As I write this, sabers are rattling around the world – most especially in Pyongyang and Washington, D.C. North Korea has developed a nuclear weapon that could be fitted onto a missile, and they have had many missile tests to show that they are fully capable of delivering a nuclear payload to a large portion of the United States. The leader of North Korea has threatened to attack Guam, an American territory. The reaction from the United States Government has been swift. The President has threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” The Secretary of Defense warned North Korea that it should “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people.” The harsh tone of those diplomatic words, while not unprecedented, are used so rarely that fear abounds that we’re heading for World War III.
When Paul described his relationship with the Corinthians and the battle against accepting sinful behavior in the church, he likened it to war. They accused him of being timid in person but bold in his letters, intimating that he wasn’t a strong person. As churches do, they were ready to go to war over the criticism. As they got ready to battle, Paul reminded them to make sure that they approached the situation in a Christian way. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)
Obviously, war in the church doesn’t have the same devastating effects that wars between nations do, but Paul reminded the Corinthians that we don’t do things the way nations do when we disagree in the church. When going to war, nations gather their allies and make plans. They want to make sure that they have the firepower to win the war to come. They make sure that they have the weapons they need, that everyone is equipped for the fight ahead and then they go at it. It’s deadly. When churches go to war, it’s deadly to the spirit. Many people have left the church because it was at war and the spiritual battle scars were too great. Paul made it a point, perhaps because he was coming and expecting to have to battle for the purity of the faith, to talk about how Christians wage war. We demolish strongholds through prayer. We take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ, not our own desires. In short, we work to ally ourselves more closely to God’s point of view. When we do that, there is no war, there is only the common goal to reach people for Christ.
We don’t wage war as the world does. That’s important for Christians today, especially. Another problem of war is that nations will demonize those on the other side – make them seem less than human so that killing them isn’t hard. As followers of Christ, we need to remember that the people in North Korea, including the leader, are people for whom Jesus died. He loves them. He cares for them. We should not be involved in the hateful rhetoric that would dehumanize him and all North Koreans. We must be praying to tear down strongholds. There are strongholds of hatred and foolishness in North Korea and in the United States. We are called to pray to bring down those strongholds; to pray and witness to the love of Jesus Christ to change the hearts and minds of those who would rush us headlong into war. I read a story about a child who asked his mother if the US had won every war it was involved in. She replied, wisely, “Honey, there are no winners in war.” In the troubles that lie ahead, there are no winners if we go to war. We must wage peace on a warring world and show the love of Jesus to others.
Oh Lord, our world is at odds with You, first, and then with each other. Let us experience Your peace.