Recently I have been focusing on the subject of spiritual warfare. This is timely because I believe the spiritual battle over our nation is heating up. Satan is in the process of standard military practice in conquering a land: capture the language; distort the symbols and images – and sow confusion as a consequence. More on this another time.
So, it is important that we put on the whole armour of God (not just the bits we find interesting), and that we stand together – with those we may not like – and fight together. Spiritual warfare is not an exciting (or frightening) mythical escape from life’s monotony. It is a reality. Satan is quite happy to let sleeping Christians soldiers lie down of course. The question is whether we are willing to wake up, stand up and stand together?
What do we stand on? We stand on God’s Word. While we must always be open to the fact that the Holy Spirit has more light to shed on God’s Word and therefore there may be aspects of His Word we have not yet seen, we are not at liberty to ignore biblical teaching. The possibility of incorrect interpretation or even translation must be acknowledged of course, but this possibility does not allow us to freely ignore God’s commands; or, for that matter, His promises. The fact that there are many different ways of attempting to interpret the Bible doesn’t mean there isn’t one correct one. Supremely we must not deny or even dilute the unpalatable fact that the Cross of Christ is: ‘foolishness to those who are perishing’ (1 Corinthians 1:18).
But how we take our stand is also key. I am struck by the fact that in Ephesians 6:10–20 and also in Matthew 16:19 the formation is a defensive line, like Harold’s Saxons, not preparation for a major offensive, like William’s cavalry. The image Paul uses in Ephesians 6 is that of a Roman army holding their ground against numerically greater attacking opposition. In Matthew 16:19 the image is of the gates of Death pushing hard against the Church’s centre ground – and failing to dislodge it.
This, I think, is important. It’s a reminder that the battle has already been won on the Cross – victory is not down to our successful offensives. It is also a reminder that when we go on the attack as Christians, things rarely end well. We can come across as unloving or even hateful, because in that moment we probably are. It also consumes resources which are better spent holding a position firmly. Some historians claim that the reason Harold lost the Battle of Hastings was because a number of his men broke from their successful defensive wall, launched an ill-judged attack, got cut to pieces and left the remainder of the defence too weak to fend off further attacks from William’s cavalry.
At a time when so many Christians are losing their nerve and accommodating their theology to a culture that is moving ever closer into spiritual darkness, let’s stand on the Truth of God’s Word and the reality of His promises. We have every democratic right to do so. But let’s not go on ill-tempered, ill-thought-through attacks from a defensive line. As at Hastings in 1066, that only leads to a weakened defensive line and a position lost by nightfall.
We must speak the Truth – but speak it in love not hate. Somehow we must defend an offensive Gospel with fragrance and attractiveness. That is a massive challenge; but we stand under the victory of the Cross and alongside Christians who have heard the alarm sound of invasion.