Reflections and Blog

Fighting Side by Side

Pastor Babij ended his Sunday sermon with the statement that the best defense against false teaching is corporate knowledge and love. That remark, in connection with our scripture reading from Ephesians 6:10-20 got me thinking this week about warfare and a particular parallel to the Christian life.

It’s popular in many action movies today to depict heroes who are essentially one-man armies. These military prodigies can charge into an enemy force and take down hordes of foes without suffering injury or even breaking a sweat. But real life combat is quite different.

Though individuals can and have indeed accomplished great feats on the battlefield, the truth is that those who fight alone are eventually overcome. Even the best soldier cannot protect against all directions at once, nor can he stave off exhaustion and despair forever. Furthermore, simple logic would suggest that a coordinated effort in battle, with each fighter playing a part according to his skill and equipment, is much more effective than every warrior engaging the enemy independently.

The early Christians likely appreciated the above truth since one of the greatest examples of effective, cooperative warfare was all around them at the time: the Roman legionaries.

Rome did not become master of the Mediterranean by employing untrained soldiers who each fought as he wanted. Quite the contrary: Roman soldiers were renowned for their discipline and coordination: they lined up for battle in tight formations, with their large rectangular shields forming a portable wall from behind which the soldiers could thrust out their deadly short-swords; the soldiers frequently drilled so that units could quickly reform their shield and weapon arrangement for specific battle situations, such as for dealing with arrow fire or cavalry charges; and the soldiers even employed a system of continually cycling in fresh troops to replace fighters at the frontline so that no soldier would become overcome by fatigue or fear.

The Roman war machine was truly awe-inspiring, yet its greatest strength came from the disciplined unity of its soldiers in battle. Consider how dangerous it would have been, then, for a Roman legionary to detach from his unit and begin to fight on his own! Not only would that soldier quickly get himself injured or killed, his unit would suffer from his being missing from the planned battle arrangement.

So it is for us Christians. The Bible often describes the Christian life as a kind of spiritual battle; Christians battle against temptation, error, and false teaching and battle for righteousness, truth, and lost souls (2 Cor 10:3-6; Eph 6:10-13; 1 Tim 6:11-12; Jude 1:3-4, 20-23). Yet while this spiritual warfare does feature an individual aspect, we need to understand this call to war as primarily a corporate one. If we are not intent on fighting side by side as Christians, we will become much less effective in the struggle and will soon find ourselves suffering many spiritual casualties.

After all, we do have a great captain to lead us, who really is a hero and a one-man army: the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 4:7-8; Rev 19:11-16). But he has commanded us to fight the good fight of faith together. So let’s get onboard with his battle plan! Let’s gather and train together, let’s overcome sin and discouragement together, and let’s contend for sound doctrine and lost souls together.

Colossians 2:1-5, For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

Questions to Consider:
1. Is there ever a good reason to separate yourself from church fellowship and ministry (cf. Prov 18:1)?
2. When we discover our brethren deserting the spiritual battle line, what should we do (cf. James 5:19-20)?
3. Spiritually speaking, do you live your Christian life like a soldier in active service or like a distracted civilian (cf. 2 Tim 2:3-4)?