We Are In A Battle

There are several reasons why I’m repulsed by the term “Church militant.”

One is that an (probably dangerous) armed group of extremists have taken the name. But even beyond that, as a follower of the Prince of Peace with strong Anabaptist leanings, the phrase conjures up images of the worst of Christendom – crusades, inquisitions, “heretics” burning at the stake, Brethren being drowned for believing in baptism by immersion, and “just war.” Indeed, the phase (and its counterpart “Church triumphant”) seems to have first appeared in Medieval Latin Europe. 

Jesus crushed death, sin, and evil by absorbing all of it in Himself, dying on the cross and rising from the dead. No swords. No wars. No political campaigns. The stone table cracked. The Ice Queen was defeated. Spring returned to Narnia. 

“Church militant” is supposed to refer, not to wars, political campaigns, or people’s “rights,” but to our on-going nonviolent battle against the world, the flesh and the devil.

Scripturally, “the world,” refers (in this context) to empires built on violence and greed, to the propensity of humans to manipulate, coerce, and control. It refers to the pursuit of power, pleasure, material wealth, prestige, honor, and fame. It is the worldview that built the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Ottoman, British, Soviet, Japanese Imperial, German Third Reich, and American empires. It is a worldview so ingrained in us that to oppose it seems counterintuitive. Indeed, since the organized church became the chaplain of the Roman Empire in the 4thcentury, its apologists (beginning with Augustine) have consistently sought ways to blend church and empire. The result is a bastardized theology.

“Flesh” in the Bible refers to the strong pull within us towards self-preservation, narcissism, and self-promotion. It leads to self-indulgence, self-defense, xenophobia, racism, classism, sexism, and sexual misconduct of all kinds. It shows up when we fail to consider the plight of the poor, when we break our vows and commitments, and when we condemn others who think differently. 

Then there’s the devil. Sophisticated people scoff at the very idea, but the Bible is quite clear that Jesus (and indeed all the authors of scripture) believed in the reality of principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places, not as euphemisms for political or societal constructs, but as real, intelligent, malevolent beings that seek to deceive, destroy and kill. These evil beings are behind every war, every injustice, every environmental assault, every act of violence, and at least some sickness and some destructive natural phenomenon. The laws of physics as we now know them were not the laws of nature God originally intended. In God’s design, there is no sickness, there are no parasites, tsunamis don’t swallow cities, and death itself is nonexistent. 

And yet, Christians seem to keep forgetting that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against satanic powers.

Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 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 firm. (ESV)

Other humans are never the enemy. Never. 

The enemy is satan. 

And satan is the god of this world. The worldly system that bows to worship the militarism of Mars, the selfish pleasure of Aphrodite, the consumerism of Mammon, and Imperial cult of Emperor adulation is controlled by the one who “goes about like a lion seeking to devour.” Satan is behind every empire in history. Every empire was, or is, founded, built, and sustained by violence, suppression, and greed. Every empire in history killed or enslaved the indigenous people, stole their land, and claimed that God (or the gods) willed it. 

The enemy is satan.

And satan dangles riches, fame, prestige, achievement, legacy, and sexual dominance before our eyes. The environment, God’s creation, God’s garden, is exploited and destroyed, the rich get richer, and the poor die for lack of medical care. 

The enemy is satan. 

Not other people. 

Not people of other ethnicities. 

Not other nations. 

Not other ideologies. 

Not other religions. 

Satan.

And how to we battle the satanic forces that assail us? 

In community with other believers, we follow Jesus.

That is, together, we live by what Jesus said to do:

  • We are nonviolent.
  • Noncoercive
  • Anti-consumerist
  • Generous
  • Self-sacrificing
  • We have servants’ hearts.
  • We have teachable hearts.
  • We strive to develop honest, open, unoffendable hearts. 
  • We are kind.
  • We care in deep practical ways for the poor, the incarcerated, the sick, the lonely, the mentally ill, the displaced, the rejected, the despised, and the disenfranchised.
  • We are known for our love, not for what we’re against.
  • We have joined a community with a special mission, bringing God’s love to all.
  • We are very willing to die for others.
  • We return good for evil. 
  • We love God and it shows.
  • We are people of prayer.
  • We love and study scripture because it leads us closer to Jesus.
  • We love to worship, adore, and praise our King.
  • We pledge allegiance to King Jesus alone.
  • We are citizens of the Kingdom of God only.

And the gates of hades cannot prevail against our onslaught of prayer and fasting by which we breech its walls and liberate its captives. 

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist Jesus Freak Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, husband, father, grandfather

Posted on November 21, 2019, in apologetics, Bible, Bible Teaching, bodily resurrection, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, parables, Prayer, Prophecy, Spirituality, Theodicy. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. YES!

    Like

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