I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the “guts” (for lack of a better term) of today’s Christianity after reading Steven Pressfield’s interesting book, The Warrior Ethos. The book is, essentially, an anthology of anecdotes from warrior cultures of old and a brief commentary on the differences between the warrior cultures of, say, Sparta, and our own. Pressfield doesn’t lift up one versus the other. He simply asks some very interesting questions. For people interested in questions of war and peace, or America’s cultural ethos, Pressfield’s book will spur your thinking, and it takes only about an hour to read.
Pressfield notes, for instance, there is quite a difference between ancient Sparta—in which every man was a soldier by default, and our culture in which one percent of the population does all of the fighting for the other ninety-nine percent. What kind of society does that shape, asks Pressfield, and what views of power, violence, and war does it cultivate? How do people who are not warriors themselves come to view warriors over time—and vice-versa? I’m more interested in the spiritual battle implications of such questions. Have we become spiritually soft?
I’ve observing a shift in Christian identity from victors to victims. We tend to feel more overwhelmed than overwhelming these days. We are becoming better at pointing out injustices and blogging about things than doing much about them. Some of us would rather follow what everyone else is doing than do something ourselves. Because of this, some even sickly cheer when an ideological foe from Christianity must leave the battlefield (see Rob Bell or Mark Driscoll). Increasing awareness is becoming our preferred posture (not a bad one) to actual battle against the forces of this present darkness. Awareness obviously has an important place in winning the spiritual battles around us. But, I can’t help but feel we are doing so much of this because some of us are becoming armchair quarterbacks afraid of contact. We need to remember that courage rather than fear characterizes God’s people throughout Scripture.
We Christians are taking on the identity of victims more frequently. I’m not saying the majority of us are this way. I’m saying more of us are this way than used to be. Perhaps it is part of a larger societal shift that has taken place here in the U.S., where victimology has become an increasingly popular moral framework for explaining the world around us. Perhaps it is the only rational explanation for what we see happening around the globe—we are losing, some say. We are victims. That’s why we are acting like them.
We can be pacifists in military matters, but not spiritual matters. We were put here for a mission that requires our engagement in a war. This is not a war against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and the powers of this present darkness. As we follow Jesus, we will have times where lament, or outrage is the only proper response. Sometimes, we may be victims. But, lament and victimhood are neither an identity nor a mission.
We are not victims, we are victors, because of Christ.
We are not pacifists in a spiritual war. We are soldiers in a battle whether we recognize it or not. Satan makes war against the people of God night and day.
We have an Enemy who does not care about us or the common good and is hell-bent on our destruction.
So, this Monday morning, don’t be Satan’s victim. Be a victor, because Jesus says you are. We are more than conquerors through him who loves us and nothing can separate us from Him. The one who is in us is greater than the one in the world. If you are tempted, broken, discouraged, or afraid–call on Jesus to save, heal, encourage, or embolden you.
If you are a pastor with a day off today who got your tail kicked yesterday and have church on your mind, don’t spend your day in utter lament—plan your next decisive blow to the Kingdom of darkness. Celebrate God’s victories and Satan’s defeats, and put on God’s full armor, which will keep you safe today and arm you for tomorrow.
Oh, and by the way, you aren’t alone. You are part of, spiritually speaking, the greatest army there ever has been–one against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail.
We are not victims, we are victors.