Lone Pillar Standing
In the culture war, the church must never flee the scene of battle
The following originally appeared in the February 2003 issue of the AFA Journal.
Sometimes it seems that, in the culture war being fought for the soul of our nation, the hosts of hell are winning. The reality of our nation’s condition is grim, and few Christians who pay attention to cultural trends need a recitation of the laundry list of our ills.
The cultural tide has not only turned against the Judeo-Christian bedrock of our nation, but those corrosive salt-water waves threaten to swallow it up like the mythical city of Atlantis. Long-held principles are evaporating and long-standing institutions are crumbling. Nothing seems able to stanch the assaults of wickedness.
Such threats to our nation’s moral existence often cause overwhelming distress for believers. The apostle Paul said he had “great sorrow and unceasing grief in [his] heart” over his countrymen’s rejection of the Lord. Understanding our own generation’s rebellion against God also agonizes the souls of Christians today, who “sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed” in their midst (Ezekiel 9:4, NASB). If ignorance is bliss, then information can be torment.
Nevertheless, many Christians do try to stay cognizant of the shifting spiritual winds in our nation – and many actively try to resist the creeping darkness. In this desperate fight, many believers have one simple prayer: Lord, is it possible to win this thing? Are we truly wasting our time fighting evil in this nation? This is the only thing that many Christians want to know. If there is a chance to win, then we would fight with everything we have inside us. But the answer to that question never seems to come.
The obscured outcome
However, not knowing our nation’s fate can act as a fiery furnace – a crucible. It tests the mettle of our hearts. It reveals whether or not we ever had the heart to fight in the first place. Perhaps God’s silence is intended as a question of His own: Will we still fight even if we are not assured of ultimate victory in this culture?
Of course, the Christian knows that the ultimate outcome of human history will be the victory of the Lamb of God over all opposition. In this way, the believer can, as Paul exhorted his young co-laborer, Timothy, “fight the good fight of faith,” (1 Timothy 6:12, NASB). That’s faith, as in the “conviction of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB). We know who ultimately wins, even if the current circumstances indicate otherwise.
But frankly, that doesn’t always help us in the here and now, as our spiritual combat concerns the fate of a particular nation within history – not necessarily at the end of it. For many Christians, the culture war is about the survival of America as a righteous nation right now.
Yet physical warfare in the natural realm presents similar uncertainties, for the outcome of any battle or war is rarely known in advance. In certain circumstances, an army might be confident of victory; but no one ever knows for sure what the outcome will be at the end of the day – either personally or corporately.
In the face of this uncertainty, one would think that the fearfulness of battle would produce too many cowards for wars to even be contemplated. The strange thing is, however, that out of the brutality of armed conflict often come stories of unimaginable valor. This is part of the paradox of human existence. History is filled both with the deepest horrors of darkness and the shining brilliance of kindness and mercy, manifesting both divine spark and devilish flame. On the one hand mankind can demonstrate the magnificence of God-inspired virtue, and on the other hand the most base and satanic depravity. Both gracious and gruesome is the race that proceeded out from Eden.
In the middle of the last century, the conflict of World War II presented the sort of clear-cut distinctions of good and evil that only seem to exist in fairy tales or legends. Like a mythological battle between the Titans, in Europe the forces of freedom routed the cruel tyrant and his cold, soulless minions, and the darkness was vanquished.
But who knew such happy results would be forthcoming when the vanguard of U.S. forces landed in North Africa – and who wouldn’t rethink American involvement in Europe after our inexperienced troopers were smashed at Kasserine Pass?
War, by its violent and unpredictable nature, must fill its participants with the dread of a thousand deep, dark nightmares. What possesses a man to remain in uniform under such circumstances? Courage, surely. But what has undergirded American courage?
It has been almost two centuries since the United States has had to fight against a foreign enemy in a war that threatened its own existence. In the 20th century alone we fought five major wars on foreign battlefields to free other people.
This is virtually unprecedented in human history. Wars have usually been fought to gain spoil, or to preserve or expand kingdoms, nations, and empires. The U.S., however, fought these wars to establish and protect principles – high ideals of freedom and liberty. There were no guarantees of victory when our men and women embarked on these campaigns. American warriors believed they were fighting for something that transcended their own, short-lived, earth-bound existence. American G.I.s and Marines, navy shipmen and air force flyboys, spilled their blood in faraway waters and on distant beaches because of preeminent truths.
On behalf of another kingdom
How much more should Christians face the difficulties and uncertainty of our bloodless culture wars? For we, too, fight for something greater than our own earthly existence. After all, if it is a grand thing for men to fight on behalf of liberty, how much greater is it for Christians to suffer on behalf of the kingdom of God?
The battlefields on which Christians fight are not European hedgerows or Pacific islands, nor are they are the winding, icy roads of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the mountains of Afghanistan, or the desert sands of Iraq. Believers battle in corporate boardrooms, in university lecture halls, before community school boards, around water coolers, in political campaigns and over coffee at family gatherings. Those battles must never cease, nor must the church ever flee from the scenes of fiercest conflict.
As members of God’s kingdom, will our efforts to resurrect righteousness in this nation be rewarded? Absolutely. Will those efforts be successful? We don’t know.
Perhaps it is not for us to know the fate of our nation. But maybe – just maybe – that’s not the point.