A War to End All Wars
We might be fighting the wrong battles
June 1940. The United States, still weak-kneed from the Great Depression, would soon be drawn out of its isolation into the horrors of yet another World War. The previous “War to End All Wars” failed to fulfill its promise.
Despite history’s many lessons, we fail to learn. We still have not figured out the most fundamental question, which is not how to wage war, but how to stop it. Could it be that, after all this time, the central problem is that we have been fighting the wrong war?
War seemed different back then, maybe because of the bureaucratic speed, at which information crawled; and when it did arrive, it was heavily edited and sanitized as flickering, patriotic newsreels. For most, the newspaper regulated the daily digest of information—the morning dose of wartime castor oil.
War seems different today—more efficient, with almost surgical, antiseptic precision. We have high-definition, real-time video images of smart bombs hitting exact locations, stealthily controlled by a joystick in some bunker in Nevada. Imagine the shock of a soldier casually smoking a cigarette next to his tank in the middle of the desert when, suddenly, the tank vaporizes from a precision smart bomb from nowhere, from anywhere, unseen, invisible. POOF!!
The conduct of war has changed, but not the fact of war. The killings, explosions, crackling, and cries remain. We are just better at it than we used to be. “Don't fire till you see the whites of their eyes” is now the battle cry of those already defeated by such advanced technology.
War remains a cancer among us. Despite quantum leaps in technology, the cancer has only become more aggressive. Whether “politics by other means,” or the expression of religious conquest, the end is the same—in war, people die.
WHAT DID WE MISS?
The Bible gives us the insight that the world lacks due to its spiritual blindness, and the church lacks due to its somnolent state—snoring loudly, but not loud enough to wake the dead.
We find ourselves once more at a crossroads when the church must come to understand the real war, the true enemy, and the actual reason why much of the world hangs by a frayed thread of sanity over a fire-belching sinkhole of spiritual death. Until we understand the real war, there will never be real peace.
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” (Ephesians 6:12). There it is. How did we miss it? The core of our struggle is not human at all. Behind all the reasons for war—ethnic, religious, territorial, injustice, or even unfair “taxation without representation” there is an enemy, alien to our world, not human, and hell-bent and fury bound to kill and destroy mankind, which is made in the image of His most-loathed enemy.
The real war is spiritual. It began in heaven as a revolution led by Satan himself. There will be no real peace until he is eternally vanquished. Lying behind the wars we see, is a liar we don’t.
Why do we refuse to see the reality of this spiritual war, certain that the only enemies we face are political, cultural, economic, or deceived religious fanatics?
This wayward logic sounds hauntingly similar to our certainty that the next war will be the last, and that all we need are longer and deeper trenches. All we need is radar-elusive aircraft. All we need is Star Wars military technology. All we need is cyber-security and smarter geeks than the enemy. We refuse to see the truth of the spiritual battle against a very real devil.
Though our struggle is not human, God has given His church spiritual weapons. “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...” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 /ESV). He has given us weapons to fight this real spiritual war.
No wonder we are to put on the full armor of God. We must “be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). The church makes the stand because the rest of the world is blinded by the enemy. “[T]he god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ...” (2 Corinthians 4:4/ESV).
The weapons we fight with are not of this world. They are ancient and unseen, powerful and effective, able to move mountains, set the captives free, and raise the dead. We fight with the truth and proclamation of the Word of God. We fight with prayer. We fight by making disciples who follow Jesus who sets them free.
THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT
Oddly enough, we fight by waging peace even to the point of choosing to die rather than to pick up a sword against any fellow human. Let me repeat that. We choose not to pick up a sword against ANY human being because our enemy is the devil who is at war with God.
The sword we carry is the Word of God, the truth of which, in Christ sets the captives free. It’s a sword that demolishes lying strongholds, mindsets, twisted realities, and every lofty pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. It divides between right and wrong with unerring precision. But, it’s a sword of truth to demolish lies—not people. NOT PEOPLE.
In the heat of battle, the church tends to confuse prisoners of war for the enemy. We do have enemies. We have many enemies. All our enemies are God’s enemies. But ALL those enemies are the spiritual forces of darkness following the prince of perversion—Satan.
NONE of our enemies are human (Ephesians 6:12). NONE of our enemies are human. Not a single one. All humans are either those who have been set free by grace or are yet prisoners of war, but they are decidedly not our enemies. Among people, we are clearly called to wage peace, not war.
WEAPON OF PRAYER
As it turns out, it's not a new kind of war at all. It's been this way all the time. The devil has been active all this time; and while human armies, nations, political opponents, and spouses fight each other to the death, the world spins, daily dancing into the icy night unaware of the icebergs lying beneath the mesmerizing stars.
We need different weapons to fight this kind of spiritual war. We need a different kind of radar that reveals the enemy's strategies and battle tactics. We fight this battle on our knees, not in a posture of surrender, but in a posture of humility that unleashes from heaven the very power of God capable of doing what no smart bomb can accomplish—heal the morally hardened arteries of mankind.
We pray to set the captives free. We pray to bless, not to curse. We pray around the clock, around the world—unceasing, unyielding, unswerving until the power of the blood of Christ removes the stain of rebellion, exchanges love for enmity and welcomes into God’s eternal kingdom of peace the very ones who had previously waged war against Him.
THE GOSPEL OF PEACE
This clarion call is to awaken the church to revival, to return to our first love, to fulfill the Great Commission with the Gospel that sets the POWs free. We wage peace where the only bloodshed is the blood of Jesus Christ.
The devil comes to kill and destroy, but Jesus comes that we might have life, “and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). There is one and only one signature on the Declaration of Our Independence— Jesus Christ— signed in His blood at the Cross. He died that we might live. He died to make peace with God. He took the full brunt of God’s wrath, that we might now through faith be called the “children of God” (1 John 3:1).
The gospel is not a provisional armistice but a declaration of unconditional surrender to the Son of God who on our behalf was, “crushed for our iniquities” to give us peace with God (Isaiah 53:5; Romans 5:1). And because of such a powerful gospel, God will one day in turn crush Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20).
The Cross sets the captives free. The Cross is a weapon of war, not to crush people— never to crush people— but to save people while simultaneously crushing the devil and his minions. At the Cross Jesus not only paid the full price for our sinful rebellion, but He also made a public spectacle of His true enemies, Satan, and the fallen forces of hell (Colossians 2:13-15).
Our mission in the gospel is to wage peace— the proclamation that we now are reconciled to God, at peace with Him, through Jesus Christ. Unless we understand the real war, we can never understand He has made this kind of peace.
NOT A DIFFERENT WAR
This is NOT a different war. This is not a different enemy. This is just a different time. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. But we stubbornly remain unconvinced, thinking we just need deeper trenches, better technology, and different generals.
How did we forget? We mistakenly believe that if we go back to Egypt we will be safe. Our freedoms will be restored, protected, inviolable, and our inalienable rights secure. POOF! What just happened to my tank? We believe that if we fix our country, we will once again be safe.
Rather, what we need is to fix our eyes on Jesus and wage the war of peace on our knees in prayer, boldly proclaiming the truth of the gospel, and setting the prisoners of war free through faith in Jesus Christ.