Wednesday, December 5, 2007
When I did Security Officer certification training, I loved to ask the class this introductory question: ‘Who was the first Security Officer?’
In return, I’d generally get blank stares, or an occasional reference to somebody named ‘Peele’ in England.
The correct answer: Adam
(Adam was also the first FTO, but that’s another story.)
‘And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.’ Genesis 2:15 (KJV)
I have the feeling most Christians today think of Adam as the first farmer… no, gardener. Yes, that’s it: The first gardener… spending his day talking to God and enjoying their relationship and putting about the garden, maybe doing a little weeding, a little trimming… once Eve came along, making some improvements, etc.
Maybe that is an accurate depiction of part of Adam’s job description, the part ‘to tend’ (though I have difficulty imagining weeds in the garden at this point).
But, what’s that other word about; ‘keep’? Today, two common usages of keep and tend are redundant and this may create some confusion. Did God place Adam in the garden to tend and tend the garden?? That makes no sense at all. It must have some other meaning.
to keep, guard, observe, give heed
to keep, have charge of
to keep, guard, keep watch and ward, protect, save life 1a
watch, watchman (participle)
to watch for, wait for
to watch, observe
to keep, retain, treasure up (in memory)
to keep (within bounds), restrain
to observe, celebrate, keep (sabbath or covenant or commands), perform (vow)
to keep, preserve, protect
to keep, reserve
to be on one's guard, take heed, take care, beware
to keep oneself, refrain, abstain
to be kept, be guarded
(Piel) to keep, pay heed
(Hithpael) to keep oneself from
It should be obvious from most of the possible meanings of keep above that there may be something more important, something urgent, going on behind the command to 'keep the garden'.
Keep is the same word used in Genesis 3:24 to describe the mission of the cherubim:
‘So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.’ (KJV)
Interestingly, the NASB leaves the KJV ‘keep’ intact when describing Adam’s duty, but correctly translates it as ‘guard’ when referring to the mission of the cherubim:
‘So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.’ (NASB)
The Terrain – a (likely) history lesson
Donald Grey Barnhouse, in his wonderful book ‘The Invisible War’ does a much better job of making the argument for ‘the great interval’ than I can do here. Suffice to say, I subscribe to the belief that an unknown, but probably vast, period of time elapsed between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2. Many struggle with this, but it fits perfectly for me and explains much. Modern translations suggest the word ‘became’ as a possible substitute for ‘was’ in Gen 1:2 – ‘The earth was formless and void…’ would now read ‘And the earth became formless and void…’
Became begins to make even more sense when we consider Isaiah 45:18, which states categorically that the earth was not created a void.
‘For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), "I am the LORD, and there is none else.” ‘
So, if Barnhouse is right, and Isaiah 45:18 suggests he is, God created the heavens and the earth and sometime back in pre-time, the earth ‘became’ formless and void. That would make 'the story of creation' beginning in Gen 1:2 more accurately 'how God reformed the earth'.
It does seem odd that God would create something less than perfect, doesn’t it? It just doesn’t fit with what we know of Him. Barnhouse says the earth ‘became’ a waste and void when God blasted it because of Lucifer’s rebellion. Maybe. God may have simply allowed it to deteriorate as a lesson to the universe on how little power the rebel actually possessed: ‘So, you want to take my place and run the universe? You can’t even maintain your own domain!’
Ezekiel 28:11-15 gives a clear picture of Lucifer’s exalted position before The Rebellion. It would seem he was the wisest and most beautiful, perfect, and powerful being God had ever created.
In John 12:31, Jesus describes Satan as ‘prince of this world’ and he is not being allegorical.
And [Satan] said to [Jesus], "I will give you all their [kingdoms of the world] authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. Luke 4:6 (NIV)
Here is how Barnhouse puts it:
“In this, the father of lies was not lying. God had placed him in the position of ruler and given to him the authority which he exercised and which he later wished to initiate from himself. Before his fall he may be said to have occupied the role of prime minister for God, ruling possibly over the universe but certainly over this world. The scene of Satan’s government, therefore, becomes the theater of the entire invisible war.”
Let us say Barnhouse’ interpretation is correct and that earth had (and, at the time of the first reformation described in Gen. 1:2, still) belonged to God’s enemy, Satan, then what spiritual activity does the physical Garden of Eden represent?
An invasion. God is now moving to retake that which had been given to Lucifer before he rebelled.
Adam’s mission was to tend and provide security for the beachhead.
Next: Life is War
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
We’ve developed a little ritual we go thru every weekday morning: I sit on the doorsill of her car as she sits behind the wheel, I put my arms around her and I pray.
First, I thank Him for the day and the opportunities it holds. I thank Him for her, this gift He’s given me – my partner, my ‘battle-buddy’.
Then, I pray for her physical safety; specifically that God will protect her from evil, harm, and sickness.
I pray that God will give her wisdom, strength, courage, and grace as she deals with people and situations. I pray she’ll have the ears to hear His voice and be able to feel His presence.
Lastly, I ask that He return her to me safe and sound at the end of the day.
It occurred to me one morning as we were running late and both tempted to forego the prayer, how urgently I felt the necessity to do it.
So, I think I’m beginning to better understand one meaning of the word ‘faith’: I believe, if I don’t make this prayer over her, bad things may happen to her. And, this must mean I believe my prayers are both effective and important. They are critical to the day.
That is one way to have faith in the power of prayer.
Now, I know God is mission-oriented and, if it’s necessary for the accomplishment of the mission, He’ll take her or allow her to be taken (1). So, what I’m praying for is protection from harm caused by others, whether willful or accidental, and from our enemy, Satan. But, I put her in God’s hands for Him to do with her as He must.
I’m not completely altruistic here. No, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m praying for my own benefit as well as hers. I cannot imagine my life without her and I’m asking to be spared that pain as long as possible. Just being honest.
Friends, it’s a dangerous world out there. There are enemies, physical and spiritual we need to be on guard against. We often do a credible job of providing for our family's physical safety. Do we do a good job of interposing our faith, our shield, between them and our spiritual enemy?
We do have an enemy who prowls about, looking for a weak spot in the armor, for someone who has wandered outside the shield-wall, or who doesn’t have his guard up. Elsewhere, I’ve desribed the dividing line between the physical and the spiritual as 'thin'. Now, I’ll put it more strongly: there is NO line between the physical and spiritual worlds. Our physical world is surrounded by the spiritual, just as our Earth sits in space. It’s there; we just can’t see it (2).
Do you believe in the power of your prayers? Do you believe your part in the fight may be critical to the outcome?
After World War II, S.L.A. Marshal wrote a controversial book, still disputed, titled ‘Men Against Fire’. In it, Marshal said that fewer than 25% of the men in actual combat fired their weapons. He also concluded this: The more firepower the man had at his disposal (therefore the more important the weapon was to success), the more likely a man was to fire. So, an automatic rifleman was more likely to fire than a rifleman and a machine gunner more likely to fire than both.
I would not be surprised if SLAM’s conclusion turned out to be true, because I see the same dynamic at work in the church. People that don’t believe their weapons [prayers] are effective or necessary to the outcome of the battle are not as likely to use them (except in self-defense) as are those aggressive warriors who have a sense of mission.
One might be tempted to divide the two groups above into those that have seen their prayers answered and those who have not. That may be an accurate way to state the result, but it places the blame on God. To get to the reason why, I would take it down to a more fundamental separator:
There are those who have faith, and there are those who don’t.
If you’re in that second camp, I encourage you to choose to believe right now that your prayers are urgently needed for victory (3). Just say the words. That’s a start. Ignore those pastors and teachers who say you’re not needed. You are. It IS true that, in one sense of the word, God doesn’t need you to fight his battles. He could say the word and Satan would cease to exist. No, I’ll go further; God could simply stop thinking about Satan and he would cease to exist.
The truth is that God has chosen to work through people like you and me and he gave us physical attributes because there’s a physical component to the war being waged in the heavens as I write these words.
The foundation for my strength is Jesus Christ and what was accomplished through his death and resurrection. If you're a Believer, you know the war has been won and there's no doubt as to the outcome. If you're a Believer, then you know your salvation is certain.
Believers, we still have fights to wage.
Get out of that foxhole, get off your spiritual butt and get in the fight. Protect your teammate. She’s depending on you.
Strength and Courage.
(1)The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything [Job] has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Job 1:12 (NIV)
(2)‘And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.’ 2 Kings 6:17 (NIV)
(3)Even then, we must remember that they may not be answered to our short-term satisfaction. The mission comes first. God’s will be done.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Every time we go to war, or think about going to war (and the reality is, this country hasn’t been to war since 1945), there’s much talk about making changes to the JWD to reflect our new ‘enlightened’ (read: secular humanist) version of morality. Invariably, it seems the agenda that underlies these discussions is really to develop a JWD that effectively prohibits any nation from going to war because, after all, war is immoral, so by definition, Wrong.
First, scripturally, that understanding about war is incorrect and represents just another effort by the World to soften God’s word. If War is Wrong, then God is a hypocrite.
Second, such a doctrine would be suicidal and, therefore, a violation of the commandment against murder.
Based on a dangerous naiveté, it would prove no obstacle at all to any of the many states that have no such concerns about the morality of their actions. Can Israel count on Iran abiding by such a JWD once they have the bomb?
A pastor recently told me of a seminar entitled ‘The Abolition of War’ he attended at Duke University’s Divinity School. The premise was that war should be abolished because ‘they don’t work’. I don’t know the particulars of this talk, but usually, our war in Viet Nam is held up as one example of why wars fail. Well, by definition they DO fail for the losers, but someone may want to clue these people in on the fact that, for the North Vietnamese, war worked out very nicely as a way to achieve their political goals.
Having said all that in apparent defense of the current JWD, there are aspects of it that I find morally questionable. So, what I propose to do is take another look at the JWD, adhering to the early church fathers’ understanding of God’s take on war, but apply to it our Founding Father’s scripture-based understanding of the rights of the individual.
Next: A synopsis of the current Just War Doctrine with one modern interpretation.
Strength and Courage.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Let’s deal with Moses now and I’ll get to The Purpose That Drives My Life later…
Legal / Moral Issues
First, let’s look at the legal framework for the use of force in self-defense and the defense of others. I believe our current law is perfectly consistent with God’s law and will use it as the basis for the argument that follows. To summarize South Carolina law (others may vary / I’m not a lawyer / consult one before acting on this, etc., etc., ad nauseum):
An individual has the right to use force, including deadly force if reasonable, in self-defense if he’s:
in a place he has a right to be, and;
is not engaged in criminal activity, and;
has a reasonable belief that he is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm
An example of a ‘criminal activity’ that would preclude a claim of lawful self-defense is initiating the attack. In other words, if I unlawfully attack you, the law gives you the right to defend yourself and I cannot then claim self-defense to legitimize my response to that defense.
As for going to the aid of others, a person has the right to use force, including deadly force if reasonable, if the person to whose aid you’re going has the right to use force in self-defense. We’ll use the same disqualifier above in an example of an unlawful use of force in defense of another: You are the aggressor and are struggling with your intended victim. Someone comes to your aid. That person is now guilty of an unlawful use of force because you, as the aggressor, did not have the right to claim self-defense. That’s the legal / moral part of the equation.
The Situation on the Ground
Now, let’s look at the environment. In Exodus 1:6 we learn that the Hebrews prospered in Egypt, becoming ‘exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them’. The new administration grew concerned at this development and took steps to reduce their number, first deciding to work them ‘ruthlessly’. Ruthless means ‘merciless’, or ‘cruel’. This word is used twice in quick succession to reinforce the idea.
When that plan failed, Pharaoh resorted to outright murder, telling the Hebrew midwives to kill any Hebrew boy that was born [Ex 1:16]. Practically speaking, if Pharaoh wanted to reduce the number of future generations via murder, it looks like he would have ordered all the girl children be killed. I have a feeling the Egyptians had other uses in mind for the surviving Hebrew women (1).
Whichever, when that plan also failed, Pharaoh gave the order to ‘all his people’ that every male Hebrew newborn must be drowned [Ex. 1:22].
Things were tough in Goshen.
I believe the closest analogy to the situation the Hebrews found themselves, to which we might identify, is that of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany. There, as in Moses’ day, the Jews were too numerous for the rulers of the land and were being worked to death. Hitler, just like Pharaoh, saw a way to kill two birds with one stone. Arbeit macht frei.
‘One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.’ Ex: 2:12-13
With the situation in mind, what type of beating is it likely the Egyptian was delivering to the Hebrew slave? Is it likely this was a corrective action meant to correct bad behavior or sloppy work? I doubt it. No, I think it’s clear that the Egyptian was beating the Hebrew to death. It should be clear from the passages above that a Hebrew’s life was cheap to the Egyptians. Should one be killed during work, oh well, Pharaoh’s explicit desire had just been fulfilled by one Hebrew.
Now, the NIV makes a clear distinction between what was taking place between the Egyptian and the Hebrew on day one, and what was going on with the two Hebrews the following day. The Egyptian was beating the Hebrew; the two Hebrews were ‘fighting’. In the second instance, Moses again acted correctly, showing restraint in a situation where he had no legal right to use force. We can and do use these two situations today in classes on the legal use of force. They are just as correct today, legally and morally, as they were in Moses’ day.
So, in the context of the situation and the legal / moral framework stated above, was Moses justified in using deadly force against the Egyptian? Clearly, yes. Frankly, I don’t see how we can believe otherwise. But, if we’re still having trouble with that concept, let me attack the problem from a different direction:
You are a Jewish boy raised by a wealthy Aryan family in 1930’s Germany. Because of your family’s position, you are inducted into the Nazi party and rise to prominence. One day, while visiting a concentration camp, you come upon a fellow German soldier beating a Jewish inmate to death. You intervene and must kill the soldier to spare the Jew’s life. Are you guilty of murder?
Surely no right thinking person would answer 'yes' to that.
(Interestingly, I’ve always remembered this story as the beating being administered by an ‘overseer’, but that word is not in the NIV. The fact the slave was probably being beaten by an ordinary Egyptian just lends credence to the idea this was what we might call an ‘aggravated assault’ where deadly force would be an appropriate defense.)
The Troublesome Aftermath
It bothers some that Moses ‘looked both ways’ before killing the Egyptian and then hid the body. These would seem to be the actions of a man doing Wrong. On one level they trouble me, too. I’d submit that Moses did these things only because he knew his life would be forfeit if Pharaoh found out. Here’s the important truth: They don’t matter. These two actions, while seemingly out of step with the concept of a righteous use of force, have NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH WHETHER OR NOT THE USE OF FORCE WAS ITSELF APPROPRIATE.
Obviously, we do tell our students that they’re not to lie to the authorities that are investigating their use of force against another, but we (at least in SC) don’t live in an oppressive, totalitarian regime, either. Moses was apparently correct in his belief Pharaoh would not give him a ‘fair trial’ because Pharaoh did indeed ‘try to kill’ Moses as soon as he heard about it.
What’s God have to say about it?
I cannot find a single negative word from God about this. If Moses did indeed murder a man, wouldn’t God have him make restitution or do some sort of penance before allowing him to assume leadership over God’s own people?
One pastor with whom I was discussing this, suggested punishment was the reason God had Moses live in the desert of Midian for 40 years before returning to Egypt. I’ve no doubt God worked on Moses while he was in the wilderness, but here’s what I believe is the real reason that our wonderfully practical Father kept Moses in the hinterlands so long: Moses’ safety.
Here's what the Bible says:
'Moses agreed to stay with the man [Ruel], who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, "I have become an alien in a foreign land." During that long period, the king of Egypt died.' Exodus 2:21-23
'Now the LORD had said to Moses in Midian, "Go back to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead." 'Exodus 4:19
There’s the answer to the wilderness stay! There is always a price to pay for shedding innocent blood. Just like earthly authorities (who base our laws on God’s), God recognizes no statute of limitations on murder. Here, God utters not a single word of condemnation to Moses for what he did that day in Egypt. If Moses had done wrong, there would have been some price still to pay, just as Paul understood restitution was owed Philemon before he and Onesimus could move on.
Lastly, Stephen, as he spoke just before his death, said that Moses ‘avenged’ his fellow Hebrew. Implicit in the use of that word is Stephen’s belief Moses acted righteously. Had there been even a hint of doubt otherwise, Stephen would not have chosen such a strong word.
Men of God, Moses was a man of action and a great military leader. We can learn much from his life and do worse than to follow his example. His name should not be associated with the word ‘murderer’. Rick Warren, you are Wrong.
Strength and Courage.
(1) There are ‘experts’ who now believe the Hebrews were not slaves, but actually comprised an effective mercenary army living voluntarily in Egypt. The fact that Pharaoh gave them land on the frontier where they could act as a buffer between central Egypt and any northern invaders may lend credence to that. Plus, his apparent concern over future generations of males is born out by Ex. 1:10 where he expresses fear the Hebrews may one day fight against him.
On the other hand, the word ‘slave’ is used repeatedly in the scriptures and this would not be the first example of an oppressor people living in constant anxiety because of the slaves they hold. Sparta and the American South come to mind.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
First, God is perfect and whole and you cannot properly understand God’s character if you try to put his attributes on a sort of Force Continuum with ‘LOVE’ at one end and ‘JUSTICE’ at the other. I think most people view His love and justice as being like sugar and salt in a bowl: together, but separate. That’s wrong. A more accurate picture would be that of separate chemicals mixed together to form one new solution, or separate colors mixed to form a new one. You cannot separate the yellow from green to get blue.
His love, his justice, all his attributes are totally integrated into one perfect, inseparable, wholeness. God is Complete. More on that concept of ‘completeness’ in another post.
I don’t think we have a word in our language that adequately explains God’s motivation for telling Joshua to slay all the inhabitants of Canaan. We might be tempted to put it down near the end of the continuum toward the ‘JUSTICE’ side. The reality is that God’s love for the Canaanites is just as much at play. By having the Canaanites slain, God prevented further sin on their part and so lessened the penalty they will ultimately pay when they come before His Judgment Seat (1). I'm not saying He wasn't angry with them. He certainly was. I'm saying we're making a mistake if we try to sift God's anger out of the mix and say that alone is the reason for His wrath.
Jesus said if we commit an act in our heart, we’ve committed the sin. If that’s so, then how many murders has the average terrorist trainee committed in his heart (without ever pressing a detonator) as he's trained and rehearsed killing innocent people? Dozens? Hundreds?(2)
So, are we not preventing further sin when we slay this person before he can commit his (or her - never forget that!) act? Yes! Isn’t it possible then, that we do NOT need to resort to hate toward our enemy as a motivator for what really should be a righteous, godly, and joyful response to evil on our part?
Here’s a great quote from C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity:
“War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist [Steve: I can't.], though I think he is entirely mistaken, What I cannot understand is this sort of semi-pacifism you get nowadays which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it. It is that feeling that robs lots of magnificent young Christians in the Services of something they have a right to, something which is the natural accompaniment of courage - a kind of gaiety and whole-heartedness.”
Christian, what’s in your heart is as important as what you do. Maybe more so. God’s character manifest in your life is healthy; self or worldly desires acted on, even if ‘just’ in our imagination, are not healthy for us because we were created for Good. You can do the same fine motor skill of aligning the sights and pressing the trigger using either hate or love as your motivator and accomplish the same physical result, but your heart and your health may pay a price for acting in hate. No matter how justified it may seem, hate is not for us. We are commanded to love our enemies.
Sometimes, that means killing them.
We'll talk about anger later. For now, I believe it can be a good thing. Just don't let it take control because your performance may suffer. The main point is that anger and hatred are two separate issues. Don't let hatred take root in your heart.
Here’s the Question: Can you demonstrate God’s love to an evil-doer by putting your front sight on him and pressing the trigger? When morally and legally justified, I believe yes, absolutely.
Protect your heart. Go do battle with clarity of purpose and peace. Slay your enemy and sleep well afterwards, secure in the knowledge that, no matter how poorly your church, your family, or your friends understand what you’ve done, or how uncomfortable they may be with it, God does understand, and He is comfortable with it.
Strength and courage,
(1) I've met many believers who struggle with the idea of us receiving different rewards and punishments in the next life. If you're one of them, I urge you to take another hard look at this issue, starting with the parable of the talents in Matthew.
(2) In order to enhance performance under stress, we train people to mentally rehearse their actions. A great example of this technique can be found in the street fight scene toward the end of ‘The Last Samurai’. Cruise’s character isn’t seeing the future; he’s rehearsing his attack against the four thugs. Also of relevance, they say the brain can’t distinguish between a vividly imagined event and one that actually occurs; that almost the same synaptic connections are built as we mentally rehearse a motor skill as when we actually perform it. For me, this is just another proof of the pragmatic nature of God’s commands. They are for our spiritual and physical health.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
In a couple of chapters, Howe touches on ‘religious issues’ and it’s apparent he’s had more than one negative experience with Christians in leadership positions, primarily it seems, problems over their inability to ‘commit to the slaughter’ (his words). The attitude he’s developed over time to deal with what he sees as the competing needs of Faith and Fighting he sums up thus:
Prayer is for before the fight or after the fight, but not for during the fight.
I will rephrase it this way:
Faith is for before the fight or after the fight, but you must suspend it in order to fight.
Is that true? Is there a dividing line between service to your country and service to God? Some will say ‘yes’, at least when it comes to the actual killing part. In their mind, it’s okay to be in the service, but there’s a taint that comes with actually hurting someone.
Negative. Listen; It’s the job of every man and woman in the service to kill the enemy. Even if you’re a payroll clerk and the only thing you ever strike in your military career is the keyboard on your computer, you’re still facilitating somebody else’s ability to kill the enemy. If you’re in the service, your job is to kill. Deal with that up front. No, I’m not saying you’re supposed to be a robot and blindly follow orders.
As for the pacifists who say military service is wrong for the Christian, I simply can’t abide those people. I wish they’d just go away. I challenge them to come up with scriptural support for their viewpoint. In the meantime, if that’s you, know that you sleep safe and sound and have the freedom to spout that nonsense only because of the sacrifice of better men and women than you. Yes, I know it’s ultimately because of God’s hedge that America remains (relatively) free, but they’re the tools He’s chosen to use.
I can certainly understand Howe’s frustration and am not at all offended at his conclusion. It’s true. I find the current pacifism that pervades the church and smothers her men distressing. The church is run largely by Nomen for women (1). As a result, many Christian men aren’t fighters, at least in the physical sense. They’re soft. They’ve lost their edge, lost the ability to make hard decisions, lost their ‘commitment to the slaughter’.
It wasn’t always so. In Six Battles Every Man Must Win, Bill Perkins lays the blame for this emasculation on the church and trends that started with the Industrial Revolution. This is when men first left their families to the care of the women of the household while they went off to work. In my opinion, the church just built on a foundation laid by Adam when he stood by passively and abrogated his responsibility for the security of the garden to Eve.
Whichever, we better fix it soon, because America is circling the drain and if we don’t soon start making some hard decisions she’s going down. This dream will die. Personally, I don’t think that’s God’s will for America, but God’s will isn’t currently always done on this earth.
Now, Woman, before you start planning to frag me, let me make this statement: There’s nothing wrong with the feminist point of view. It’s just that there’s too much of it in both society and the church. There’s supposed to be a balance between the feminine and masculine, but we’ve lost our balance. It’s not the fault of women, either. I place the blame for this mess on Men.
Back to fighting, actually back to the whole Christian experience, again we’ve lost our balance. Time after time I see leaders in the church going out of their way to stress that such and such a verse or concept in the scripture only refers to the spiritual and not the physical. Why? Why is that always so and why do they go out of their way to make the point? Have they lost sight of the fact that God made us with spiritual souls AND physical bodies? He put us here in a physical realm with physical bodies because He wants us to put our hands on problems, to put our back to it, to stand on our legs as well as in our faith. This focus on the spiritual at the expense of the physical is almost heretical.
Last Sunday, a woman I respect immensely as a teacher inserted into her lesson the point that Nehemiah was NOT referring to physical strength when he said, ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength’ (2). First, I think she’s wrong. I see God’s Word reflecting the proper balance between the two realms and He often has more than one meaning to what He says. Unless the context is clearly physical or spiritual, one or the other, I believe we should apply the teaching to both realms. More to my main point, why would she feel it necessary to expressly make that point? The teaching, which was actually on the book of Philippians, certainly didn’t require it. This is a woman who longs for men to be men (as she understands the meaning), but here she is contributing to the lie. This is the type of language that is guaranteed to turn off certain men, men of action… violent men. She would argue otherwise, but she and others like her, with their inability to accept the rough, physical, violent side of Jesus, are contributing to the exodus of men from the church.
Christian Man, do you still have your edge? Are you hard? Can you defend your family against the physical manifestations of evil that currently walk this earth? Will you be able to put two into the head of an unconscious terrorist in your church, or your child’s school, when the time comes? If the answer to that last is ‘yes’, will you be able to handle the emotional aftermath, and are you comfortable that your faith will support that type of commitment to the fight against evil? For me, both answers are ‘yes’.
Back to the original question posed by MSG Howe’s conclusion: The answer is ‘yes’, there does seem to be a line between being a Christian and being a warrior, but it’s a demarcation created by the world and based on a lie. So, I’ll restate the question this way: Is there any scriptural conflict between being a 'good' Christian and an effective warrior? I say, “No!” Instead, I’d argue that Christians are actually required to deal ruthlessly with evil and the more ruthlessly and finally we deal with it, the better off all are, even the evil-doer. The world will tell you different. In the world, compassion is the order of the day. Unfortunately for us all, it’s the world’s mistaken definition of compassion (read: tolerance).
Strength and courage,
DVC/i H s
(1) Noman: A man whose attitudes and mindset are feminine. The context is situational. Ex: 'George Bush the First acted like a noman toward the end of Gulf War I.' See?
(2) Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Neh 8:10 (NIV)