The gift of battle
From Leanne’s archives (July 1985)
But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matt. 5:39
Such a “hard” saying as this one of our Lord’s chases many of us to a full study (time and again) of the Sermon on the Mount. In that discourse Jesus makes statement after statement like this one, and in doing so, contradicts and overturns the best Jewish wisdom of the day. You may want to take Barclay’s (or some other fine commentator’s) paper-back commentary on the gospel of Matthew along with you on your late summer vacation and study anew these words of our Lord. They reveal, as Oswald Chambers says, “the humiliation of being a Christian. Naturally, if a man does not hit back, it is because he is a coward; but spiritually if a man does not hit back, it is a manifestation of the Son of God in him. When you are insulted, you must not only not resent it, but make it an occasion to exhibit the Son of God. You cannot imitate the disposition of Jesus; it is either there or it is not. To the saint personal insult becomes the occasion of revealing the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus.” (July 14, My Utmost for His Highest)
This is a wonderful lesson in Incarnational Reality: Another lives in me and He is love. And there is nothing that will bring us back to this most basic of Christian truths like a skirmish with those who hate and malign us. We soon find out if we are battling in our own strength.
In Donald Bloesch’s book Crumbling Foundations, published by Zondervan, he writes of our need to pray for the gift of battle. In a section titled “Rediscovering the Spiritual Gifts,” he reminds us that “Christians can only live out their vocation by discovering and exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And he mentions this additional gift which is alluded to in both Testaments, one that he believes has crucial significance for our time: “Christians who are under the cross of persecution need to pray for the gift of battle, the ability to endure under trial, the boldness to challenge immorality and heresy in high places. The gift of battle is properly included in the gift of might or power (Isa. 11:2). It is the power to enter into conflict and the stamina not to grow weary. It must be accompanied by and fulfilled in the gift of love, since we cannot wage war against sin successfully unless we love the sinner. We must speak the truth, but we must speak the truth in love.”
Once again we are face to face with the essentials. We are either practicing the Presence of Another, or we are striving in our own strength and are growing weary in this day of “crumbling foundations” and spiritual battle. Recently in a Greek Orthodox liturgy this wonderful prayer “leaped up” from the page and now has a permanent and prominent place in my prayer journal. Just in case some of you might feel the need of such a prayer, here it is:
Save, O Lord, and have mercy upon those that envy and affront me, and do me mischief, and let them not perish through me, a sinner.
In vital connection with the need for this gift, “Christians who enter the battle against the powers of darkness cannot persevere without a life-support system, without a supportive fellowship that continually holds up its members in intercession to the living God.” Those of us who have these support systems are deeply grateful for them, but those who do not have them must pray earnestly for them.
Besides the book mentioned, Dr. Bloesch has written other important theological works, and I cannot recommend them too highly to you who are looking for theological answers to the problems facing us at this time. I especially appreciate the fact that he is building bridges between the sacramental and evangelical worlds―a crucial theological task at this time in history―and Catholics and Protestants alike will be edified by his works. For starters, for Catholic as well as evangelical, I would recommend The Future of Evangelical Christianity: A Call for Unity Amid Diversity (Doubleday). And for one of the finest studies on gender language in the Scriptures, Is the Bible Sexist? (Crossway).
Reprinted with permission, copyright ©1999-2013 by Leanne Payne Literary Trust
Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net