We do not wage war as the world does

Just down the street from our YWAM Lynchburg location is the childhood home of Corporal Desmond Doss.

When World War II threatened the United States, Desmond had ample reasons to not fight; in addition to being offered a deferment due to his shipyard work, Desmond’s faith gave him an unmovable conviction against killing.  However, he also felt convicted to serve his country and stand alongside the thousands of soldiers risking their lives overseas; his solution was to become a medic, to save lives rather than take them.  To choose to enter battle without the protection of a rifle took phenomenal strength and courage.

This is not how others saw it.  During basic training, those around him saw his “conscientious objection” as cowardice and a threat to his fellow soldiers.  They insulted him, harassed him, and worked to get him court-martialed.  Doss was not deterred; he took the threats and abuse, praying for God’s guidance and strength along the way.  Little did these men know that the man they were wounding would not only tend their wounds, but heroically save their lives.

The most celebrated example is Doss’s actions at Hacksaw Ridge.  During the Battle of Okinawa, Doss and his company courageously scaled the cliff face of Maeda Escarpment to face what many believed was certain death against Japanese troops that not only had the high ground, but tunnel systems and vicious tactics.  Doss was the only one to do so with no weapon.  As bullets and explosions erupted around him, Doss followed pained shouts to find, mend, and carry to safety every injured man he could.  On May 6th, 1945, when a counter-attack sent everyone back down the escarpment, Doss remained, risking his life repeatedly to run into danger for as many injured men as a he could, single-handedly lowering them down the cliff-face.  In all, it’s estimated he saved 75 men who would otherwise have been left behind.

Desmond Doss received the Medal of Honor without firing a single bullet.

I am inspired by Doss’s story, as it captures a reality I think about frequently: the way of Christ is counter-intuitive, foolish, reckless, and impossible.  Just as Doss’s enlistment while refusing to carry a weapon embodied those same adjectives, so much of what it means to follow Christ goes against human logic, expectations, and goals.  Instead of accepting the disparity, we push against them, like Doss’s barrack-mates; we hold firm to how things “are supposed to be.”  Doss, however, resolved to stand firm in what he believed was true no matter the cost, and Christ invites us to do the same.

We find this dangerous invitation tucked in a passage to the church in Ephesus:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 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 all 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 Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:10-18

I have frequently heard this passage erroneously used to justify a combative mentality, inspiring believers to fight for God, but the text sounds more like the medic Doss than his armed brothers.  From the very start, we are told that it is not about our strength and power, but God’s; we are to be in Him, not simply for Him.  In fact, the armor we don is His, and is nearly entirely defensive rather than offensive.  The one overtly offensive item is the sword, yet rather than sharpened steel it is the “word of God”, guided by the Spirit; rather than kill, it “penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

The invitation of this passage is counter-intuitive, foolish, reckless, and impossible.  There is a very real struggle, and instead of being fitted to destroy it, we are fitted with protection to do one simple thing: to stand.  Knowing that we will miss this irrational tactic, Paul is prompted to repeat it four times:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes… 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 standStand firm then.

A passage about war evokes an assumption we are to fight against and destroy the enemy; why would God ask us to simply stand?  How does one win a battle by standing?  Isn’t it fruitless or cowardly not to fight?

The key here is understanding the nature of the war.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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.

Let’s be honest: we typically see fellow image-bearers as the threat rather than the spiritual forces of evil.  We struggle against people we see as bad, believers we count as heretical, and anyone that opposes our understanding and pursuits.  We fight as mere humans against mere humans, missing the nature of the true combat.  Jesus knew better; instead of fighting the men beating and crucifying him, he stood firm and said “Forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34)

Yet even if we caught it, we quickly discover we stand no chance; God seems to be inviting us into certain death.

God knows precisely the role we play in this epic war.  We are meant to stand firm as His ambassadors in the face of certain death, because He can supernaturally protect us with His armor; and even if were to die, “death has lost its sting.”  (1 Corinthians 15:55)  God wants us to see that the enemy actually has no true power over us; that we could lose everything and yet lose nothing, because “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”  (Philippians 3:8)  God wants us to understand that the act of standing firm can carry more power than our most vicious fighting; the believers in Revelation knew this, who as they faced horrendous threat over and over, released their innate right to self-preservation and represented their God to martyrdom.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Desmond Doss knew there was a real war, and he had a responsibility to engage; he also knew what God expected of him, and how it was counter-intuitive, foolish, reckless, and impossible.  He faced resistance, threats, attack, and potential-death in his efforts to enter the battle while obeying his God, and in the end the soldiers who berated him discovered reality was different than they assumed.

It is unlikely you will face physical warfare today, or perhaps ever, but you have faced battles of your own.  Human logic, expectations, and goals will tell you what is “supposed to happen”, and how you are “supposed to respond.”  Sometimes, the words of Christ will seem wildly counter-intuitive, foolish, reckless, and impossible, and though you want to follow him, you are unsure how in your situation.  Perhaps you will try to be “strong and courageous”, only to find others — even fellow believers — questioning and opposing you.

Standing firm for God can become too much to bear, which is why Paul said this: “stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  We are told that even after we have done everything to stand firm and yet all seems lost, our recourse is to keep standing.  Not give up, not grab a gun and shoot wildly, but stand when we have no strength or desire left to do so.  How can mere humans like us accomplish such an unreasonable feat?

“…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 Lord’s people.”

We stand, and stand, and keep standing not because of our strength, or intelligence, or resolve, but because the Spirit equips us — equips you — to do so.  Our prayer is you accept Jesus’s invitation to trust Him in the battles of your life; to “not wage war as the world does“, but instead “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

 

Related Comments

2 Responses

  1. Oh yes I’m honored to
    Live life with Paul Granger this is his LIVED THEOLOGY! To live is CHRIST TO DIE IS GAIN! Because the RESURRECTION is real Fear of death (however it chooses to threaten us) is the father of lies Satan doing his best at distracting us from the SPIRIT OF TRUTH JESUS; being revealed to us by OUR FATHER seeing JESUS ALONE IS our ONLY REal issue all else is a at best a HYPED DISTRACTION! To live is CHRIST TO DIE(TO SELF) is GAIN!!!!🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Subscribe To YWAM Posts

Subscribe to our mailing list and get YWAM updates straight to your inbox.

We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously