are not to be taken out of the world, but protected from the evil one. Again we see a one way war being waged against the Disciples who carry in them the word of God. In John three we see why.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:19-21

Dark rails against light. Darkness hates light, and the word of God is light. Therefore the world wars against all who would proclaim the word of God. However, as Timothy Keller warns in his book Preaching: Communicating Faith in a Skeptical Age , we must be very careful as Christians not to fall into the trap of us versus them. Indeed, we must remember that we are citizens of earth, and that we face many of the same struggles as our fellow citizens of earth. Our citizenship in heaven should therefore make us far more merciful, far more patient, and far more loving, for we know the Hope that others do not. But then who is the enemy? The answer lies in Ephesians chapter 6:10-18:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Paul is encouraging the Christians in Ephesus so they might be ready to “stand against the devil’s schemes”.  Therefore he reminded them that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” God, through Paul, is pointing the Ephesians, and us as we study this passage, away from warring against “flesh and blood”, and toward spiritual warfare. This is a hard concept for us to deal with at times because our main source of experience is the physical world, making what is physical most real to us. We can’t see the dark forces of spiritual world as they cause all kinds of havoc in the physical world, but this is the point of the passage. We need to be ready to take a stand against the powers of darkness, and note that Paul adds at the end a reminder to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Paul is telling the Ephesians be alert and in prayer, as they stand against the devil’s scheme’s.

If we consider all of these things then, we get a glimpse of the world as it really is, a world bent against God, in large part because the evil one continues to stir up the world against Him. We see a God that paid the ultimate price to save those who are stirred up against Him. We also see that there is a war raging between God and the evil one, and those of us that, as God’s, are encouraged to fight in the spiritual war that is currently ongoing. In short, the enemy has blinded many of us, and caused us to fight against the world, God’s beloved creation, for which He gave His Son for its salvation. Although I believe Scripture tells us all of the above things, I want to be clear that Scripture also explains that it is the desires of our hearts that cause us to sin. It is these desire that the devil takes advantage of, as he stirs us up against God. That is to say the the bent towards disobedience is in our hearts and is directed in such a way that we war against God all the more. It is only through God’s grace, and the work of the cross that we are freed from this battle against God.

With that in mind let us look at another passage from Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21-

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Therefore, instead of being at war with the world around us, we are to be ambassadors, calling people to come to Christ Jesus our King for redemption and reconciliation. So let us not fight the wrong war. Let us not get misdirected any longer. Let us fight the war we are called to fight, and proclaim to the world that Christ the King has come, and seeks to reconcile them to Himself. May God bless and guide us as we continue to seek His will.

Have a blessed week, and look out for the next reflection coming next Saturday.