Introductory Note:

This is the second part of Richard Foster’s consideration of all the implications of being in the Lamb’s Army. Read the first part here: The Peaceable War of the Lamb.

Renovaré Team

Pow­er­ful weapons

The weapons of our war­fare are mighty to the pulling down of strong­holds,” as Paul puts it (1 Cor. 10:4). But they are not rec­og­niz­able as weapons by mod­ern soci­ety — includ­ing most con­tem­po­rary Chris­tians. They are the weapons of love and peace, of truth and integri­ty, of prayer and faith.

I have always been moved by the weapon­ry list which Paul gives in Eph­esians 6 — truth and right­eous­ness and peace and faith and sal­va­tion and the word of God. As you know, Paul uses the metaphor of Roman mil­i­tary garb, but when his metaphor gives out, he keeps on adding weapons, espe­cial­ly prayer: Pray at all times in the Spir­it with all prayer and sup­pli­ca­tion” (Eph. 6:18).

These weapons and this war­fare, Paul tells us, is not against flesh and blood, but against the prin­ci­pal­i­ties, against the pow­ers, against the world rulers of this present dark­ness, against the spir­i­tu­al hosts of wicked­ness in the heav­en­ly places” (Eph. 6:12). In say­ing this he does not mean that flesh and blood are unim­por­tant; only that behind the flesh and blood and con­trol­ling the flesh and blood are pow­ers and prin­ci­pal­i­ties of a spir­i­tu­al nature. The aim of our attack is to defeat the prin­ci­pal­i­ties that con­trol and incar­nate them­selves in flesh and blood.

Spir­i­tu­al warfare

This is a spir­i­tu­al war­fare we are engaged in. Our world is with demons filled,” as Mar­tin Luther under­stood so well. And, if, in our social jus­tice efforts we do not speak to the deep issues of the spir­it, we will trade only one form of demon­ic oppres­sion for another.

For exam­ple, when we approach absen­tee land­lords of ghet­to apart­ments, we speak to the prin­ci­pal­i­ty of avarice that con­trols them. When we con­front polit­i­cal pol­i­cy mak­ers or cor­po­rate exec­u­tives, we do so with an inward strength born out of prayer and fast­ing, seek­ing to defeat the spir­its of vest­ed inter­est and covetousness.

What we so often fail to under­stand is that these weapons of ours are incred­i­bly pow­er­ful — more pow­er­ful than B‑1 bombers and Tri­dent mis­sile sys­tems and Strate­gic Defense Ini­tia­tives. Pow­er­ful, that is, if we will train our­selves to use them effec­tive­ly. No weapons sys­tem is effec­tive unless sol­diers are trained in its use.

In Acts 13 we are told of the first mis­sion­ary ven­ture of Paul on the island of Cyprus. He was hav­ing such a good and pow­er­ful work that the gov­er­nor of the island sum­moned him to speak at the palace.

But the local magi­cian, Ely­mas by name, did­n’t like Paul crowd­ing in on his ter­ri­to­ry, and so he tried to oppose this good work. As you recall, Paul turned to him and, in the pow­er of God, declared, The hand of the Lord is upon you and you shall be blind and unable to see the sun for a time” (Acts 13:11). Pow­er­ful weapons indeed!

George Fox, a 17th-cen­tu­ry British Chris­t­ian, was once preach­ing the gospel with great pow­er, when a drunk­en sol­dier came up to him, pulled out his sword, and placed it at Fox’s throat, demand­ing that he stop preach­ing or he would run him through with the sword. Fox looked straight at the man and, in the mighty pow­er of God, said to him, Hack away, your sword is noth­ing to me but a straw!”

With that dec­la­ra­tion the pow­er of God fell upon that man, and he stag­gered back­wards, fell to the ground and was con­vert­ed to Christ. Strong weapons of the first order!

No polit­i­cal agenda

Now, when we try to under­stand the social impli­ca­tions of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we run the very great dan­ger of politi­ciz­ing” the gospel mes­sage. This has been attempt­ed fre­quent­ly by both Left and Right in all cen­turies of the Church, includ­ing our own — per­haps espe­cial­ly our own.

Let me state as unequiv­o­cal­ly as I can that the war­fare of the Lamb is not a social or polit­i­cal stance. Its aim is not even to cor­rect soci­etal ills. That is the result, to be sure, but almost nev­er in the way in which we imag­ine it.

The king­dom of our God and of his Christ is of anoth­er real­i­ty alto­geth­er, and while its effects are to pull down the king­doms of this world, it does so only as a con­se­quence of a deep­er reality.

Those peo­ple who are tak­en over by a new pow­er to do right, who can­not be bribed or manip­u­lat­ed or flat­tered, who are brought off of a bondage to oth­ers, will bring down (by their very pres­ence and actions) those struc­tures sus­tained by greed and pride and fear. Those peo­ple who have been dis­ci­plined in the Lam­b’s Army so that right­eous­ness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spir­it” are part of their deep­est habits will attack struc­tur­al evil with divine author­i­ty and with­out compromise.

Peo­ple who have expe­ri­enced deeply that all-inclu­sive com­mu­ni­ty of lov­ing per­sons which knows Christ as its prime sus­tain­er and most glo­ri­ous inhab­i­tant will no longer han­ker after the com­pet­i­tive, ego-dom­i­nat­ed rat race of con­tem­po­rary society. 

Those peo­ple who, as a fixed pat­tern of life, walk by the great com­mand­ment of love of God and neigh­bor will trans­form our per­son­al, social, insti­tu­tion­al, and polit­i­cal world almost beyond recog­ni­tion by their sim­ple non-coop­er­a­tion with the bat­tles, oppres­sion, prej­u­dice, and class strife of mod­ern culture.

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished as part of The Lam­b’s War” in Equip­ping the Saints (Spring, 1989).

Text First Published March 1989

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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