As our American culture grows less and less “Christian-like”, it’s important for those who serve God to remember that we are called to be soldiers in a spiritual battle. But let’s not make the mistake of thinking that spiritual battles are won the same way human battles are.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 (ESV)
…not be quarrelsome…patiently enduring evil…correcting opponents with gentleness…I don’t remember reading these tactics in The Art of War. But I also don’t always see them in the behaviors of those fighting for the cause of Christ.
Russell Moore’s book, Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, is insightful:
The Spirit bears fruit in our lives, as Jesus lives out his life through us. This fruit consists of kindness and gentleness. This is not a break from the fighting. This is how we fight.1
The Scriptures command us to be gentle and kind to unbelievers, not because we are not at war, but because we are not at war with them.2
How easy it is to forget that those who don’t believe in Christ, who have cultural values different than ours, who behave in ways that offend us, are not the enemy: They are victims of our enemy. They’re the ones we’re sent in to fight for — not with.
If we are too afraid of seeming inordinately Pentecostal to talk about the devil, we will find ourselves declaring war against mere concepts, like “evil” or “sin”. When we don’t oppose demons we demonize opponents.3
Moore describes Jesus as a “gentle steamroller”, exposing wrong but seeking to save, not to condemn.
Jesus is harsh with those who claim God’s authority and use it to twist revelation and to condemn. But he is gentle to those who are “sheep without a shepherd”. Too often, we do the exact reverse.4
Kindness does not avoid conflict; kindness engages conflict, but with a goal of reconciliation.5
Sometimes we’re so busy trying to prove we’re right and get “Amens” from our side that we lose sight of our objective: To point others toward the God who loves them.
Our anger, even at the sin around us, does not produce the righteousness of God. We’re told to be good listeners, slow to speak, and slow to anger; humbly responding God’s way (James 1:19-21).
One last radical perspective from Moore:
It may be that America is not “post-Christian” at all. It may be that America is instead pre-Christian, a land that though often Christ-haunted has never known the power of the gospel, yet.6
Whether we’ve seen the height of Christianity in America or just a foreshadow of it may depend on how we engage the battle.