We don’t hear much, talk much, or sing much these days about the church militant. My early Christian life was characterised by such expressions, ‘Stand up, stand up for Jesus, You soldiers of the cross;’ ‘Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war;’ ‘I will fight the fight, I will run the race;’ ‘With the high praises of God on our lips and a two-edged sword in our hand;’ ‘Like a great triumphant army moves the church of Christ the Lord;’ ‘We are the army of God;’ ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?’ ‘Sound the battle cry..’ ‘ For the Lord is marching on… the Captain of the host is Jesus..’ ‘Be bold, be strong..’ among many others.
Have we grown politically correct fearing it might be offensive? Have we drawn back because of the fear of being accused of triumphalism? Are we afraid of the militaristic expressions because of their use in the world?
Paul was not afraid to use references to the world in which he found himself to describe the life of faith, whether it be the olympic games or a roman soldiers outfit. He clearly speaks of the Christian life as a being lived out on a battlefield in which there are evil days, days when the battle will be strong and intense, and how we need to put on the whole armour of God, be strong in the Lord and the power of his might. He talks about fighting a good fight.
We may be saved by grace, but that doesn’t mean we simply sit back with a whatever will be will be attitude. No we have been called into battle. There is an enemy out there who has lost us to King Jesus, who will seek in some way or other to undermine our faith and experience of the ‘with God life.’ Grace saves us, frees us, enables us, empowers us. It enables us to engage the strength and power of God. It gives us the whole armour of God. It places in our hands the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith. It gives us power through the secret weapon of prayer. Grace does not lead/should not lead to passivity, but into action.
Those songs we used to sing told us of the realities of life-with-God this side of Heaven, in this overlap of the ages. They helped us understand that the Christian life is not a bed of Roses, that there is a war on, a war in which we are engaged whether we like it or not – yes, as Peter said, ‘the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking who he might devour. It’s a war that demands our engagement. Yes, there will be lulls in the battle, but don’t be fooled, the enemy will come again. It’s time we stepped onto the front foot once again.