This propensity to fight comes partly from our propensity to sin. Sin is thinking I know better than God and sin is simply going my own way in defiance of God’s way. I want what I want and sin will make me push others out of my way.
But God’s way includes fighting too. The Old Testament is filled with physical battles, and God is often misunderstood because of these literal skirmishes where thousands were slaughtered. Why did God want war, and does He still endorse “religious” wars?
We took two of our grandchildren to church one Sunday. Old Testament battles were the topic in their class. On the way home, one of them asked about God’s reasoning in asking His people to kill so many people. We didn’t answer, waiting to see what he would come up with on his own. After a few moments of silence, he said, “Oh, I understand. It was because those nations were so evil.”
Generally people ask the wrong question. Instead of wondering why God had people killed, we need to recognize the sinfulness of sin and wonder why God allows anyone to live!
Besides that, it seems to me that the Old Testament battles were literal representations of the spiritual struggles described in the New Testament. For Christians, we are clearly told that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness and evil forces in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6). For this, we need to fight, not with each other (shame on us), but against the enemies who would ruin our walk with Christ and destroy our testimony of His grace.
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. (Philippians 1:27-29)Fighting that is worthy of the gospel of Christ does not mean fighting with other Christians over correct doctrine or what color the church carpets should be. It means that we stand together on what we believe, agreeing that Jesus died for our sin, was buried and rose again the third day. It means we know who the enemy is, and it is not us.
Fighting that is worthy of the gospel might also mean standing against people who teach otherwise. This is not about a physical altercation, but about taking all sorts of abuse for what we believe rather than backing down or arguing. Yet this passage is mostly about getting along with other Christians.
Such spiritual harmony requires work. It is easier to fight that to love others unconditionally, even when they like blue and we like green. It is easier to fight than support and sustain people, especially if we don’t see eye to eye on every issue, major or minor.
When Christians do not agree and sin like criticism, bitterness, unforgiveness, partiality and pride spread through the church, we are not to go to war but to our knees. Only the God of peace can restore to us that loving attitude that is rooted in the heart of Christ — who lives in our hearts.
With Jesus in control, we can care and pray for each other, support the weak, lift the fallen, restore the broken, and stand together against spiritual wickedness and the forces that threaten to destroy us. We need to fight, not with each other but the evil forces that work to maintain their stranglehold against the people in the world by holding them in darkness and sin and encouraging them to be always at war with one another.