When we think of fighting, we tend to think first of fear. The anticipation of being hurt, abused, exploited, or killed evokes in us a “fight or flight” response: If we don’t fight, we’ll be overtaken, and if we can’t win a fight, we might as well run.
Fighting for Your Christian Life
In an upside-down world, fear comes first. We assess the risk we face, and then we decide what weapon we will use to mitigate the risk. Some people take self-defense classes, and others carry pepper spray. Some people don’t go anywhere without a knife or a gun. In an upside-down world, we expect acts of violence, and we prepare ourselves accordingly.
Even people of faith accept the upside-down norm of violence. Some evangelical leaders have encouraged Christians to respond to the threat of violence with violence, at the level of global conflict and even at the local level. Pastors have posted pictures of themselves holding military assault weapons, daring the government to come and take their weapons. Many of these same leaders would have criticized groups such as the Black Panthers in the 1960s and 1970s for carrying guns in their communities as a protest against police brutality.
Of course, real threats of violence should be taken seriously, and Christians are not wrong to consider how they would defend themselves against attack. But a preoccupation with the threat of violence too easily becomes an obsession with violence and the acceptance of an upside-down notion that violence is invariably the best means to solve conflict. We give in to the fear of being harmed or killed, and that fear itself begins to kill us.
God’s primary weapon for Christians in this upside-down world is love. It’s God’s primary weapon for us because it is God’s primary weapon for himself.
Yes, it’s true that we see places in Scripture where God is angry, where God judges, and even where God uses violence. Read the first half of the unfolding drama of the Scriptures, and you’d start to suspect that God is at war with the world. But read the second half, and you see God overcome not the people he created but death itself (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). You see God cast out fear with perfect love (1 John 4:18); you see God inaugurate a world without death or pain (Revelation 21:4). And then look more closely at the first half of the Scriptures, and you see that God’s love is never not there—love for his creation, love for the people created in his image. The Scriptures go so far as to say that God is love (1 John 4:8).
The Bible does describe a war taking place. Satan, in the form of a serpent, launches the first strike against the Creator of the universe in Genesis 3. In triggering this war, Satan influences the distortion of creation and humanity. In our sin, we are certainly cobelligerents with Satan in his war against God. But we are also victims of Satan’s war, which turns our world upside-down and fills our lives with fear.
The ultimate expression of God’s love for us is Christ Jesus. He is, if you will, God’s weapon of mass destruction against sin. The impact of his life and ministry turns the upside-down world right-side up again. But because Jesus is God, and because God is love, this weapon in the war against Satan’s doesn’t deal in violence. God’s strategic attack against Satan and this upside-down world is to give us access to intimate relationship with himself. We are restored to right relationship with God; we are indwelt with Jesus; and we are filled with the Holy Spirit. And so, we are empowered to fight for our Christian lives.
We can’t put up this fight without first surrendering ourselves to God’s love for us. We must live in this love daily. Do you love God? This may come across as a simple or even accusatory question, but the fight for our lives begins here: Receiving God’s love daily empowers us to fight.
We Are Lovers and Fighters
What do we fight for? As God’s beloved, we fight for our integrity, character, and purpose in this world. Some people, who don’t walk in the daily reality of God’s love, fight for other things. Some people are fighting to get approval from others. Some people are fighting for positions of influence, power, and control. Some are fighting to overcome the fear that would otherwise paralyze them. When we enter into the reality of being beloved by God, however, we begin to recognize the power of love—God’s weapon of choice.
God decided a long time ago that our broken and sinful lives were worth fighting for. We begin, then, by loving ourselves as God loves us, and in turn, we begin to love others as God loves them. This in fact is what Jesus referred to as the second great commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). We can’t love our neighbors without loving ourselves first.
God loves you so much that God made a way for you to be transformed and empowered by his love. Your upside-down life has been set right-side up by this liberating love. No matter how upside-down the situation you grew up in or the circumstances you presently find yourself in, God’s love empowers you to stay right-side up and help turn your neighbors’ lives around.
How can you use love as the weapon of choice in your daily life?