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Volume 16, Issue 3: Virga

War Out Back

Matt Whittling

Sergeant O'Conner had been immobilized. Both feet were bound together in an exhausted paralysis deep in the sand. He still had the pack on his back, the canteen that looked as though it had become part of his leg, and his rifle poised easily in his right hand, but he knew that he could not last much longer if the cursed mortar barrage kept up. A few moments ago his partner had taken a hit directly in the face, leaving his body upright for a split second until a delayed shell took out his legs, and his mangled body toppled back in the sand. The attack had begun along the eastern edge of a small dune in which their squadron had been deployed. All of them had been placed knee deep in the sand like targets lined up in the enemy's cross-hairs. The grumbling had been animated, vitriolic, and full of dark threats ever since their boots had touched the heat-scorched desert. They all knew this was tantamount to execution, but they had been trained to fight, and therefore maintained their respective positions frozen and pinned down along the shimmering ridge.

The apostle Paul describes the Christian life as warfare. "We do not war according to the flesh. . . the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds" (2 Cor. 10). "Put on the whole armor of God" (Eph. 6). "Wage the good warfare" (I Tim. 1). "Fight the good fight of faith" (I Tim 6). "Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier" (2 Timothy 2). "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (I Tim. 4).
Paul does not present this martial idea as an option for those Christians who are so inclined. Instead, we are told that followers of Christ are enlisted as soldiers of God, and that if we are not with Christ we are against Him (Matt. 12). Someone who refuses to engage with the enemy in the way that God has commanded is in fact joining the enemy to fight against the kingdom of God.
In this context it behooves Christians to know the answers to some important military questions: Who is the enemy? What is the objective? What is the nature of the war? How do we prepare both ourselves and our children for combat? This is the first of a series of articles aimed at answering these questions.
The history of this conflict goes back to the garden. After the fall, God said that he would put enmity between the woman and serpent, and between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The seed of the serpent would bruise His heel, and the seed of the woman would crush his head. In other words, as a result of the fall, God started a fight. He is the one who established the fundamental antithesis between light and dark and good and evil, and this same conflict, this same enmity, this fight, is with us today. As a result of the fall we fight against three enemies: The World (the minions of Satan), The Flesh (our fallen nature), and The Devil (the serpent).
The objective on each front is complete and total victory. The decisive blow in the war has been struck. Christ's death on the cross was the event in which the heel of the seed of the woman was bruised and the head of the serpent was crushed. The victory of Christ not only sealed the defeat of Satan but is also the grounds for our justification and sanctification—the eventual death of the deeds of the flesh. And after crushing the serpent's head, Jesus gave his disciples their marching orders regarding the world: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28).
This brings up an issue which is touchy in many Christian circles—God commands us to win the battle—and there is a fundamental practical difference between preparing your children to lose as opposed to preparing them to win.
By and large, Christians in the United States are raising their children to grow up and lose. Keep your faith, survive your education, hunker down and wait for the rapture. It's almost over, why invest in anything long-term? A vision for education that grows out of this mentality has one object—defense. It's like holding your breath when you go through a dark tunnel—just make it through the darkness without breathing. Just come out the other side alive, its the best we can hope for.
But Christ has called us to something completely different than this. Christians are the ones who are to enter the tunnel with dynamite and blow the roof off so that sunshine can invade all of the dark damp nooks and caverns. A vision for education that grows out of this mentality plays—offense and defense. We want our children to go out and boldly proclaim in word and deed, "All authority is given to Christ, and it is to this Jesus that you must bow the knee."
"Tommy, time for lunch," Tom's mother called out through the kitchen screen. "Tommy!" His mother walked over toward the sand-box battle zone. "Oh, I can't believe it. What has gotten into you that would make you want to do that? Ed, will you come out here and look at what your son has done. This is not natural. The girls would have never done something like that."

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