The following is a short section from the end of Turn Neither Right Nor Left. It was released recently and is now available on Amazon.com.
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The war that Christians fight is, paradoxically, a war of love and peace. We fight spiritual warfare, and yet the fruit of the Spirit are all humble, other-centered qualities that we praise much and practice little:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22–23)
In other words, if war produces unflinching commitment to the cause, it is important to recognize that the war that we’re meant to be fighting is one of good character and Christian perseverance. At all costs we pursue a no-compromise attitude to love even our enemies, and to do those things that guard our discipleship of Christ. While we tend to want to be right and to divide from those who differ from us, the New Testament is consistent in imploring us to be the kind of people who are humble, who listen to reason, who are kind, and eager to serve (e.g., Jas 3:17–18). It is consistent in calling us to peace and unity (e.g., 1 Pet 3:8–11).
Engaging in this warfare of peace and love has the ability to change our enemies to disciples. Look at what Peter says:
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Pet 2:11–12)
As exiles in this world, Peter says, Christians ought to wage war not on our host nations, but on our own passions. By keeping our way of life pure, any accusations that our opponents might bring against us would be refuted by our good conduct. While it is not clear here that these enemies are glorifying God willingly, in 1 Pet 3:1, he says that our honorable behavior is a tool by which we win opponents over. But if our behavior is dishonorable, there’s no doubt that we’re losing the war.
The cold fact is that if the whole world rejected evolution, they would most likely be looking for the next scientific explanation and be no closer to Christ. If the whole Western world rejected feminism, it would be no more Christian than the patriarchal societies that feminism has not reached. If the whole church became premillennialist, it would not guarantee our unity in any other respect, we would not know Jesus better or love him more, and not a single soul would have joined us in our walk. If we managed to pressure the outside world into giving us our way on gay marriage, abortion, and so on, we might be happier with the morality of our laws, but it will have done little to restrain the morality of people and nothing to introduce them to Christ. On the contrary, if we insist on fighting with the weapons that we have been using, rather than the humble, self-sacrificial attitude of love and service that the Spirit gives us to use, we might have done more to put them off of the gospel than to commend it to them.
The polarized culture war that evangelicals have chosen to fight is a dirty, bloodied campaign to prevent the world from encroaching on us. Yet Christ has commissioned us to change the world—he has commissioned us to make disciples and to wash one another’s feet. It is this and this alone that has the power to succeed.