Unrighteousness is being aggressive. Evil is on the march. The world, the flesh, and the devil are having a field day. What should God’s people do?
A lot of people who call themselves Christians disagree with Scripture’s answer to that question.
In most cases, this aggression takes very specific forms. A new city ordinance discriminates against churches and makes it impossible to do ministry. A perversion of sexuality has become acceptable and local authorities insist that it be taught as the norm in schools. A decent public figure with traditional values is being targeted by wicked people and slandered. The list is unending.
Many calling themselves followers of Jesus Christ would say, “Organize! Confront! No more Mister Nice Guy! Take the fight to the enemy!” “Show them you can be as mean as they can!” “We have the power of God on our side!”
“After all,” they will say, “Jesus took a rope and cleansed the temple!” “Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.”
When God’s people begin name-calling, verbally attacking, and using the world’s methods, eventually someone will get a gun and go calling. In recent years, we’ve had extremists in the pro-life movement shooting up abortion clinics and murdering doctors.
Never mind replying that “You and I are not Jesus” and “Neither are we Old Testament prophets.” He has not sent us to do such things.
The Holy God who called us had something else in mind than that we would fight the enemy on his terms.
Scripture calls God’s redeemed a new creation, temples indwelt by the risen Savior, missionaries sent to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). We are charged with exhibiting “the fruit of the Spirit”–love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23). The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but divinely powerful for the destructions of fortresses (2 Corinthians 10:4).
We are sent to do battle, granted, but a different kind of battle with a new kind of weapon. We are all about love, humility, sacrifice, giving, doing good, prayer, the Word, service, and faith. In other words, Christlikeness.
Martin Luther used to call it “the left-handed power of God.” Right-handed power, he pointed out, is the fist, judgement, harshness, crushing dissidents. Right-handed power was on display when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, when Samson pulled down the temple upon the Philistines. Left handed power is seen at the cross.
Watch what Jesus did…. “You have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth, and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in HIs body on the cross….” (I Peter 2:21ff.).
That’s how Jesus battled evil. While the executioners did their dastardly work, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Scripture calls the cross, “the power of God” (I Corinthians 2).
In Paul’s final epistle–soon afterwards Caesar had him beheaded for Jesus’ sake–Paul cites a guiding principle he has lived by for those who would serve Christ.
Here is what Paul said about battling evil: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition.” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
Must not be quarrelsome! Kind to all, able to teach, patient. Truly amazing, don’t you think?
Responding with gentleness to those in opposition!
Like Jesus on the cross.
And here is one way Paul did it: When Paul preached in Ephesus, the people who turned to Christ were destroying their idols and forcing the silversmiths onto unemployment rolls. The business community grew angry at the evangelists and incited mob action. Into this volatile scene, the town clerk stood up to speak. “Men of Ephesus! Everyone knows this city is guardian of the temple of the great Diana (Artemis), and of her image which fell down from heaven. And since these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm and do nothing rash. For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess.” (Acts 19:35-37).
Don’t miss that. Throughout two solid years of evangelizing, personal witness, revivals, and Bible studies in this city given to worship of an idol, not once had Paul and his people mentioned Diana. Had they done so, the enemies would have noted it and used it against them.
Even his enemies conceded that they had not once spoken out against Diana.
They had bigger fish to fry.
The best way to put a false god out of business is for the church to do its business.
–No arguments, no unkindness, no anger.
–Love and joy, peace and victory.
–Sharing the gospel with all who will listen.
Granted, it’s not as exciting, not as much fun to the flesh, and will cause the immature and carnal to accuse Christians of cowardliness and fear. They’re wrong. Only the strongest can turn the other cheek. Only the strong can do loving things for their enemies. Only the strongest can hold their mouth when the opposition is attacking and saying ugly things.
Christianity is not for the weak of heart. Never was, and is not now.