During the Vietnam War, Country Joe and the Fish asked the kind of question that should be asked by anyone who thinks war is an option: “One, two, three, what are we fighting for?” While the next line uses language I won’t, it satirized the attitude of many who seemed to think that war was a good option. In 1914, on Christmas Eve, World War 1 took an interesting turn as troops battled with weapons not mentioned under the Geneva Convention: Christmas Carols. While not a universal event, in some parts of the lines one side would sing a carol, and the other side would respond. In one area, the British troops began singing “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and the German troops responded by singing the Latin version, “Adeste Fideles” with them. In many areas the battle lines dissolved the next day as troops came out of their trenches to exchange gifts and celebrate Christmas.
To paraphrase Robert Frost, “Something there is that doesn’t love a war.” That attitude was not shared by officers on either side, who determined that war should last and that spontaneous outbreaks of peace would destroy their war plans. One German corporal was said to have remarked “Such a thing should not happen in wartime. Have you no German sense of honor?” Corporal Hitler would later enforce his view of German honor by embroiling us in World War 2. That being said, we cannot discount the truth that as awful as war is, there is sometimes no alternative to war. The key, though, is knowing who, or what the enemy is. Paul reminded the Ephesians of that truth. “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 6:12 NIV)
Part of the propaganda of war is that nations are taught to hate other nations because they’re “the enemy.” We learn all sorts of things about the people of the nation at war with us, and none of it is good. We hate those people in the enemy nation because they’re evil and must be eradicated. As Christians dealt with the reality of persecution and the attacks by those who were friends and sometimes family members, Paul set out to remind them that the battle they faced was not a physical battle. Early Christians had to be reminded that the Romans weren’t the enemies. They had to realize that something far more powerful was controlling those who persecuted them, and Paul let the Ephesians know that their fight was against spiritual forces of wickedness. Such battles are not won by physical means, they’re only won by the spiritual strength found in Christ.
While the evil we deal with has a physical presence, we must remember that the face we see is not the evil we deal with. I continue to be appalled by those who would fight the battles with protest signs, with screaming and shouting, and with laws. In the movie “The Untouchables” one of the characters is criticized for bringing a knife to a gunfight. Seeking to end evil with the previously mentioned weapons is like bringing a knife to a nuclear weapons battle. Our defense in the battles ahead comes from our faith and the righteousness of God in our lives. Our weapon to vanquish those enemies: the powers of this dark world, is the Word of God. Ours is not a full-fledged battlefront with army facing army, ours is guerilla warfare where we are called to show God’s love and grace to those who are in darkness and need to experience God’s presence in their lives. The war was won when Jesus defeated death on the cross. Our job is to bring God’s grace to those who are still separated from Him.
O Lord, how I wish that people would recognize that You’ve already won the war! Let me soldier on by sharing Your love and grace with those who still need to experience it.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.