I play this game called Zombies ate my friends. Obviously it’s fun. As with many of this type of game, the general idea is for you to purchase stuff so that you can kill as many zombies as you can. You encounter all manner of zombie/ former humans as well as rats and need to utilize your resources and energies well as you gain levels of points, skills, weapons, etc. Weapons can be everything from a mop to an Uzi. And you have to scrounge around for ammo or buy it from merchants throughout the game. It is a splendid waste of time.
It got me thinking though. What a good picture of how some of us attack others. What I realized during a recent battle was that so many times, Christians I know waste their energies on battles they cannot possibly win. They simply don’t have the skills and needed resources to even engage that “zombie” and really need to stop trying. Like my husband who laughs and tells me to “stop dying” because I can’t be patient and wait until my health and energy levels go back up before launching an attack, some Christians I know are way too eager for the battle.
Now, don’t get me wrong. As Christians we are called to be salt and light. We are called to live holy lives and to stand firm against sin and the enemy. But often, people get confused about who the enemy is. The enemy is sin. And that changes the stakes. The stakes are people’s souls and their willingness to listen to us. the stakes are not simply to get people to behave the way we think they should, or the way we think we already are behaving, as if we don’t sin. The stakes are investing in lives who desperately need to hear truth but are convinced the truth is ugly, hateful and always yelling at them.
I wish that people who try to engage in “combatting sin” would take a huge step back from the forefront and ask themselves if this is the battle they should be in. Make no mistake, if you believe in Jesus, you are called to the war. But maybe you’re in the wrong battle. Maybe you sent yourself to the wrong battleground. Your experience and resources are wrongly matched to the fight you keep getting yourself into. You are essentially not only barking up the wrong tree for you, but you are damaging the tree at its roots, scarring and destroying the chances of its survival.
How do you know if you are in the wrong battle? I think a battle is a good analogy to consider. No one enters a battle without knowing some things. They know that a battle must be fought. That something needs to be done, that diplomacy has been worn out and is over. I would argue in some ways diplomacy is never over and that all out war ended on the cross. But for argument sake, let’s say that this kind of battle I am talking about is not a violent and bloody one.
I think the plan of attack is to know your enemy. I believe if you are someone who doesn’t understand the enemy, doesn’t understand the sin and the struggle the sinner is in, doesn’t know firsthand or can’t even engage in the rationale for the sin, you are in the wrong battle. Perhaps your compassion capacity is zero and your experience level is practically negligible in this battle. Leave it to those who have walked the enemy’s road. Leave it to the ones who know the language, the demeanor, the culture, the ethos. Get away from the front lines where the enemy can hear your ignorance and arrogance. Step away from the fields of potential landlines where sin has entrapped so many who are to blind and proud to see them.
It is time for Christians to stop talking. It is time for Christians to listen, to ask questions about things they know nothing about and have so far been unwilling to handle and quite incapable of handling. Shut up and listen.
It is time for Christians to engage the real enemy, sin. Their own. The plank in our eyes shows itself so clearly when we are at war. Like a soldier taunting across the field at troops who stopped listening to him days ago, so many Christians have stopped being relevant and heard. We are content to applaud each other on our well formed attacks and exceedingly funded campaigns but meanwhile the enemy has packed up and moved on.
It is time for Christians to know their own sin, to repent of their pride, to take up their cross and to follow the One who showed us how to engage. He showed us how to be humbled, to condescend and to bear the shame with his enemy. To become one of the very people who were once his greatest antagonizers, those who beat him down and defied him, those who wanted nothing to do with him and rejected him over and over. He showed us how to engage a woman caught in sin. He showed us how to avoid political issues. He showed us how to not get trapped into theological discourses that go nowhere helpful. He gave us the power through the spirit to be controlled, not controlling, kind and not full of spite, forgiving and not shaming. He told us to have courage, because the war is won already, because He is not threatened by sin or those who wield power here on earth. He reminded us that we were once just as lost and pitiful as the least of these, that we were once his enemies and he suffered to death for us. He became one of us to reach us. He had the resources and he gained the experience as a human being, and as such learned to love, truly, deeply love his enemies. Oh to be like him.
Unlike the game of zombies, we can’t just walk away. We can’t turn off the battle around us or ignore the work that God has called us to. But the work is not in our weapons or our cleverly worded campaigns or succinct marketing strategies. Our work is in believing. The work is to believe Jesus is who he said he is and that he did what he said he would do. Our battle is best fought in the belief that our resources are limited, but the Kingdom’s are not ever exhausted. We believe that the war has been won, that we labor well when we let the King reign and lead the efforts, as He has done in the past and will do ever more. We put down our man made weapons and stop our clumsy attempts at shielding ourselves from harm. We look the enemy, the real enemy of sin, in the eye and we say. I know you. I understand you and how you exist. I name you. And in Jesus’ name, I remind us all that you have been conquered and have no power over those who believe. And I will leave the fighting to him.