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~ Holy War and Christlikeness ~

        The king of Aram was angry about a possible spy in his camp. One of his officers answered, “No one is a spy, Your Majesty. Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel everything you say - even what you say in your bedroom!” The king said, “Find out where he is. Then I will send men to capture him.”

        The king was told, “He is in Dothan,” So the king sent horses and chariots and a large fighting unit there. They came at night and surrounded the city.  When the servant of the man of God got up in the morning and went outside, he saw troops, horses and chariots surrounding the city. Elisha's servant asked, “Master, what should we do?”

        Elisha answered, “Don't be afraid. We have more forces on our side than they have on theirs.” Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, please open his eyes so that he may see.” The Lord opened the servant's eyes and let him see. The mountain around Elisha was full of fiery horses and chariots.

        As the Arameans came down to get him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Please strike these people with blindness.” The Lord struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.  Elisha told them, “this isn't the way, this isn't the city. Follow me and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.”  So he led them into Samaria. When they came into Samaria, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men and let them see.”

        When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Should I kill them? Should I kill them?”  Elisha answered, “Don't kill them. Do you kill everyone you take captive in combat? Give them food and water. Let them eat and drink. Then let them go back to their master.”  So the king prepared a great feast for them. They ate and drank, and then he sent them back to their master. After this, Aramean troops didn't raid Israel territory anymore (2 Kings 6:12-23, GW).

        Angelic forces of defense are frequently mentioned throughout the Scriptures and Jesus referred to their availability several times, though, as in Elisha's case, they were not always called upon to act. Part of the purpose in pointing out the blindness of Elisha's servant to them may be to explain the nature of the blindness induced on the Aramean troops. Obviously it was a spiritual blindness since hundreds of men were able to physically see Elisha in order to follow, but were blind to where they were going, the fortified capitol of Israel's northern kingdom. Though Elisha deceived them, he did keep his word to lead them to himself.

        Using wisdom, love and prayer Elisha waged a truly holy war. Instead of violence and death, there was feasting and camaraderie. Permanent peace followed.

        King Solomon also related an incident of holy combat, but one with sad ending: “I also have seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it made a deep impression on me. There was a small town with a few soldiers in it, and a powerful king came to attack it. He surrounded it and blockaded it. A poor, wise person was found in that town. He saved the town using his wisdom. But no one remembered that poor person. So I said, 'Wisdom is better than strength,' even though that poor person's wisdom was despised, and no one listened to what he said.

        “One should pay more attention to calm words from wise people than shouting from a ruler of fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner can destroy much that is good” (Ecclesiastes 9:13-18, GW).

        Holy wisdom no longer dominates. Holy wars of no blood shedding are only stories to remember, stories that induce tears of what could be among people with Christ-like hearts. "Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it" (Proverbs 4:23, GW).  But “There is a way that seems right to a person, but eventually it ends in death” (Proverbs 16:25, GW).

        “Love your enemies” doesn't make sense, does it? It doesn't work, does it?  We like to name war weapons with euphemisms like "peace keeper." The plane that dropped the first atomic bomb was named after the pilot's girlfriend. (I wonder if she was grateful for that honor.) We have a submarine that can launch enough cruise missiles to destroy two hundred and fifty cities. Its name is Corpus Christi (Body of Christ). That name crosses over the ludicrously sad to the heart-tearing pain of blasphemy. What shall we name future weapons? Jehovah's Kiss? The World Redeemer? The pain of this evil would deepen, but there would be no surprise.

        Christ did not mean love your enemies as you would love a friend. The Greek term translated “love” is agape, the kind of redeeming love God expresses.  Jesus' every word and deed was driven by this kind of love, whether He was angrily chasing the temple-defiling, profit-hungry merchants from the outer court or whispering prayers of forgiveness for His Roman executioners. He gave different answers to the different persons who asked the same question “Can I follow you?” Each response, each act, each story, was just what each person or group needed from Jesus to awaken them to the need and gift of His redemption. He told us to do the same, to be like Him.

        This also has the effect of creating, in your enemy, a need for you. In serving that need, you connect with your enemy in the same way God connects with you. This is agape love, responding to your enemy by planting seeds that have the promise of sprouting into redemptive responses. Quite often, you don't need to use words to do this.

        However, is Christ asking too much of us? I wouldn't say “too much,” but I do assert Christ is extremely demanding to the point of seeming to be too much to many people. He did say we must enter through the narrow door, and that many won't succeed. (Luke 13:24) “If people come to me and are not ready to abandon their fathers, mothers, wives, children, brothers and sisters as well as their own lives, they cannot be my disciples. So those who do not carry their crosses and follow me cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14:26-27, GW). That's demanding!

        Christianity is the most demanding and self-sacrificial faith in the world. One wouldn't know it by visiting most of our western churches. One wouldn't know it by listening to the many preachers who assure needy, spiritually hungry but gullible people that they are now forever saved from hell and are children of the kingdom of God after a thirty-second long prayer. (The devil must delight in this “assurance.”) Where is that narrow door? That narrow way? That forsaking of self?

        Jesus talked about the cost of being His: “Suppose you want to build a tower. You would first sit down and figure out what it costs” (Luke 14:28a, GW).  Suppose preachers would first describe the Christ-mandated requirements to be a Christian before asking people to embrace Christ as Lord and Redeemer.  Suppose the Scriptures promising persecution, and requiring total submission of all one has and is, are revealed and expounded upon. Suppose, instead of asking people to “come forward” and make the covenant of their lives right after a passionate sermon, preachers would tell their assemblies to “count the cost” first and come back a day or week later to a special meeting to profess their faith, repentance, and loving devotion to Christ.

        I contend the “success” of the call to “accept” Christ, in terms of numbers, would be greatly diminished. The people who do return after an emotional cooling-down period and counting the cost would be those led by God's Holy Spirit. They would more likely be the ones the prophet Isaiah addresses: “The Lord will certainly have pity on you when you cry for help. As soon as he hears you, he will answer you. The Lord may give you troubles and hardships. But your teacher will no longer be hidden from you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. You will hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way. Follow it, whether it turns to the right or to the left'” (Isaiah 30:19b-21, GW).

        Should you denounce my contention, consider what happened after Jesus was the preacher in Capernaum: “When many of Jesus' disciples heard him, they said, 'What he says is hard to accept. Who wants to listen to him anymore?' …Jesus' speech made many of his disciples go back to the lives they had led before they followed Jesus” (John 6:60, 66, GW).  Sadly, Jesus would not be invited back to many of our churches and evangelical “crusades” if he was among us disguised as a human preacher. “Jesus, however, was wary of these believers. He understood people and didn't need anyone to tell him about human nature. He knew what people were really like” (John 2:24-25, GW).

        So how can we be Christ-like, “conformed to His image,” and love as God does, waging only holy war of redemption? “Those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will go to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23-24a, GW). We must stake our lives on this promise, as we stake our lives on His cross as well.

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services

Weekly Reflections © September 29, 2001

"God's Word" is a copyrighted work of God's Word to the Nations Bible Society. Quotations are used by permission.

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