An old hymn says something like, “This world is not my home; I’m just passing through . . . .” Perhaps that is the underlying reason why Chambers says life without war is impossible. We who live with Jesus Christ in our hearts are not at home in this place and therefore antagonism is constantly present.
After Adam and Eve fell into sin, humanity has struggled with relationships, work, the weather, illness, and a host of other things that seem determined to destroy us. This world has wonder and beauty, but also horror and ugliness and many things that pull us away from God.
The human heart is antagonistic too, or at least has a war within it. We are capable of inventing great things, blessing and encouraging one another, being strong and courageous, but also capable of hate, fighting, destruction, harm and death, weakness and fear.
Sin is at the root of that antagonism as the world tempts, the flesh yields, and the devil mocks our tendency to give in to his lies. As Chambers says, at the foundation of physical, mental, moral, and spiritual life is antagonism.
Jesus knows all about it. He experienced the war and He told His disciples as He tells me: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
In the battle to live my Christian life, staying in love with Jesus and relying on Him for all things is part of the war. It seems it should be easy given the beauty of the Savior, but there is a constant struggle to resist the lure of the world, the sinful desires of the flesh, and those lies of the enemy.
Jesus also knows all about that. He inspired letters to His churches, commending them but also admonishing them in those areas where they were losing ground. In part of one of those letters, He said:
I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:2–7)
The church at Ephesus, and other churches and individuals since then, needed these words. They were at war just as I am at war. With trying to do good, work hard, hate evil, test false teachers, and not getting weary in the process, I can get so caught up in doing my duty that I forget that I am doing this because I love Jesus and He loves me. How can that happen? I might forget that this life is a battle ground because the war itself tends to sidetrack, to blur the reasons for the fight or even that it is happening.
Another part of it is forgetting why I must fight this war. Jesus says that those who overcome will eat from the tree of life, that tree that Adam and Eve were given free access to, but instead choose to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, plunging the human race into sin.
Jesus is my tree of life. Relying on Him is life itself, He is the only way to overcome this antagonism that comes at me every day. Knowledge seems helpful and important but that is part of the antagonism that nags at me and draws me away from my first love, the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving power. Knowing what to do does not help me overcome the world and all that I battle — it is Jesus.
Jesus said woe to those who abandon the first love of our salvation. Without Him, the lampstand that makes me a light in this world is removed, truth is covered in darkness, and until I repent, the antagonism wins. BUT, Jesus also said, “Take heart; I have overcome the world.”