Whether we acknowledge it or not, every day we are in the middle of a great spiritual war. Because we grew up in the middle of this war and have gotten used to the sounds and smells of war; because we were born on the wrong and losing side of the war and still have some allegiances to the other side; and because the war is everywhere – we often don’t recognize it for what it is.
But we are at war.
Sometimes the war is more obvious, as when the Church is clearly being persecuted. Other times, the war is subtle and familiar, as when we face our daily trials and temptations. Regardless of the level of fighting, as Christians we are at war every day.
When U.S. soldiers are trained for war, they are taught how to use a variety of weapons, what they are good for, and how to work together with other soldiers to defeat the enemy. When the Church trains its soldiers for war, often we send out our young recruits without even having told them there is a war. Even when we do, we may go the trouble of telling them that there are spiritual weapons available to them, but we don’t do a very good job of training God’s spiritual soldiers to use them.
In 2 Corinthians 10, St. Paul focuses not so much on the technology of spiritual warfare but on one kind of battle that must continually be fought: the battle for our minds. Paul’s focus to the Corinthians (who were Greeks), especially in 1 Corinthians, is especially oriented toward the mind and knowledge. Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 10 of “pulling down strongholds,” “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,” and of “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
One of the main problems in the spiritual life is that our minds are not fully Christian. In the most obvious cases, there are those in our culture who do not know or love God. Increasingly, the centers of power in the U.S. are less Christian and accepting of Christ: this is certainly true in education, entertainment, and the media, but it is also true in business and government. Even in families that are Christian, the mind has often remained unreformed. True knowledge of God, in knowing the ABCs of who He is and what He desires may be known, but large portions of our lives and minds have not been claimed for Christ.
In all of these cases and more, we are to fight a spiritual war to win the minds of individuals, families, churches, and even a nation for Christ. We do this by attacking the enemy, which is every person, institution, or idea that sets itself up against God and knowledge of Him. Paul seems to envision an assault on some heavily fortified enemy positions. We will encounter spiritual strongholds, in our culture, in our families, and in our own souls. Maybe Paul had in mind the 1857 foot hill that the city of Corinth overlooked, but he clearly seems to see enemy fortresses and towers which must be destroyed. Those ivory towers, and towers made of many other materials, must be assaulted by Christians who have been trained to have the mind of Jesus Christ Himself.
We should encourage one another to work together as God’s army and assault the institutions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. This is exciting, but dangerous and difficult work. But I believe that the real war is won first on the much smaller scale of the individual soldier. I believe that only when we as the Church have fully trained our soldiers to understand spiritual war and practice conquering the enemy who is within our camp that the Church as a whole will have the spiritual strength to conquer institutions.
Every day, the battle rages within each one of us. The most important task is to train our children, the future army of God. But even those of us who are adults have to fight the good fight every day. Even adult, “mature” Christians have pockets of resistance in our own hearts and minds, and it is our job, our daily orders from Our General, to search out and systematically destroy each and every one of these strongholds that still resists submission to God.
It might even help some of you, if you have any martial inclination whatsoever, to imagine yourself charging up a hill to attack a part of your mind that has still not surrendered to the Lord.
Jesus Christ has already stormed the gates of Hell and kicked them in at the Cross. He has already led the charge and destroyed the worst of our enemies. But He has asked us to join Him in the completion of this most important of wars: the war to know God once again and surrender ourselves to Him unconditionally.
Prayer: Praise be to You, Lord Jesus, for on the Cross You defeated the enemies of Satan, sin, and death. Thank You for redeeming not only our souls but our minds and bodies as well. I ask that You would help me to identify areas of my life where my mind still seeks to be independent of You and will not surrender. Equip me, Lord, to fight with You to restore to health minds that were created to know You.
Points for Meditation:
- How well have I understood and remembered that I am in a spiritual war?
- Make a list of areas in your life where your mind or the minds of others, whose lives are a part of yours, are not submitted to the Lord
- What spiritual weapons do I have access to? What spiritual weapons do I need that I feel I do not have or know how to use adequately?
Resolution: I resolve to identify one area in my life where the mind has not surrendered to God. It may be in my own mind and life, or it may be in the life of another or even of an institution. I resolve to take one practical action today in pulling down a spiritual stronghold of the enemy.
© 2011 Fr. Charles Erlandson
CC Image courtesy of Librarian by Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections on Flickr.jpg
Category: Give Us This Day