“Lord, stop him in his tracks. Don’t let evil prevail.” We don’t pray like very often do we? Christians have largely abandoned the songs like “Onward, Christian Soldiers” because the language offends. We try to find comforting and therapeutic language for our times of worship. And yet … there is a time to take our stand, to name the enemy, to recognize evil where it exists.
Jesus taught us to ‘turn the other cheek,’ which forbids our retaliation against an enemy. Further in the Gospels, we see Him making a whip and driving irreverent and greedy men from the Temple with an angry denunciation – “You have made this house of prayer into a den of thieves!” Paul tells that we should “bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We respond gently when evil things are said about us. “ (1 Corinthians 4:12-13, NLT) Yet, he was also strident in denouncing false teachers who were leading young Christians astray. In the letter to the church in Galatia, his anger spills out as he writes sarcastically about some teachers who insisted that Gentile Believers must be circumcised like observant Jews – “Why don’t these agitators, obsessive as they are about circumcision, go all the way and castrate themselves!”
These are not inconsistencies of ideals for the godly. The Word guides us to the understanding that while we are personally never to seek revenge, there is a place for resisting evil, for taking a strong stand for Christ, our king. When we face evil – corrupt world systems, our own sinful nature, or the work of the Devil – our response cannot be conciliatory or soft. We meet evil in the strength of our God, naming it, resisting it, and battling it. But, in the process, we must not lose the character of Jesus Christ! If we become evil in our attempts to fight evil, evil has won the day. Our battle with sin and evil is not aimed at protecting our own happiness or preference. If it is, then it is of Self and is sinful. When we become passionate about doing good, about loving others to life, about resisting evil – there is a place for doing battle.
The Lord is a Warrior and He calls us to be warriors with Him. Yes, this is a dangerous truth and easily twisted into something ugly! Christians can start ‘holy wars’ that have nothing to do with resisting true evil. However, we cannot back away from all resistance to evil, or it wins by default. Here is a key fact for resistance. Our weapons are not guns and bullets. We wage war on evil with truth and love. The truth can have a sharp edge. Ever felt it cut into you? I have. When someone names a sin in my life it hurts, even when they do it in a loving way. That is why the Bible says that the ‘wounds from a friend can be trusted.’ It is a loving act to help a brother to move toward overcoming a sinful habit by naming it. But can you see how easily even this ‘loving act’ could become sinful? When I start to enjoy ‘wounding’ my friend because it makes me feel spiritually superior, or because it allows me to control him, or because it takes him down a peg or two, I am no longer a godly warrior.
The cliché ‘hate the sin, love the sinner‘ is actual a true statement. It is what God does. He saw sin in this world and hated it. Evil destroyed what He made, alienated humanity from Him. God acted, in love, to confront it.
First, He sent His Son to make it possible for us to be restored to Him – and the confrontation included the violent, bloody sacrifice of the Cross. There He built a bridge of loving forgiveness so that we could be His children once again.
Then, He gave the Spirit, to empower us to change the world – “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 saints.” (Ephesians 6:14-18, NIV)
Like our God, in our battle goal is not destruction. Rather we are agents of restoration. Are you reconciled to God through Christ Jesus? Does the love of the Father envelope you, so that you are unafraid? Now, let the Spirit equip you to take you place in the fight with evil – starting with self, reaching to the World.
The word from the Word is thoughtful and compelling. “We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods. We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NLT)
Am I A Soldier Of The Cross?
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A foll’wer of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flow’ry beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face,
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace
To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
Isaac Watts Public Domain