The word militant means “vigorously active and aggressive, especially in support of a cause; engaged in warfare; fighting.” We see examples of militancy in different segments of our world today. Radical Islam is militant as it seeks to kill infidels and spread extremism. The new atheism is militant in its attack on believers and belief in God. What we have seen in the union uprising in Wisconsin is a sort of militancy – a willingness to fight for the sake of a cause.
While the world expects and even accepts militancy from certain groups, there is often a negative view toward any hint of militancy in Christianity. Sadly, there are cases where people who claim to be Christians have demonstrated militancy in unbiblical, unloving ways and over unnecessary causes. But there is also a general intimidation directed toward Christians who display any fight for their faith.
What does the Bible say about Christians and militancy? It tells us we are engaged in a fight. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12 ESV). The fight of faith is described in terms of spiritual warfare:
“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.” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV)
Thus Christians are not called to warfare in the physical realm with physical weapons. Ours is a spiritual battle with a call to spiritual arms.
“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.” (Ephesians 6:13 ESV)
The weapons we use are mostly defensive for the purpose of standing firm. This armor of God includes truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith by which we extinguish Satan’s attacks, the assurance of salvation, and prayer (Eph. 6:14-18). We are called to wield the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, as we engage in warfare against Satan and sin. For it is by the Spirit we are to be killing remaining sin within us (Rom. 8:13).
Even though our fight is spiritual, it does not mean that we are silent in our present earthly world. As Peter writes, “Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV). We are called to engage in the realm of ideas and make biblical arguments against God-dishonoring philosophies and opinions. All the while we use not fleshly weapons but rather spiritual weapons possessing Christ’s power:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV)
So should Christians be militant? The answer is yes in at least this way: we are in the fight of faith against spiritually evil forces, indwelling sin, and Satan-inspired strongholds that attack the truth of Christ. But in contrast to the militancy we see in the world around us, our fight is in the spiritual arena rather than the physical, wielding weapons of faith rather than weapons of earthly warfare, and motivated by love for God and others rather than by hate and self-centeredness.
The tactics of our warfare are not those that kill or injure others. We denounce the use of physical force, hateful protests, and crusade-like efforts. For our Lord who calls us to fight also gives us strict rules of engagement: “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 ESV). We destroy ungodly arguments not by weapons of the flesh but by the thoughts of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-5). We defend our Christian hope with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). We always seek to engage with the goal that we “give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29 ESV).
Therefore, Christian, don’t be intimidated by the world in your fight of faith. But make sure that your fight is engaged in the right arena with the right weapons, tactics, and motivations. Our goal is the glory of God, the defense of the gospel, our own perseverance in the faith, and the winning of others to Christ through love and grace-filled proclamation of truth. Let us always seek to display a good testimony of Christ as we fight the good fight of faith.
“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12 ESV)