One reason we’ve lost the culture war is that we’ve been fighting the wrong enemy.
“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, 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.” Ephesians 6:11 & 12
First, Paul identifies the battle, then he points out the enemy, then he lists the equipment (more on the equipment later).
We’ve been trying to defeat the casualties and the captives. Too often we have made the very people that most need our love and understanding the very target of our wrath. Imagine the hope of prisoners in Hitler’s concentration camps gazing expectantly through barbed wire as Allied Soldiers approached; they’re hearts trying desperately to comprehend the incomprehensible possibility of liberation.
Then imagine their horror if the “liberators”, those in whom they had placed their trust, had turn their rifles on the prisoners and mowed them down in a hail of bullets. Try to grasp the terror they would have felt as the same weapons that were intended to vanquish tyrants and despots were used as weapons of truly mass death. The only word I have is “repulsive.”
Have we as the church in America behaved any differently? Have we used the “Armor of God” any differently?
The question for us Christians is, “to whom or what do we bring glory?” Just because something, or someone, is created for a purpose doesn’t always mean that the purpose is fulfilled. Are we worship that brings glory to God or to something else; ourselves, our prejudices or our dogma? Are we worship that attracts those around us to God or distracts them to something else? Or worse, are we attractive worship or repulsive worship?
When we are cut off in traffic, what type of worship are we? When the cashier at McDonald’s gets our order wrong, what type of worship are we? When we see a homeless person who could use a sandwich and coffee, what kind of worship are we? When a young girl is struggling with the choice of abortion, what kind of worship are we? When the teenage boy down the street, who we allow to annoy us with his sub-woofers, continues to make poor life decisions, what type of worship are we? When the elderly lady across the street, who we think complains too much, could use help with her lawn, what type of worship are we?
In short, are we worship that attracts people to the Savior or repulses them?
For that rude driver, forgive because you were forgiven. For that cashier, offer an encouraging word for the difficult day they may be having. For that homeless person, make an extra sandwich when you’re making your own lunch for the day. For that young girl, offer to help raise that precious, unborn child in the way that she should go so that when she is grown she will not depart from it. For that teenage boy, remember what it was like for you at that age make yourself available to walk the difficult road of adolescence with him. For that lady, what’s one more yard on your to-do list, anyway? – from my post “Jumping the Worship Shark – Part Deux”
Does our worship of God through Jesus liberate (Acts 16:25-26) or destroy suffering people?
“God continually introduces us to people for whom we have no affinity, and unless we are worshipping God, the most natural thing to do is to treat them heartlessly, to give them a text like the jab of a spear, or leave them with a rapped-out counsel of God and go.” – Oswald Chambers
Essentially, we’ve bought into the lie that sinners, unsaved, pre-saved, un-churched [insert some other pithy church jargon here] persons are enemies of Christians and Christianity…that they’re our enemies. THEY’RE NOT! They’re people. People that God loves and so should we.
How many times have we misused scripture and begged God to destroy our enemies? Then we become indignant that when He doesn’t and we lash out at them even more. In fact, some of them prosper in spite of our pleas. Others have the audacity to actually be likable. They might even behave more Christ like than many Christians we know. “Blast it all! Life just isn’t fair,” he says sarcastically.
Or, maybe…just, maybe God doesn’t smite our “enemies” because they aren’t our enemies! Let me repeat, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” Our enemy is inhuman. Here’s the litmus test for identifying your enemy: do they look even remotely like a person? Yes? That’s not your enemy. Jesus says owe no person anything except love.
We need to recalibrate our eyes. For too long we’ve been looking at them through our old eyes. If we truly believe that we are new creations in Christ then that means that we have new eyes…Jesus’ eyes. We need to see people through our new Jesus eyes. When He was attacked He didn’t see attackers; He saw them as being attacked. Hurting people hurt people. When people hurt do you see them the way Jesus sees them, as hurting? Don’t use your physical eyes to look at people, use your spiritual eyes.
People aren’t our enemy, they’re people…just like us. And, more importantly, just like we once were! We would do well to remember our chains. They’re people who struggle with life…with issues…with drama and sometimes they cry. But, they also have fun, they enjoy fun stuff, they laugh. The only difference between us and them is that they don’t know Jesus. They have met Him, but they don’t know Him.
Also, while we look at them with Jesus’ eyes we need to see ourselves through their eyes. We need to look at ourselves from their perspective. A little more understanding is in order. OK, a lot more. Maybe it would be more anatomically accurate to say we need to hear ourselves through their ears.
I recently heard Michael Ramsden of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries tell a story of a missionary who went overseas without bothering to learn the local language. In one of his first encounters with a local shopkeeper (a butcher) the missionary tried to say that he was a Christian from America. But, in his linguistic ineptitude he had just told a member of the Greek Orthodox Church that “Jesus was an American.” The butcher pulled out his cleaver and chased the missionary down the street running for his life. The inept missionary then reveled in the fact that he was being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. Please! He wasn’t persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. He was persecuted for being offensive.
We do the same thing right here in America with our church jargon. We have no clue what cultural relevance our words have and don’t bother trying to find out. Then when we are persecuted for triumphantly proclaiming that “Jesus is one of us” we think ourselves holy. Jesus isn’t one of us, we’re supposed to be one of Him. He isn’t just a big us, we’re created to be “little Hims.”
Too often it’s not just a translation or perception problem. Sometimes we really do think that our new life in Christ makes us better than everybody else. Okay, church people, I’m going to let the cat out of the bag, “we’re idiots.” We get it wrong…a lot. Actually, that’s not the secret. People that don’t go to church already know it. We prove it all the time. The real secret is that “non-church” people already know that we get it wrong sometimes. Our problem is that we’re defensive about it. And to defend ourselves we go on the offensive. And we can really be offensive. We say stupid things. Then when we’re called out on it we pride ourselves in being persecuted. That’s not being persecuted for the sake of Jesus’ name. It’s being persecuted for being stupid.
Yes, there is a part of the Gospel that can be difficult to hear. There is a part that pierces the heart and even hurts. But, that isn’t our job in the process. Our part is to love people through their hurt. To have earned the right to be in the lives of the people around us before the hurt comes. Not to invite them to the big church production when it’s convenient for us; but to be ready and available when people need us; when they need Jesus with skin on.
Next: It’s not a civil war