In the book of Nehemiah, God’s people had just come back from 70 years in captivity in Babylon and had been commissioned to rebuild Jerusalem. In chapter 4, we get an up close look at the work of rebuilding the city wall in Jerusalem, which included enemy opposition to the work…
4 Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”
Nonetheless, the people of God were not deterred. They prayed to God for his protection (v4-5), and they got to work (v6)…
6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
And not only did they work, they fought. They had fight in their prayers (v4-5), fight in their hands (v17) and fight on their hips (v18)…
15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.
There is much to learn here for the Christian church in our day. Of course, we too must have a mind to work, whether in terms of our vocation (Colossians 3:23) or the working out of our salvation (Philippians 2:12-13). And while the weapons of our warfare are not swords and shields, we too must fight (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). In fact, just as work is a part of God’s very good design for the world, so too is warfare.
Author N.D. Wilson pointed out somewhere that in Genesis 3, before sin ever entered the world, God assigned Adam a fight. The very presence of the serpent in the Garden of Eden teaches us that Adam was to fight Satan by fighting for his wife and fighting the temptation to sin. Of course, Adam failed on all fronts. He passively stood by as Satan deceived Eve, and gave into temptation himself (Genesis 3:1-6).
The gospel is that Jesus did not fail as Adam failed. He fought Satan, sin, and death, and he won. And when we come to Christ, not only do we receive the salvation that he fought for, we learn how to fight like our Lord.
The point I want to make here is very simple… it is that Christians must learn to love and embrace the fight. In the same way that we would argue for the inherent goodness of work because of the fact that it is a part of God’s very good, pre-fall design for the world (Genesis 1:28, 2:15), so too we must embrace the inherent goodness of fighting the enemies God assigns.
- We must fight for the truth, which involves fighting those both outside and inside the church.
- We must fight personal sin, whether passivity or lustful passion, bitterness or boasting, covetousness or cowardice. Whatever sin the Lord exposes in us, we must fight to kill.
- We must fight for the biblical vision of marriage and the family, which not only involves opposing the lies in the culture, but also, even primarily in my case, involves loving and shepherding the wife and children the Lord has entrusted to me.
- Such leadership certainly involves fighting my own sin, but it also involves fighting the sin in my wife and children as I seek to lead them in obedience to the Lord on the path to glory.
- We need elders who will fight for the sheep, which sometimes involves fighting the sheep themselves in order to bring them back into the fold.
- We must fight to break the chains of injustice.
On and on it goes. As Christians, we must fight.