Many Conservative Christians I know are struggling with how to respond to what’s happening in our nation, especially these last few months. Do we fight – or do we passively submit?
I truly don’t know.
However, after weeks of prayer and searching, I have discovered some things and made some tentative conclusions.
These are my thoughts and I make no claim that God gave them to me. In fact, He seems pretty quiet on the subject. Maybe because He’s already told us.
Here’s what I found.
Almost all the scriptures that talk about fighting – meaning actual fighting with weapons and aggression – are in the Old Testament. And most of those seem to be when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. They fought to take possession of the land and to resist enemies that came against them. But here’s the interesting thing: they only fought when and where God said to fight. They attacked cities as God led them to, and left alone the cities God said were off limits (Deut 2). Here’s another thing: they were told to take possession of the land because of the evilness in that land (Deut 9:5), and not because of their self-serving ambition.
In the New Testament, the picture is not as clear. Jesus spoke of not resisting an evil person. Even if mistreated, His followers were not to resist. He said, do not “repay evil with evil” (Matt 5) and to “put your sword away for who takes the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt 26:52). He also said to do to others what we would want others to do to us (Matt 7:12). Paul and Peter both said to submit to authorities and governing bodies (Rom 13, 2 Peter 2). Nowhere in the Epistles could I find a reference telling us to fight other than spiritually.
And yet, Jesus told His disciples that if they didn’t have a sword, to sell their cloak and buy one (Luke 22:36). He said He didn’t come to bring peace to the world but a sword (Matt 10:34). He never told soldiers to stop being soldiers. Several soldiers are even described as devout and faithful men (Acts 10:7, Matt 8:5-13). Jesus also showed a bit of violence when He threw out the sellers and buyers and overturned tables in the temple (Matt 21). If He never sinned, then fighting and violence of itself can’t be a sin.
My tentative conclusion? Fighting as a Christian is not a black and white issue. There will be times that fighting is to be avoided, and other times when fighting is necessary. Romans 12:18 says “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The word ‘if’ implies there will be times that it won’t be possible to live in peace. Eccl 3:8 says, “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
When would fighting not be appropriate?
When it’s all about us – our pride and desires. When we want our way over others for selfish or self-centered reasons. When we want to avenge ourselves (Rom 12:19), or when we want what others have (James 4:1-3). Paul calls that being in the flesh (1 Cor 3:3). When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we became spiritual beings. We are called to live as such. Our focus needs to be on Jesus and His kingdom, not on our earthly lives and possessions. He said in Matt 5:40 that “if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” Paul told the Corinthians (1 Cor 6:7) “to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” That is a hard thing to do when we see life is all about us, or when we believe we are in charge of our lives. Jesus said the Father provides all we need if we seek His kingdom first (Matt 6:31-33), and that He will make “…all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28), which I interpret as living for His kingdom. Instead of fighting, we are called to trust God’s sovereignty and care. Micah 6:8 puts it this way: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Nothing is there says we are to fight to make others do this.
Fighting is also not appropriate when it’s focused on people instead of on evil. God loved and died for us while we were His enemies (Rom 5:10) – and He died for those we call our enemies too. He calls us to “… love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28) And in Matt 5:44-46, He says, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” We fight evil – not people – just like we love the sinner but not the sin. Anger directed at people, calling names and insulting our enemies are good indicators that we are focused on people, which is not right nor will it end well for us. Jesus said, “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says ‘You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt 5:22).
So when is fighting the right thing to do?
When it’s about oppression. God hates oppression. He freed the Israelites when they cried out from their oppression (Judges 6, 10); He used the Israelites to destroy nations for their oppression (Deut 9); and Jesus came to free the oppressed (Luke 4:18). In Is 58:6 God says, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” Fighting to end evil strongholds and to free the oppressed are sometimes necessary. But we should not engage in such fighting unless and until God leads us. Moses found this out the hard way when he defended an oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. That man turned on him resulting in Moses fleeing. Due to his action, Moses couldn’t live with his people or with the Egyptians, and ended up living in exile (Acts 7:23-29).
Without God’s support, we will lose every battle. And just in case we believe God supports us because we think it’s the right thing to do, He has made it clear that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways (Is 55:8). Sometimes He called the Israelites to fight, sometimes He called them to stand while He fought for them. I believe it’s the same way today. 1 Sam 15:23 says, “…presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” We can’t presume to know what God wants because it’s what we want. And we can’t know what God wants in specific instances until we pray and ask Him.
So here’s my bottom line.
With evil advancing and causing oppression to increase, we need to humble ourselves before God, get on our knees and pray. Pray like David did. Pray like Jesus taught: “deliver us from evil”. Petition God to save us, fight for us, and free us.
And then we need to listen.
If He says fight, then we fight. But not like the evildoers do. According to the NT, we need to stay honorable so that the world “…will see our good deeds and glorify God…” (1 Peter 2:12), and correct our opponents with gentleness with the hope that “…God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Tim 2:24-26). God will give the battle plans and we need to stick to them whether they make sense to us or not. He is our Commander-in- Chief. We listen to Him and no one else. We need to do things His way and not the way of the enemy. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We won’t learn God’s mind by copying the enemy.
However, I don’t believe God is calling everyone to fight. I believe God is calling some of us to fight, and some of us to pray. Pray that all eyes remain steadfast on Him, that all Christians heed what God tells them, and that God protects us all as we follow His lead.
Whether or not called to fight, none of us should judge the other. “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Rom 14:4) That is not to say we shouldn’t call out when the fighting is not done honorably. I believe riots resulting in death and destruction are not honorable and completely detestable. I call that behavior sin and believe it should be judged. But protesting and resisting peacefully can be both honorable and gentle. Rallies, marches, and actions such as protesting censorship by deleting Big Tech are just a few examples.
On top of everything, I believe God has called ALL of us to fight spiritually because this is ultimately a spiritual battle manifesting itself in the natural. “For 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” (Eph 6:12). We ALL need to be on our knees daily, praying 24/7, and fasting if called to do so. God heard the cries of His people in the OT and delivered them. He can do the same today – if we let Him and not try to do it all ourselves.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For 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 heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Eph 6:10-18)
If anyone sees anything unbiblical in what’s I’ve written, please let me know. Also, I welcome other opinions and thoughts. I’d love to hear what you believe and what God is telling you.
For more reading, see https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-fighting.html