Spiritual Warfare has been a popular topic in some segments of American Christianity. In the age of Christendom we were prone to take the “warfare” aspect too literally. Though many instances of “killing people for Jesus” come to mind, just yesterday I ran across a story Benvenuto Cellini told about killing an enemy in the presence of the Pope. Cellini describes what happened next:
Upon my bended knees I then besought him to give me the pardon of his blessing for that homicide; and for all the others I had committed in the castle in the service of the Church. Thereat the Pope, raising his hand, and making a large open sign of the cross upon my face, told me that he blessed me, and that he gave me pardon for all murders I had ever perpetrated, or should ever perpetrate, in the service of the Apostolic Church.
This demonstrates profound misunderstanding of the gospel. If we think Spiritual Warfare is normal warfare done for the sake of the gospel, the church, or some spiritual end, we’re missing Jesus entirely. In the first message in a series on the subject, I explain that our enemies are not people. Like Jesus, our warfare is for people, not against them. In Ephesians 6:12 Paul writes, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood” – that means people – “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.” As put so well in Stuart Townend’s song O Church, Arise, we are “an army bold, whose battle-cry is Love” – not “kill them!” – “reaching out to those in darkness.”
In the message I conclude with an encouragement for us to pray two things. First, we pray for God to break our hearts for people – even those we (or they themselves) cast as our enemies. We see that kind of love when Jesus on the cross said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” For some people it may take the supernatural work of God for us to love them. But God likes answering that kind of prayer. Second, we pray for God to make us the kind of people who can faithfully and clearly represent his love to the people around us. That will frequently mean repentance and change on our part.
In upcoming weeks we’ll continue to investigate Spiritual Warfare. Next week we turn to examination of our “armament,” or as Charles Wesley put it in his hymn Soldiers of Christ, Arise, the “panoply of God.”