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Posts Tagged ‘battle’

“Beware of Crusades”

(i.e. Battles fought in Jesus’ name that He did not call us to)!

It is a trap for zealous believers

(e.g. James & John-Luke 9:54, Peter-Matt. 26:51, Saul-Acts 8:3).

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I come from a decidedly military background, and it has been a significant part of my personal history.  My father spent 26 years on active duty in the Air Force, and I was raised primarily living on military reservations.  While I grew up with a healthy respect for the military, I truthfully didn’t find myself drawn to that way of life.  I wasn’t one to play with GI Joes, or toy guns.  When I left home, joining the military was nowhere in my plans; but of course neither was squandering the opportunity to get a college education, or getting involved in a totally destructive lifestyle. 

When I felt out of options, I too joined the military and spent twelve years in the Navy.  While that turned out to be one of the best choices I made in my young life, I was pleased to return to civilian life when it was over.  I think people who’ve never really lived that life can have romantic notions about it, but if you’ve walked that path you understand that there is a cost that comes with it. 

I emerged from the military with an unwavering admiration for anyone who chooses to wear the uniform, and make the sacrifice; but also with a much deeper reverence for times of peace.  Years later, when I decided to try to live my life for the Lord, I didn’t realize that I was in effect re-enlisting.

The United States is a very proud country, and many of its citizens would likely count themselves as patriots, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those folks would all be willing to enlist in the military.  There is a level of commitment that comes with that choice that most folks are not willing to make. 

Interestingly, just because someone is willing to enlist doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re willing to fight.  Many join the military to get training, or money for later education.  Some join because they want to wear the uniform, and be identified with something that they see as virtuous (or at least worthwhile). 

At the time that the Persian Gulf War broke out (i.e. autumn of 1990) I was assigned to a nuclear attack submarine, and I worked with a fellow, who like me, had been in the military about eight years (which means that like me he had re-enlisted).  When the word came down that our boat would be heading to the Red Sea, he talked to me about filing for “Conscientious Objector” status. 

I thought he was joking at first, but he was serious.  I reminded him that he had volunteered (at least twice) to be a part of the nation’s fighting force, that he’d been trained for war, and that he was assigned to a warship.  All he could say was that his Recruiter said that he’d never have to fight, and that he now wanted out. 

I wish I could say that he was the only one, but in that period the military experienced a rash of people who had these types of issues, some even went AWOL (absent without leave) to avoid deployment.  I was shocked at that kind of mindset.  Even though I never saw myself as much of a warrior, I knew that if our nation was going to be engaged in battle, it was my duty to be a part of it, and that I needed to be ready to fight.

From the time you first enlist, you’re reminded that the mission of the military is to fight against the enemies of our nation, and our national interests.  But if you enlist during a time that the nation doesn’t have troops in battle you may not take those warnings very seriously. 

A new recruit is normally consumed with things like how to wear their uniform, how to march in a straight line, and when their hair will grow back.  Though they are considered a soldier at this point, they pose little threat to the enemy.  It is not until they complete their training, and actually become part of a unit that the reality of the mission becomes apparent.  

While in most military units you’re assigned a non-combat role (e.g. in the Seabees I was a Drafter/Surveyor/Project Administrator), everyone has a combat role as well (e.g. in the Seabees I was assigned to the Mortar Canon Crew).  Though you spent most of your time in your non combat role, you always had to be ready to step into combat mode.  Though being good at your non combat assignment was good for your career, how you performed in combat could mean life or death, not only for you, but also for those around you.

Unlike the military, when you decide to become a Christian folks aren’t nearly as forthright about the mission.  Like a good Recruiter they speak a lot about the benefits, and the retirement plan, but very little about what is in between.  They don’t necessarily mention that putting on the uniform makes you a target for the enemy, and that you may want to take your training very seriously, since a combat assignment is a guarantee. 

You may hear that you’re “in the Lords army”, but it often comes across more like a parade tune than a battle cry.  We inevitably learn that “God is Love” and that He so loved the world that He sent His Son Jesus to pay our price; but we may not hear that Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and that the violent take it by force.  We may hear that the Holy Spirit has come to live inside of us, but we may not hear that this sets off a battle for our souls, between our flesh and spirit, that will not end until the day we die.  We may hear about David dancing before the Lord, or playing music to calm King Saul, but we may not hear his words about the Lord training his hands to war. 

If we bother to read the training manual it ought to jump out at us that being friends with the world makes us an enemy of God, which means that we’ll always be swimming against the current of what is popular, and convenient.  We might also notice how Jesus was treated by the very people He came to save, and to note that God destines us to be transformed into His image.  We might also find the little training tip which tells us that Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered, and understand that maybe we ought to prepare ourselves for some of that too. 

While this may seem to be a fairly dire portrait of the Christian life, it does line up with the scripture, and these battles rage on whether we acknowledge them or not.   Unlike soldiers in the natural, we have the distinct advantage of knowing how the war will end.

It strikes me that as the warfare is becoming more apparent in these days, we’re finding a lot of troops amongst us who don’t really know how to use their weapons, or in some cases even understand that there is a battle going on.  Like my friend back in the Navy, they didn’t really think that this is what they signed up for. 

They are “believers”, who like the patriot believe in the virtue of the kingdom.  They may even be “followers”, who like the recruit have enlisted, and have put on the uniform; but because they’ve not been prepared, they don’t pose a legitimate threat to the enemy. 

In many cases they don’t feel connected to a unit (i.e. the Body of Christ), and they still cling to the hope that somehow they can avoid this conflict.  With that mindset, they will be nothing more than target practice for the enemy. 

The great commission didn’t mandate that we make believers of all men, or even followers; it says to make “disciples” of all men.  While that certainly encompasses seeing souls reached for the Lord, it also means preparing them for battle, and seeing them take up their post within the body.  Paul said that a good soldier doesn’t involve themselves in civilian matters, and it seems that too many soldiers in the Lords Army aren’t following that guidance. 

We have been supplied with weapons of mass destruction, but we don’t seem to know how to deploy them.  Indeed the kingdom of heaven is suffering violence, and it is time for the Body of Christ to become engaged in this battle.  Like the United States in World War II, we’ve waited so long that the battle has come to us.  All of creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

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Many parents teach their children that, “fighting never solves anything”; but that always seemed a bit narrow to me.  A child could easily, and understandably interpret that to mean that there was never a time to fight, and from my perspective, that is not true.  Though I’ve taught my kids that fighting is almost never the answer, I’ve balanced that with the understanding that there are times when it is absolutely necessary to take a stand.  As my son now stands at the threshold of military service, I offer this context for the battle that lies ahead.

 

Our battle is not with flesh and blood

But with the spiritual forces of darkness

We do not fight to show ourselves strong

We fight in order to defend the weak

We do not fight to enslave our adversaries

We fight so that all men can be free

We do not fight to obtain what does not belong to us

We fight to preserve our God given rights

We do not fight because we hate our enemies

We fight to protect the one’s we love

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