Monday, November 2, 2015

Waging War With Wrong Weapons?

Even Indiana Jones knew better than
to bring a knife to a gunfight.

Do you remember the classic scene out of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” when Indiana Jones is confronted by an Arab swordsman in a crowded street market? The fellow menacingly twirls his huge curved sword for a few moments until Indiana Jones impatiently pulls out his pistol and shoots him, ending the threat. The moral of the story: Never bring a knife to a gunfight.

Lately I’ve been wondering if a lot of us are guilty of doing something similar to the swordsman, seeking to wage war with our perceived adversaries with the wrong weaponry. Social media are riddled with caustic comments exchanged by liberals and conservatives, ardent believers and atheists, pro-life and pro-choice advocates, and so on. We write strident letters to the editor, protest and picket, engage in bitter verbal exchanges in public settings.

We imagine we can pummel our enemies, Islamic terrorists, into submission by firepower and forceful rhetoric. We’re convinced if we elect the right politicians and overcome partisanship, pass all the right laws, and convince people to modify their attitudes and perspectives, utopian living can move within our grasp.

But are any of us gaining ground through our antagonism toward those who oppose and disagree with us? As someone observed, “One convinced against his will, remains of the same opinion still.” It seems all we’re accomplishing is raising our collective blood pressure and turning potential friends into foes. It’s the sad story of the immovable object vs. the irresistible force.

Maybe we should revisit the old question, “What would Jesus do?”

An online post I saw recently suggested an answer that runs counter to prevailing thinking: “When Jesus was here among us, there was nothing of violence in Him…. When the rabble turned against Him and would resort to violence, He disappeared from their midst. When His disciple used a sword, He restored an ear. When men slaughtered Him without mercy, He blessed them. His first followers went into the Rome-ish world unarmed, harmless, and without violence set about to turn the then world upside down. Somehow Christianity has morphed into possession of a hostile armed camp mentality, which is better left to the Caesars of our day…. Whatever we, the Church, can accomplish through force or the show of it will have nothing of Christ in it; we are to carry the Kingdom message, that of love and peace, into the kingdoms of the world. We are not called to force our point of view on any other, even if it costs us as dearly as it cost Christ.”

I’m no advocate of pacifism or “can’t we all just get along” idealism. But it seems the war in which we’re engaged ultimately is one of a spiritual nature. As the Bible states, “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 realm” (Ephesians 6:12).

So what does the Bible advocate for engaging in this spiritual battle? The following verses tell us:
“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 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 6:13-18).

There we have it, the weapons – standard issue – God tells us to wield as we enlist as participants in this vast global, spiritual war: Truth. Righteousness/ Peace. Faith. Salvation. The word of God. Prayer.

I can imagine some reading this are thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Certainly this sounds counter-cultural, counter-intuitive and, dare I say it, un-American. We’ve been taught we need to fight fire with fire, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, punish those that do wrong. Bullets and bombs if necessary, along with flexing political muscle.

But then Jesus spent His time on earth being counter-cultural, counter-intuitive, and generally un- whatever the establishment sought to keep entrenched.

The bottom-line issue we’re dealing with isn’t a lack of laws. It’s not a need for better institutions created by flawed, broken humans, or social uprisings so powers-that-be finally get the message. No, the issue is sin. Arrogant rebellion against God. No laws and no institutions, regardless how well-intended, are going to overcome the old-as-history, pervasive power of sin.

So rather than muttering, wringing hands, gnashing teeth and slinging words, maybe the need is for what the Bible calls “truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), willingness to be “instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:13), manifestation of the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), unwavering “faith, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), the gift of salvation available only through Jesus Christ (Luke 2:30-32), the living and active word of God (Hebrews 4:12), and unceasing prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Some might argue, “You’re crazy. That would never work!” Well, how do we know? I’m not certain we’ve ever really tried to do it God’s way. Maybe it’s time we ceased relying on fleshly knives in a spiritual gunfight. 

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