My kids and I recently ran across the movie, The Guardians of Ga’Hoole. An epic fantasy adventure which follows the plight of a a few heroic owls as they fight injustice and evil. In one scene, Sorin, the main character, is being taught about bravery and courage. In this scene He observes his mentor, Elizaryb, writing and notices his mark matches the ones he has seen as the author of an battle he and his brother have spend hours reenacting.
I love Elizaryb’s response. He notes that heroes are not as glamorous in person as they are in our minds and battle is scary, and its only glamorized by those who have not been in there to witness the visible and invisible wounds inflicted by war, on all involved.
There is an old saying that “war is hell”. That saying applies as much to ideological warfare as it does to physical warfare. Sure, the pain and consequences are often (though not necessarily) radically different, but the brutality is no less real.
I am constantly amazed by other Christians who oooh and ahhh when I relay stories of past exploits where I’ve engaged people from various ideological backgrounds. They are usually enamored by such tailes and some even form a desire to join in such exploits themselves among the people they encounter on a daily basis.
But for far too many, it ends there. I never see them later and hear their grand tales of past exploits. They never take the steps to become a warrior.
Why is that?
My guess is that like Elizaryb, they come face-to-face with the brutality of war and they blink. They get into an argument and get their butt handed to them by a vastly superior and more seasoned foe and they decide they would rather feel good than rise to the challenge. Or they realize the amount of work that is really involved in running this marathon and so they quietly give up a few steps away from the starting line.
Now some of this is no doubt the fault of other seasoned warriors. For those of us who have ventured out into battle, even if only briefly and even if we’ve only been met with moderate success (if that), we have a responsibility to encourage and train others.
However the lion’s share of blame for this sad state of affairs rests on the recruits who never decide they want to go through with what they signed up for.
As a Christian community we need to stop praising the worship leader who has likely never set foot on the battlefield. We need to stop fawning over pastors who have never engaged their ideological opponents in open combat.
Instead we need to look for the seasoned warrior. The one scarred from years of fighting. The one who draws his sword without hesitation and uses it with a skill that only comes from months of practice and years of hard combat.
The Body of Christ is called to battle, and the last thing we need is more cannon fodder.
The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship, 99) [HT Pastor Brett]