Fight the Good Fight
There is a lot of fighting going on in our world. In sports, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao squared off in a highly anticipated boxing duel last week. NBA teams are fighting through playoffs. Young draft picks are now fighting to make it onto NFL fields. American Pharoah fought his way around the track to win the Kentucky Derby. Rory McIlroy fought off all others competitors to win the WGC-Cadillac Match Play. However, in the real world, the fighting we are seeing is not so entertaining. Baltimore erupted in fights and rioting in reaction to the death of Freddie Gray. Unfortunately, we witnessed similar events in late summer in Ferguson, Missouri. In the highest court of our land lawyers are fighting for the legalization of same-sex marriage as a constitutionally protected right, while others are fighting to maintain the definition that has been accepted for thousands of years. In the highly troubled Middle East, Yemen is the latest country to crumble as varying factions fight for power and influence across a region torn apart by radical Islam. In short, it seems as though everyone is fighting for something.
So what about authentic Christ-followers? Should Christians be fighting?
Typically in conflict, Christians are placed into two camps, neither of which actually helps our cause. On one end of the spectrum, we are seen as pacifists, afraid to stand for anything and only interested in handing out cold water, medicine, and free Bibles. Equally disturbing, and probably more prominent in the Deep South, we are characterized as bullish conservatives, fighting against everyone and everything that even smells of being contrary to our worldview. A worldview that ends up looking like a cocktail mix of patriotism, capitalism, middle to upper-class white values, and Fox News theology.
Before you get offended, let me remind you that I am a white pastor of a theologically conservative, evangelical church where most of my members would be considered in the socio-economic middle class. Likewise, I believe there is great value in personal responsibility for one’s well-being and a free economic market. I’m grateful to be an American, and in the spirit of transparency, I also have the Fox News app on my phone. However, I don’t want to fight for any of these things as much I want to fight for the gospel to be made known. This is the difference between military, social, and political warfare versus spiritual warfare. The New Testament is chalked full of fighting metaphors and almost all of them have to do with spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is best understood as joining with God against the dark forces of Satan and his demons that are absolutely real and absolutely at work opposing the expansion of God’s kingdom. This Kingdom is currently being built by God establishing His rule in the hearts of people through a right relationship with Christ. One day there will be an actual new Heaven and new earth and God will reign over His Kingdom forever. But until then, He builds His Kingdom spiritually, with each redeemed soul serving as another beautiful addition.
For Christians, this reality should define our fight.
We should fight by living lives that make the gospel known. The Apostle Paul left his protégé Timothy in Ephesus to sort out a theological mess. Would be spiritual leaders had twisted the gospel to fit their own agendas and young Timothy was charged to stop them from teaching. Paul tells him to “wage good warfare.” Interestingly, it is what he writes next that is important for us to notice. He informs Timothy that this “good warfare” is fought by “holding faith and good conscience” (I Timothy 1:18-19, ESV). Did you get that? Paul says the real fight is fought by having both the right beliefs and the right behavior. To have one without the other is to reduce our fights to mere worldly struggles and rob them of their eternal significance in the spiritual realm. This is exactly why Paul explained to these same believers that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV).
If you are Christian, you do not have biblical grounds to be sinfully angry or resentful toward any political leader, social movement, religious ideology, or shift in our culture. Civilly disagreeing, voting your conscience, and using legal means to defend your rights is acceptable and admirable. But too many of us are becoming too preoccupied with who and what we don’t like that we have stopped fighting the good fight. We should focus our struggles, frustrations, and convictions toward the one fight our God has called us to take up arms and join; the fight against evil by making the gospel known. The gospel is better than manmade religions built on oppression and violence. The gospel is better than redefining marriage. The gospel is better than a poor work ethic or constant cycle of dependence on social services. The gospel is better than staged racial reconciliation built on empty promises. The gospel is better than the current president, the former president or the next one we elect. In a world full of things people fight for, the gospel is better. So if you love and serve Christ, fight for Him by making the gospel known in word and deed. Classify people any way you want; rich, poor, black, white, documented, undocumented, gay, straight, Democrat, Republican. They still all have the same fundamental need. They need the gospel. Fight for that.