War it is and of two kinds.
One Kind of War
Sadly, the killings go on daily. Who is waging this war? The jihadists—not all of Islam—are at war, or so we say. But some say we are in a real war with Islam itself. That is both accurate and inaccurate at the same time.
Islam’s core doctrine is that Sharia Law must rule the world. There is no question about it, and any knowledgeable Muslim would concede this. While many if not most Muslims care little about Islam being the only true religion in the world, these moderates or progressives are not the shot-callers and have little real authority or power. We must therefore recognize to whom we are referring when we speak of war.
According to Islam, from the super pious to the moderates, the West is corrupt. What is to be done? While most Muslims want to live and let live, there is a sizable faction, perhaps as much as 5%, who are willing to go to battle. This 5% equates to around 500,000 dedicated warriors.
Another Kind of War
Christians are at war, too. In fact, we are called to take up the armor of God.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10–11).
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
Paul admits the existence of a war, but it is a spiritual war fought against an army mightier than any that humans could raise. He is referring to Satan and his minions. Fallen angels are the troops, and they possess spiritual power. C.S. Lewis used the term “hideous strength” in speaking of the ungodly power arrayed against the people who profess Jesus as Lord. If Christians think about this too long, we can become fearful, except that we recall 1 John 3:8: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
John the Apostle wrote about the works of the devil and points out that the devil has been defeated—active yes, but nonetheless defeated, and in at least two ways. One, our sin—that which screams at us that we are no good and destined to live in hell forever—has been utterly removed, not in part but the whole, and it has been nailed to the cross. So our sin—all of it, past, present, and future—is wiped out, cleansed, washed away by the blood of the Lamb. Incredible, but a fact.
Then two, the enemy called death has been conquered. Not physical death, because we will all die unless Jesus returns before we physically die, but the real death is the eternal death.
Hellfire is very frequently found in the Qur’an, most often used as a threat and a warning, and thus hellfire is very present in the Muslim mind. On this point there is a connection with Biblical Christianity. There is a hell, most definitely, and it was created for the devil and his angels, for there must be a place apart for that which is unholy.
Physical death is but a moment in time; spiritual death, however, is eternal. It is plain which is the real enemy. It is no wonder why John 3:16 has for so many centuries been the one verse most Christians have memorized: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
It should be noted here, that in Islam Allah determines the moment and means of death. If a Muslim dies, it is the will of Allah. Biblical Christianity is far different. That we all die is plain enough, as we find in Hebrews 9:27–28:
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
It is not the moment or means of death that God appoints but that death is a reality that comes with being human. Muslims may take comfort that death is in the hands of Allah, but Christians have the promise of being forgiven and having everlasting life based on what Jesus has already accomplished.
Still Another Kind of War-Game
A convict told me years ago that to make it in prison you must have a mission. A mission, a cause, a reason for living, without which one might go crazy. Could it be that jihad becomes not just the means to accomplish the mission but the mission itself?
War-games are exciting to play. The secrecy, the codes, the manipulations, extortions, intimidations—war games. And the stakes are extremely high, making life all the more interesting.
When one has nothing or next to nothing, and the future looks bleak, and so many others seem to be living the good life, one stops caring and will bet everything on a cause, and Allah is the highest of all causes for pious Muslims. As General Patton is reported to have said, “Compared to war all else pales.”
My point in this little aside is, maybe it is not religion that draws a religionist to the war.
The Weapons of Our Warfare
Back now to Ephesians chapter six and the weapons of the Christian’s warfare, which are not bombs, knives, swords, or guns. Here is the list:
“Stand therefore having fastened on the belt of truth” (6:14a). Here truth is not a “what” but a “Who,” and that Who is Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life (see John 14:6).
“Having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (6:14b). Jesus Himself is our righteousness, we have none of our own but have His as a free gift.
“As shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (6:15). The soldier stands secure knowing that he has no battle with God but is settled in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That war is over and there is peace.
“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (6:16). Since Satan’s power over us has been nullified though the work of Jesus, we stand behind Him trusting in the triumphant Lamb of God.
“And take the helmet of salvation” (17a). The head, the most vulnerable part of the body, is totally protected in the salvation we have in Jesus, which cannot under any circumstance be taken from us. Our position in Christ is secure to all eternity, and even we ourselves cannot change that.
“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (6:17b). “Word” is both the living and written word of God, Jesus Himself and the Scripture, the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It is a sword, a spiritual sword, and it is sharper than any two-edged blade. The word is truth and there is great power in truth.
“Praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication” (6:18a). We pray, not necessarily by rote, which is acceptable and a Biblical way to pray—I am thinking of the Lord’s Prayer here—but saying to our heavenly Father what is on our heart and mind. The Christian is never alone; always walking with us is the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Oddly, or not, the equipment is not heavy and may be borne by the young and old, weak and strong.
This is our kind of war, one that has already been won. The only blow struck was inflicted a long time ago while Jesus was on Calvary.