It’s common enough I don’t need to give you examples- our national tendency to use war language to describe the world around us. Politicians do it. Athletes and sports commentators do it. And religious people do it too.
But is it appropriate for people of faith to view the world in terms of war?
I want to suggest the answer is no, not if we take the life,death, and resurrection of Jesus seriously.
One of the things Christians believe happened when Jesus was crucified, died, and rose from the dead is that sin and death and evil were defeated. They were and still are defeated. The war is over. The cosmic battle is won. It was won by the most unlikely of warriors. One who didn’t fight, but gave his life to win the war. This is one of the paradoxes of Christianity: the lamb who is slain is the victor.
What happens now that the war is won? Jesus commissions his followers, not to triumphalism and oppression, and not to continued fighting but to the work of restoration and healing. In God’s reign the sick are healed, the poor are fed, justice and peace reign.
Living as if we are at war is to live as though the resurrection never happened.
Now, I am not saying there is no evil or sin in the world, we all know better than that. But the task for us, people who live after Easter, is not to battle but to redeem. To be sure, the redemption of the world will require struggle and sacrifice. The war has been won but the reconstruction and the redemption of the battleground goes on. Teachers and others struggle to pull young people back from drugs and lives of violence. But the struggle is for redemption and rescue not destruction. People struggle for justice but the focus is on restoration and shalom. Our task in these times is not to defeat sin, evil and death that has been done by Christ. Our task is to work for the wholeness, redemption, and well being of the world. Our life after Easter is for repair, restoration, regrowth.
The problem with viewing our lives as living in a war zone is that we become focused on destruction of the other. Our focus narrows and winning becomes our primary concern. Our goal becomes to defeat those whom we think are our enemies. Soldiers in a war are not focused on the salvation, the redemption, or the restoration of others. Their calling is to defeat and destruction.
When we view our world, our nation, or our cities as battlegrounds we become afraid and hostile. We can’t help it. The result is we are not focused on hospitality and love.
The language we use matters. Words shape our worldview and our actions. If we talk about war we will think and act like warriors. But the battle is over. The war is won.
It’s difficult to purge our speech of war metaphors. The language of war is everywhere. All you have to do is listen to sports broadcasts, the news, and conversations around you. But the language of war itself is redeemable. The apostle Paul takes the images of war and turns them upside down. In Ephesians 6:10-17, Paul takes the image of a soldier and recasts the warriors garb. Rather than an instrument of war, this warrior is ready to stand firm in the face of struggle as a person of peace.
How do you view the world? Do you venture everyday into a battleground where you must constantly be on your guard? Where you must be alert to protect yourself? Where it is kill or be killed?
Or do you see the tragic remains of war? Do you see the lingering effects of destruction and battle in the world, and know that now healing, restoration and salvation must happen?
Why are we here? To destroy or to build up? To kill or to heal? The war is over, but much work remains to be done.
I’d like to know, what do you think?
One thought on “War Words”
As children, some of our favorite songs were “Onward, Christian Soldiers” and “Stand Up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross.” I suppose we didn’t think much about the war implications of the words, but the tunes were lively and fun to sing. Neither of those songs appears in our hymn books anymore. Maybe this means we’re paying more attention to appropriate texts these days.