War. We are ready to fight. We are willing soldiers of God. Donned in His armor, we are grim-faced and iron-willed. Our resolve is firm. We use terse words to identify the targets we fight against. They threaten us. They threaten our Christianity. They threaten our “way of life” and we must fight them. But who are we to fight? Who, exactly, is our enemy? Who or what are our targets?

Are the worldly our targets? Is it unbelievers?  Are we targeting the lost? Maybe we aren’t being diligent enough in our search for targets. Maybe that practicing Catholic is a target. Maybe it’s a Christian who asks too many questions about the status quo. Maybe it’s the person in our church family who dresses or acts oddly. Maybe it’s me.

Paul states in 2 Corinthians 10:2-6: “I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 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. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.”

We stand ready to punish others for their acts of disobedience, their worldly standards. They ooze wickedness and are nefarious in their agenda to deny God and take others along with them. But “they” are not the culprit. We are the target of Paul’s warning.

This passage tells us that we are to take our worldly thoughts and actions, the strongholds in our personal life and subdue them for the love and joy of obeying Christ. Paul urges us to remember that we do not endorse the Kingdom of the world. We promote the Kingdom of Heaven. He explains that we don’t fight against the world with conventional weapons. Then he explains what our weapons are and how our weapons work. It’s an instructional manual, a how-to on waging spiritual warfare. And the targets are our own thoughts. 

What are the thoughts and attitudes that Paul is targeting? The wrong and self-centered thoughts that were found in the Corinthian church can also be found in the church today. This is Paul’s warning: “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.” (2 Corinthians 12:20 NIV)  Paul cautions the Corinthian church that these thoughts can lead to a spiral that begins with an action and leads to even more sin, which is relentless and couched in debauchery.

Waging war may seem empowering. We want to take action and dare someone to test our resolve. Perhaps that’s why we have fallen victim to the seduction of fighting against others. We love God and we want to stand for Him. Like Peter in the garden, we want to fight for Christ, even if all we have is a couple of rusty swords and bad aim. It makes us feel strong. It makes us feel in control. We are neither.

We have not earned and cannot purchase our salvation. God bestows grace upon us. It is God who loves us, forgives us, and empowers us to be His messengers. We are hopelessly incapable of fighting for Him without His strength and without His help. And the weapons we are given originate with our love and devotion to God and a humble and contrite heart.

Our sin nature is the target. We are to wage war on the thoughts that spur our own sin nature. We are called to be set apart from the standard of the world. We are forgiven and reconciled to God. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to share the wonder of His grace with the world. When we recognize and repent of our sinful minds and hearts, we become, instead of warriors filled with vengeance and wrath, His ambassadors and His image-bearers.

Written by Janet Keefe

Categories: Church Blog