Spiritual. Warfare. In normal vernacular, these are very separate concepts. In Christianese spiritual warfare is considered to be a high calling. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV) clearly states, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The Koran describes three types of Jihad or holy war: The personal struggle against sin, the battle against satan, and the defense of faith against nonbelievers. Again, the word holy teamed up with war seems extreme, especially in the context of cultural application.
As we gather, safely, to worship, and by safely I mean six feet apart and wearing masks, not safely as in free of gunmen shooting up our church or synagogue, I wonder if we might consider attitudes towards others as the real demonic forces we are to confront. I look at the five empty chairs in the row next to me on Sunday and imagine the people I have the most difficulty tolerating as the people Jesus is calling on me to love.
If you were to join me in this stretch of compassionate imagination, it is likely your five chairs may be occupied by some of the same people groups as mine, but with individuals personal to you. Our pastor recently challenged us to prepare the way for the Lord by preparing for the likelihood of a transgendered student coming to our church’s school. She was not asking us to sign up for a group onslaught of “conversion therapy” but rather to examine intolerance, indifference, and ignorance of the other as the battlefield of the heart, mind, and soul.
The song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” Is there a gay Latinx poet, a young Republican shop keeper, a single parent, an addict, or an Indigenous activist waiting to sit next to you and join the chorus?
“In My Father’s house there are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
Maybe a part of the reason it’s taking time to prepare the many rooms is because the design will reveal we are to be neighbors to the entire world, all at the same time.