People fight too much.
They argue with, put down, condemn, and often hate. The issues can be personal, political, or
petty; anything seems to be fair game enough to justify war. Even those who should be peacemakers often
spend more time fighting than making or keeping peace.
Today, the world seems to be caught in religious war. Some would blame faith
itself for this and many of the world’s ills; it is certainly not difficult to
find many cases of religious conflict, past and present. I believe something more basic that religious
conviction is responsible, and I find myself comfortable with fewer and fewer
reasons to fight, especially when those reasons are often little more than
arrogance and stubborn pride.
Is it ever right to fight?
Christians have often supported something called the “just war” theory,”
and I generally accept that the war on terror is a “just war.” I have suggested previously that merely
defeating an enemy will not bring peace.
Losers will harbor ill will until former enemies become friends. That is the goal of peacemaking. In the real world, mediation and diplomacy,
alone, are not adequate tools for opposing evil, but simply trying to wipe out
evil is like trying to cure cancer just be cutting it out. Healing must follow surgery, or the patient
However, in my opinion, strife and fighting are often just
wrong, the result of human pride, narcissism, and a need to “be right.” It is a natural consequence of sin, but it is
dreadfully common among Western Christians, so much so that many think it is a
good thing, something God wants! In
fact, most of the time, I believe Christians who fight are just being stubborn. Stubbornness in disobey God is sin, plain and
simple. He does call upon us to be
stubborn, tenacious, persevering, and steadfast, but He is quite specific as to
when we should “stand firm.”
Stand firm and don’t be afraid (Exodus 14:13): “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not
be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you
today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.’ ” Fear drives people to do all sorts of stupid
things, such as sacrifice the Promised Land and their heritage from fearing the
power of Pharaoh. Then as now, God is
greater. It is a recurring lesson in the
Old Testament (2 Chronicles 20:17, Job 11:15).
At times, He reminds His people to trust Him and not themselves or
earthly power (Psalm 20:8) because His plans and
power stand firm (Psalm 33:11, 93:5). In His care, His people stand firm forever (Proverbs 10:25).
Stand firm in faith (Isaiah 7:9): Such is the message to Ahaz in which the sign
of Immanuel is given. Paul makes the same suggestion to the Corinthian
church is resembles the Western church in so many ways (1 Corinthians
“Be on your guard; stand firm
in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.
Do everything in love.” Notice
that standing firm does not excuse fighting or not loving but requires it! People often waver in doubt, and their doubts
lead to trouble. Trusting God permits a
believer to remain secure, even when it seems evil might prevail. Not only are we to stand firm in faith, but
it is by faith that we may stand firm (2 Corinthians 1:24): “Not that we lord it over your
faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand
firm.” Much of conflict comes from what
Paul avoids, lording it over others in the name of faith.
Stand firm in confident assurance of the
resurrection, Christ’s and yours (1 Corinthians 15:56-58): “Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of
sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He
gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let
nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because
you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” The world screams that miracles, especially
the resurrection from the dead, are impossible.
The alternative is to seek long life, defeat sickness and death, and
create an earthly heaven. Of course, the
grave defeats all who try. Only
believers can work, knowing their labor has eternal value.
Stand firm in freedom (Galatians 5:1): “It is for freedom that Christ has
set us free. Stand firm, then, and do
not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Legalism is the bane of weak and deficient
churches because it is a denial of grace, grace which is the very essence of
what distinguishes Christianity from religion.
Allowing others to limit our freedom in Christ or limiting the freedom
of others is another gospel, what may truly be called heresy. I don’t suggest we fight others to wipe it
out, but we must surely stand firm in freedom ourselves.
Stand firm in truth, righteousness, and peace,
despite the attacks of the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18): “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.” The devil is the prince of conflict. I have long believed that, when we seek to
make peace, we are striving to take back occupied territory in the spiritual
war waged about us. Note here that the
tenacity needed is individual and personal; it’s not about fighting other
Stand firm in one spirit (Philippians 1:27): “Whatever happens, conduct
yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and
see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm
in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.” I used to hear Christians I admired state,
without doubt, that we must separate from erring believers. Historically, such separations have been
angry and mean-spirited. It is not
exaggeration to refer too much of such history as war. As much as I have loved and admired some of
the Christian men who taught me, I cannot explain how they rationalize this
mandate. Paul reaffirms this mandate in Philippians 4:1: “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I
love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the
Lord, dear friends!” Then he pleads with
Euodia and Syntyche “to agree with each other in the Lord” (verse 2).
Other exhortations are to stand firm in God’s will (Colossians 4:12), stand firm in the
teachings of the word (2 Thessalonians 2:15), and stand firm in
patience, as we wait for the Lord’s return (James 5:8).
Never is our tenacity, resolve, persistence, or drive to contend with
others, especially others of the faith, not even if we disagree with them about
some aspect of their beliefs. There is a
simple reason. We rarely change people’s
minds by arguing, criticizing, or condemning them, certainly not by separating
from them. Rather God commands us to win
them, and that is not by defeating them but by winning them over in patience,
kindness, and wisdom. If we obey Christ
as He taught in John 8:31-32,
then we will be secure in our own convictions and will not need to prove them
by defeating or humiliating others.
God enables us to stand firm (2 Corinthians 1:20-22): “For no matter how many promises God
has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by
us to the glory of God. Now it is God
who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.
He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in
our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” In the final
analysis, it is not our stubbornness that prevails, but God who prevails
through us. When we try to do things on
our own, things that in fact He opposes, we create conflict and cause pain,
including our own, especially the pain of defeat. What is important is to seek to stand firm,
where He is standing with us; then we will triumph.