Why do you use "war" as a way to describe the Christian life and struggle?
The spiritual warfare metaphor comes from the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-20. Because it is always difficult to describe spiritual things in the terms of our physical world, the Bible uses a number of different ways of describing our struggle and the conflicts of the Christian life. We also see descriptions from nature, from the family, from agriculture, from business and from athletic events.
Most Christians are aware of struggle and conflict in their lives. We can all see conflict in the world. Sometimes this is conflict between right and wrong, good and evil. At other times it seems to be just conflict and struggle without any particular goal.
There is a conflict between good and evil that spans the history of the world. There is a great drama built on God's desire for good, our enemy's desire for evil, and our choices.
The military metaphor helps us answer a number of important questions about this struggle and how we are to carry it out in the bounds of Christian love.
Has the decisive battle been fought or is it still future?
Jesus fought the decisive battle when He was here as a man. When he died on the cross he declared that everything was done (John 19:30). He preached that the Kingdom of God had come (Mark 1:15). Our struggle is to finish a war in which the outcome is already decided. The question is which side we will be on.
Because the outcome is assured, we don't need to be afraid.
Who is the enemy?
We have one enemy, Satan, and the evil that he does to us and in us. We are called to resist him and reject him. Our most basic tool in resisting the enemy is our will, subject to and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
We must recognize our enemy. Here's what he's like:
Notice that we don't have a physical picture of him. Rather we know the nature of his work. And it is his work that we want to destroy.
How do we avoid friendly fire casualties?
In recent years we have learned the phrase "friendly fire" which describes fire that comes from friendly forces, but is nonetheless just as deadly as enemy fire. This is one of those phrases we have taken from "war talk" that describes the Christian life very effectively.
Friendly fire casualties result from two things:
What we hate is the sin, the thing that is doing the damage, not the sinner, who is the victim. The common saying is "hate the sin, love the sinner." But this phrase is so frequently often used as an excuse for hating the sinner, that it will often not be well received. Part of the reason for this problem is that Christians have not known how to attack evil, and so have injured people as well.
So first we must recognize the real enemy. We know that if we think the enemy is human we are wrong.
What are our weapons?
Our weapons are spiritual. When we look at our arsenal, we are again reminded that our enemies aren't human, because our weapons aren't designed to destroy humans. Just remember that they can be very destructive if improperly used!
Is this struggle violent?
The enemy be violent and will try to try to make us violent so we will do his work for him. We must resist his method as well as his works.
What is the outcome?
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All scripture quotations taken from the Contemporary English Version, Copyright © 1995 American Bible Society.