Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our society, which emphasizes kindness and gentleness we often forget an aspect of our faith which is summed up in the phrase, “the Church Militant.” Christians today are inclined to turn away from old fashioned hymns like “Onward Christian Soldiers”, “Fight the Good Fight” or “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, You Soldiers of the Cross”.
We find it difficult to align a religion of forgiveness and tolerance with a religion that encounters enemies, expects conflict and marches confidently to war. We’re especially reluctant to endorse a militant version of Christianity when an extreme version of Islam is active complete with terrorists, suicide bombers, beheadings and brutality beyond belief. Are we to step up with a Christian version of the same thing?
Sometimes we encounter crowds of angry Christian extremists who march in public protest with hateful and bigoted posters. If that is what it means to be part of the Church Militant, then no thanks!
On the other hand, one only has to read the Bible and the lives of the saints to see that warfare and conflict are part of the deal. Jesus himself says, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword!” and St Paul says, “Put on the whole armor of God. For we do not fight against princes and powers of this world, but against the spiritual forces of wickedness.”
This next month in my pastor’s letters I will be focusing on spiritual warfare. What does it mean to “fight the good fight”? How do we engage in the battle against evil without becoming evil ourselves? Who is the enemy and how to we equip ourselves to take part in the battle?
The first thing to remember is that the devil is real. He “prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” All of us must first be aware of the enemy and then learn how to train ourselves to engage in the battle in a way that is faithful to Christ and his gospel.