The Battle

Christianity is a religion of peace and love, and it has therefore been said to preclude fighting. But as a matter of fact the whole world is continually fighting, Christians included, and the Christians have the toughest fight of anybody, and the most important; and just in so far as they 'turn back in the day of battle' they are unworthy followers of their Captain. It is true that the fight is against 'spiritual wickedness,' but sometimes, as our generation has good reason to know, the spiritual wickedness becomes as it were incarnate in 'principalities and powers,' and the fight becomes material and intellectual as well as spiritual---because it is spiritual. It is always these spiritual issues that count. The others are only their outer manifestation: the fight whose issues are only material or even only intellectual is one with which the Christian as such has assuredly nothing to do.

But where any spiritual issue is at stake, where deliberate wrong is arrayed against the rights of men, where fraud is practiced on the unprotected, were hypocrisy imposes on the credulous, where vice betrays the innocent, were inefficiency sacrifices precious human interest, where avarice oppresses the poor, were tyranny tramples on the weak, there the man who shares the Father's love for His mal-treated children, the man who walks daily in the companionship of the Christ who owns all the downtrodden as His brothers, will be the most fearless and uncompromising foe of every form of injustice and oppression. Property, reputation, position, time, strength, influence, health, life itself if need be, will be thrown unreservedly into the fight against vice and sin. He cannot company with the Father and with Christ and not come out in opposition to everything that wrongs and injures the humblest man, the lowliest woman, and most defenseless little child. A suggestive artist has given us a picture of the battlefield some time after the Battle of Waterloo. In its, all strive and passion have passed away, and there, in the midst of the field, he has painted a lamb quietly resting in the mouth of an old, disused cannon. It is a parable of what will be---not of what is; of what will be after the battle of life has ended, not of what is while it is being waged. Our Waterloo is not yet over: no lamb yet sleeps in the cannon's mouth. The field now is, it is meant to be, with a confused noise and garments rolled in blood. All that will live godly and Christ Jesus still suffer persecution of some kind or another. There are no exceptions. The Waterloo will last forever.

Unless we fight we are not fully alive.---Fighting is instinctive in human nature---indeed in almost all animate nature. There is sometimes in the operation of this instinct a 'joy' or 'elation' which is quite independent of the satisfaction of the impulse, so far as that consists in the destruction of an enemy, and which cannot be considered to arise from anger at all. For some natures merely to flight is to drink delight of battle, the delight being in the struggle itself, not in its successful issue. This is the kind of fighting instinct which has characterized the great warriors of all ages. In other spheres of action it has also characterize the great sailors, explores, even reformers. It is par excellence the characteristic of a warlike race, and, because of this, the warlike races are nearly always capable, on occasion, of the highest chivalry, for, when they fight, they are inspired by the joy of battle, not by hate to of the enemy. This phenomenon is to be found in all vital, dynamic natures, for, reduced to its essence, it is the sheer joy of overcoming difficulty. Now there's nothing wrong in that. It all depends on how, why, and where it is exercised.

All the moral and spiritual progress, and all the mental progress, that men have reached in this world, they have reached through warfare, and that conflict always has been and is now the condition, the inexorable condition, of growth. Man might have been made to grow in wisdom and in goodness without conflict, or he might have been made in these respects full-grown at the outset---wholly wise and wholly good, and we wonder sometimes why he was not; but he has not, and he has had to struggle and to fight every inch of his way.

But we must fight in the right cause.---There are two kinds of fighting---lawful and unlawful. To fight our own battles, and occasionally a few for our neighbors, comes all too naturally. Fighting God's battles on principle is a very different thing. To the Christian there is no warrant for aggressive war---no, not under any circumstances whatsoever; but there may be a war which, being purely defensive, is therefore not only lawful but most holy.

Yet when we say, speaking generally, that this can apply only to the case of defensive war, even that needs explanation. Defensive. Yes; but in defense of what? Not anything and everything upon which we choose to set some specific value. Not every ideal, of self interest or of greatness, upon which a perverted imagination has been fed. Not any single thing---whether material or spiritual---the maintenance or preservation of which, for ourselves, can by any possibility mean wanton, undeserved injury or wrong to any other. These are not of the things for which the Law of Christ permits and requires that a Christian should fight. And what, then, are such things?

If we love good we must fight against evil of all kinds---mental moral, and material. If we love evil we will necessarily war against good, for evil is the negation of good and if it did not war against it to it would cease to exist. All who love must expect to be hated by the foes of those whom they love. Because Jesus loved the common people and sought to deliver them from their fears and errors, the men who traded on those fears and errors put Him to an ignominious death. If we love and serve the despised, the abused, the plundered, those who despise and abuse and plunder them will do to us the worst they dare. Fighting is then lawful, and, more than lawful, is holy. When an enlightened, scrupulous, and tender Christian conscience has told us that the summons, the 'call,' of God Himself is in it, that no possible way or alternative lies open short of dishonor and reproach, we are bound to fight. That is a safe general rule, even under New Testament guidance, and in obedience to the teaching and to the spirit of Christ.

And we must fight for peace. ---This point has so much interest to our generation that it demands a separate consideration. We have always seen a world at war, and even now it is very incompletely pacified. Dissensions, quarrels, contendings, and even wars are not likely soon to cease. And, as a matter of fact, no one will venture to argue---even after these thousands of years of wrong---that we are yet within sight of the time when all quarrels [international, national, domestic, or social] shall be at an end, when the law-courts shall be abolished, and when they shall 'learn war' no more. Yet force is not the supreme law of Christ's Kingdom, and material war---war on the physical plane---is contrary to the spirit of His rule. The testimony of His warriors, the inscription on their banner, will always be 'The love of Christ constraineth,' not 'the sword of the Lord and of Gideon.' But so far war has been necessary, may even be necessary again.

Yet necessary as it may have been up until now, it is only because it has been the lesser of two evils, one of which men's sins had made inevitable. All war is a filthy business. I utterly and entirely dissent from the view that there is something essentially uplifting in war as war. Every normal human being must dreads, loathe, and detest war, for if it reveals some things that savor of heaven it but reveals more that reek of hell. See what the glorification of war has done for any country. Look at the temper of mind that goes with war---hard, arrogant, domineering, unable to appreciate the rights of others or even to understand others point of view. It has always given a unscrupulous government in modern times; for as sure as you get a nation mastered by the monster of militarism, a nation in which everything else in administration is subordinated to militaristic ideals, you get a Government without sentiment, without humanity, without respect for the ordinary obligations of truth and honor.

If we want to fight for God we have to fight war. We're not expected to fall upon the neck of every person we meet, or to proclaim ourselves bosom friends at the first sight of every acquaintance. We are not asked to believe that we have no enemies. But we can repress hostile feelings by definite goodwill. Unless we have utterly given place to the devil, we must wish everyone well, even when they have done us wrong; for repentance can come to those who have injured us only when they have become better persons. This goodwill, as a persistent orientation of soul, is a creative sentiment, and it means sweetening our own hearts as well as sweetening others. We who want to in war need to ask ourselves whether in our personal relationships we act as a unifying or disintegrating force; whether we have the effect of making friends are multiplying enemies. We ought to be concerned about any misunderstanding, rupture of intimacy, or drift towards hostility as a thing at all cost to be avoided, because it cuts us off from that mediated communion with God which is the foundation of all health of soul.

We must go on fighting when we have won peace. ---This sounds a little paradoxical, but it is not. We are to stop war between nations: but we can never stop fighting. That which invest war, in spite of all the evils that attend it, with a certain moral grandeur, is the heroic self sacrifice it elicits. With perhaps the single exception of the Church, it is the sphere in which mercenary motives have least sway, in which performance is least weighed and measured by strict obligation, in which a disinterested enthusiasm has most scope. A battlefield is scene of deeds of self sacrifice so transcendent, and at the same time so dramatic, that, in spite of all its horrors and crimes, it awakens the most passionate moral enthusiasm. Is there no other way of arousing this moral enthusiasm, no other way of evoking to the same degree the spirit of self sacrifice? Yes, if civilization as a whole could rise to the moral level we are requisite for it. We may maintain one great thing which modern civilization has yet to do is to find a moral substitute for war, an incentive to action that would bring out the grandest qualities of human nature without the accompaniment of slaughter and the suffering and anguish that follow in its train.

We want a trained and disciplined people; a muscular, full blooded, and courageous people; a people that can use its weapons and aim straight. But---and here the whole question comes---are the only weapons guns and uh? We are taught to aim straight, shall the only target be the bodies of our fellow men? Are not the disk and the plow as good for human handling as sword and gun? Aim skillfully with them at Mother Earth, and the results, in turning wildernesses into fruitful fields, are surely as good as the maming of limbs and the beating out of brains! Does not Nature offer us a field for all our courage and all our skill? To tunnel her mountains, and drain her swamps, combat her diseases, explore her unknown territories; to become masters of her sea and land, of her heights above and the depths beneath; to wring from her those jealously guarded secrets which, once disclosed, will make men into son's of God---is there not enough in this warfare to call out all the strength and daring there is in us?

Instead of the conscript's of slaughter let us have the conscripts' of industry, the conscript's of human development. The militarsts are right in demanding national organization, a training system which lets no individual escape. But let us have the right training and for the right objects. In previous ages man has been marvelously industrious a marvelously brave in the business of making his brother made miserable. We want now all that industry and all that courage in making him happy. After his ages of madness let him began his period of sanity. After placing his valor, his civilization, his religion so long at the devil's service, let him, for a change, place them at his own.

In Christ, timothy. MARANATHA

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