I loved the movie Kick Ass, especially the first part where we follow the story of an ordinary kid whose yearning to become something more leads him to don a goofy looking costume and almost get himself killed for the sake of others.
I think the clip above as one of the most powerful lines ever uttered with regard to heroism. Watch it, you’ll be glad you did.
There are at least three elements that make up a solid defender of the Christian faith.
You can’t fight if you don’t know how. You might be able to flail about, but you won’t be very effective. What’s worse is that you are just as likely to hurt yourself and those on your side than you are the enemy. Especially since part of the training process is developing the ability to tell the difference between friend and foe and properly take stock of a battlefield before charging off to engage the enemy.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. -2 Timothy 2:15
The expression used of a 2nd lieutenant in the army is “butter bars”.
After completing OCS (Officer Candidate School), a large number of newly minted butter bars tend to think that they are General Patton reincarnated and have the belief that after months of schooling they know much more than 30 year combat hardened NCOs.
Like the army, we are prone to think that mere knowledge will be enough to face the enemy with, and unfortunately many (including myself) have rushed off into battle without spending the time to properly spar with our fellow brothers at arms first.
The reason for this is simple. We never want to go into battle without at least stress testing new tactics and ideas with our battle hardened comrades. Its better to find out that our armor and weapons aren’t up to snuff in the sparring ring where our opponent isn’t seeking to do permanent damage than it is to discover our shortcomings as the knife is plunged deep into our heart by a true enemy.
All the training and sparring in the world is pointless if it is not ultimately employed on the field of battle.
The primary means of advancing the kingdom of Christ is through winning the hearts and minds of those around us who have been captured by the enemies of false teaching and sensuous pleasure.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. -Ephesians 6:12
Because of this, it is incumbent on us to “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) to engage the enemy wherever we find him, in whatever form he happens to be in.1
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. -2 Corinthians 10:5
As we fight, it is important to keep in mind that the enemy is not “flesh and blood”. So when we are interacting with a non-Christian we should treat them with the utmost respect and civility. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight with every fiber of our being the thoughts and practices that have captured them.
The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him. -G. K. Chesterton
At the same time
Training, sparring, and fighting should be ongoing activities in each Christian’s life. Some might object that new Christians shouldn’t be rushed into battle for fear of their being cut down. To that I propose that we “go to the lions” and teach our new recruits how to fight by going with them into minor skirmishes. Part of the role of a mature Christian should be designating and delegating strategic targets of opportunity for less mature Christians.
However it is incumbent on all Christians to charge the gates of hell in order to advance the kingdom of Christ here on earth.
I’m using the personal pronoun “he” here to refer to anything that “sets itself up against the knowledge of God”. [↩]
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]
Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
Paul clearly indicates in the verse above that a pastor or teacher should be viewed as a soldier, someone who tends to and protects the flock. What would that look like today?
A pastor who is a soldier actively seeks opportunities to fight against the rising tide of anti-Christian sentiments. They..
write against such anti-Christ forces.
debate advocates of ideologies that set themselves against Christ.
take time to train their flock to defend the faith, and more, to actively engage the enemy on his own ideological ground. Training businessmen to engage their coworkers with the truth of the gospel in a winsome and tough-minded fashion. Training students to not only survive in the modern classroom, but thrive in what is now an ideological battlefield where no prisoners are taken.
Pastors generally have no problem asking for a tithe. But when 80% of youth walk away from the faith and the vast majority of Christians cannot give one good reason why they believe what the believe (a requirement, by the way, given to all believers per 1 Peter 3:15), then we need to start asking some hard questions. First and foremost we need to ask why pastors and other “professional Christians” continue to get paid for doing such shoddy work.
So before you write out your next tithe check you should ask yourself.