Christians, we are at war. Maybe it's time we accept that fact.
It's not fun to think about, I realize, but war is not supposed to be fun. Especially not this kind of war. A war where the casualties are lost in the fires of Hell. A war where the enemy plots to rip your soul out of your chest and drag it into the darkness forever. A war that cannot be escaped. A war that conscripts every human on the planet into combat, on one side or the other, whether they like it or not. A war that we must train our children to fight. A war that could claim their souls, too, if we do not train them well. A war that will not be over until the end of the world. A war that God will ultimately win, but many human beings - maybe even including you, personally, and me - will lose if we die fighting for the wrong side.
These are not enjoyable thoughts. They are downright terrifying, in fact. But we cannot make the reality of our situation disappear any more than we could have wished away WWII by closing our eyes and hiding under our bed while the Germans dropped explosives on London. We can think all the nice thoughts and sing all the happy songs we want, but optimism never saves anyone when the bombs start falling. And it won't save us from Hell. Indeed, it's much more likely to send us there.
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I'm not making this up. I wish I were, but I'm not. Your pastor might not be telling you these things, but that's because he's afraid, or maybe he doesn't believe it himself. Nonetheless, it's all right there in Scripture.
Check Ephesians. "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 realms."
Check the first epistle of Peter. "The Devil prowls around like a lion, seeking souls to devour."
Check Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
This stuff is hard and I don't find any of it particularly comforting. I have three kids - two born, one in the womb - and I feel immense grief and fear when I think about my innocent children being thrust into this spiritual battle. But then I remember that they are already in the midst of it; the enemy is already making advances against them. I don't have time to sit around wishing it weren't so. They're here, I'm here, we're here, and that's all there is to it.
Many Christians in this country do not want to face this reality or acknowledge the stakes. They imagine that we can lethargically coast along, run out the clock, and then float up to Paradise as easily as we floated our way through life. There, God will embrace us, they seem to think, and hand us our Heavenly participation trophy. "Hey, at least you had fun," God whispers gently and reassuringly in the delusional imaginations of many modern Christians.
These poor folks will be in for a quite a startling surprise when the time actually comes and God instead looks at them and says with perfect justice, "Depart from me, you evildoer. I never knew you." (Matthew 7:23).
"Wait! But the Bible said life was supposed to be pleasurable and peaceful for Christians!"
"No, it didn't. Maybe you should have read it."
But I doubt He'll respond at all. The time for negotiation and explanation will have long passed.
Yesterday, a reader sent me an email explaining that this kind of "militant Christianity" is "driving people away from the church." Then he accused me of trying to "bring us back to the days of Christian holy wars." We must not allow that to happen because "Jesus only preached peace,” he claimed. These are the kinds of things I hear every day from many of my fellow believers, and even when I do not hear it said outright, it's often communicated implicitly by pastors and priests and other religious leaders who've helped drive western Christianity into irrelevancy by promoting this dull, mild version of the faith.
But Jesus has a decidedly different message:
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it."
Christ came to separate us from our sin - a violent, painful process that requires a sword, and leads straight to the cross. And He doesn't stop there. He enlists all of us to join Him in His ancient war against evil. A war that, even if it does not get us physically killed (although, depending on where you live, it may), it's a war that will cause deep divisions and strife in our communities and even our families. There is nothing particularly peaceful about that.
The peace comes later, and only to his good and faithful soldiers. Those who will not take up their cross - that is, embrace the suffering and sacrifice required to gain holiness - will be deemed unworthy of Him in the end. Whoever finds his life and his peace and his happiness in worldly pursuits and worldly pleasures will lose it eternally. But whoever is willing to lay down his life - not a peaceful process, by any means - will be given life in Heaven.
Christ is not calling us to an earthly existence of endless fun and decadent luxury. He is calling us to die. And in the meantime, He is cordially inviting us to be despised by the whole world. "You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:22).
Therefore, despite my valued reader's claims, I am not trying to "bring us back to the days of Christian holy wars." We never left those days. I cannot "bring us back" to conditions that have already existed since the dawn of time. All I can do, all anyone can do, is acknowledge that the war is on, and then choose a side. But no matter what we choose, the holy war is happening. God and the Devil and angels and demons are fighting, right now, as we speak, and the battlefield is the heart of man, to paraphrase Dostoevsky.
And so to the first statement - that "militant Christianity" is "driving people away from the church" - I say, good. The church is by its nature a militant organization of faithful soldiers waging a never-ending assault against the powers of darkness. The more it takes on that tone and that appearance, the better. And the more we weed out the bored, insincere and feckless, the better. If a person is "driven away" because the truth scares them, let them leave. Better they join the enemy outright than stay as infiltrators in our ranks, attempting to entice more believers into their cowardly, wicked way of thinking.
The true Church on Earth is small right now. Probably smaller than it's been since it's earliest days, and trending in the opposite direction. It is weighed down by many nominal, lukewarm members who want to bide their time and wait around for the victory parade, but have no interest in marching against the gates of Hell in order to achieve that victory. "God is going to win anyway," they say, "I don't need to get involved."
"Christ already died," these ungrateful brats whine. "Why should I die, too?"
If that is their position, let them leave the Church. Let them be "scared away." Let the remnant look like the remnant. Let our numbers in surveys and polls accurately reflect the dire reality. If there are only 1,000 Christians who want to fight and die for their faith, let our numbers shrink down to only those 1,000. If there are only 50, then 50. If only 1, then 1. If you are not willing to be a soldier for Christ, don't bother pretending to be His disciple. If I am not willing, I should say so and act accordingly.
There is no advantage to filling the pews with people who aren't actually interested in Christianity. If they will be afraid of the truth, we cannot win them by feeding them half-truths. Half of a truth is still half of a lie, and half a lie is a whole lie. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He did not say, “I am approximately, sort of, for the most part, basically the way, the truth, and the life.”
The way is narrow, we're told. You don't get through it because you landed somewhere within the vicinity. These are the truths we need to be discussing, and that church leaders should be teaching. Souls are at stake, for God's sake. We don't have time to be nice about it. And if any of us run from that truth, we run from Christ. What good is it to get us to stop running by giving us something that is not fully Christ? If we want not-Christ, we ought to get not-Christ outside of the Church, not within it.
There is no room anymore to try and appease and cajole and compromise with the world. The Devil has cut great, wide roads through our culture, and for decades he has encountered almost no resistance. The signs of his enormous success are all around us. I don’t need to provide examples, but here are a few anyway:
- There's an abortion clinic in nearly every city, murdering children and selling their parts.
- The vast majority of women who get abortions are Christian.
- Gay marriage is now enshrined as a "human right."
- A majority of American Christians reject the Bible's teachings on sexuality and abortion.
- A majority of American Christians can't be bothered to go to church once a month, let alone once a week.
- Atheism is surging.
- Cohabitation is becoming more popular than marriage.
- Porn is one of the most profitable industries in America, especially in the Bible Belt.
- All of our most powerful institutions - government, media, Hollywood, academia - are propagators of far-left ideology.
- What should be our most powerful institution, the family, is crumbling. At least 43 percent of kids in the United States live without fathers in the home.
- Half of my generation believes women can have penises and men can have vaginas.
- This election season.
And so on.
In fact, to call the spiritual conflict in America a “war” is far too optimistic. Our culture has been conquered by the enemy, and the resistance is so scattered and depleted that it can hardly even count as an opposing army. It is more like a small, ragtag group of guerilla warriors, camped out in exile in the wilderness somewhere. That's our lot as Christians in a broken world - to be warriors in the wilderness.
The spiritual forces of truth are still mighty and powerful, but fewer of us earthly mortals are willing to fight alongside them. That has to be our mission as Christians, then. To convince others to join the fight, and to grab a sword and lead by example.
That's why, in my opinion, when we walk into a church, it ought to feel like we're entering a fortress on a battlefield, not a hotel conference hall for a self-help seminar. If half the congregants would prefer a conference hall, let them go to a conference hall. Let them have exactly what they want, and then maybe there's a chance they'll discover that they don't want it. Let Christianity be exactly what it is, even if nobody wants it, and then maybe more of us will discover that we do.
In the mean time, those of us who are really interested in being Christian - with all the scary stuff that entails - need to pick up our crosses and follow Christ into battle. That's our calling. And our faith is worthless if we will not answer it.
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