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“On a warm summer’s eve
On a train bound for nowhere
I met up with the gambler
We were both too tired to sleep..”

I truly do dislike that particular ear worm so I’ve decided to pass along the misery. It really was a lovely song until it became a commercial and words so overplayed they have nearly lost all meaning. Too much of a good thing is not so good. It is incredible how many jingles can worm their way into our brains and clutter up the gears.

Just the same, there is great wisdom in that little diddy, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away, know when to run.” I am not much of a gambler beyond a few nickel slots once in a blue moon. My Grandma did teach me how to play black jack and five-card stud for pennies and poker chips, but the lure of gambling just isn’t there for me.

pokerIt’s an ongoing theme in my life however, when to stand, when to let go of some cards, when to boldly flee. When to surrender and when to persevere. Each situation is different, people are all different, and there are many variables at play, so there is no one size fits all solution to these challenges. There is a time to stand firm and time to be gentle and let it all go.

Recently there’s been some really good discussions about when to fight and when to surrender all, in a Christian context. There are some who are all about “just turn the other cheek, judge not, love your enemies.” Those are beautiful spiritual concepts and should always be held close to our hearts, but some do take it a bit far. Love you enemy can slide right into love The Enemy.

I wish that worked, I wish that was a viable option, I wish you could just pour love all over bad things and make them good. We as people however, cannot do that. God can, but not us. There’s an old saying, “you don’t dance with the devil, he dances with you.” Wise words there. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of idealism, but idealism without wisdom can be deadly.

There are a lot of paradoxes within faith so the idea that you either hold ’em or fold ’em is not really an either/or proposition. I like to say, first we surrender….and then we fight. Keep in mind that there are many ways to “fight,” in prayer, in intercession, in speaking out, in standing up. In going forth boldly into some dark place and speaking the truth. In encouraging others. In healing, in allowing our own lives to be transformed. To “fight” simply means “to contend in battle,” and sorry, but it is not always going to involve swords, traditional weaponry, catapults, armor, or potato guns. I wish it did, some of those toys can be a lot of fun.

In the Western world many of us have grown rather comfortable, somewhat complacent. Often to to be a Western Christian is to be a part of the dominant culture, to enjoy some of The World’s approval. It is so easy for some to forget the scandal of the cross, the radical ideas that Christ taught, the persecution that people have always faced for thousands of years. To surrender to Christ doesn’t just create sweet, gentle spirits, it can also create powerful people who surrender to no man, who know Who they really answer to for their actions. This seldom goes over very well with any given Powers That Be.

I grew up right smack dab in the middle of the Western world, in what should have been the complacency and normalcy of Western Christianity, enjoying the approval of the culture at large. What should have been. It wasn’t however, because I grew up within some very militant atheism. The few times I managed to read the bible it was a covert activity. The few times I went to church it was done on the down low, through the back door, be sure to give people a fake name least any try to follow you home. I have some idea of what it means to truly have to fight for your faith. For decades. There is no doubt in my mind that there has always been a battle for my soul, one both of this world and not of this world.

I now live in a place where the influence of Christianity, although evident and present, is not dominant. There is a lot of alternative “Christianity” too, from rainbow flags with crosses on them to the atheist church. Very melodramatic of me, but this is a bit like being on the front lines of a spiritual war, in the trenches of a battlefield.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” -Ephesians 6:12

A-yep, pretty much.

Sometimes I get a bit short tempered, a bit impatient with what I call cultural Christianity, the complacency of the love your neighbor crowd, the sunshine of the prosperity ministers. I don’t mean to be unkind here, I realize everybody serves a purpose in God’s Kingdom and there are many parts. I don’t really want to beat up on Christians either, I’ve seen entirely to much of that lately. It is somewhat funny, culturally Christians are sometimes perceived as the root of all evil and yet on the heel of those accusations also comes, where is all the Christian love?? Sometimes it’s a bit like watching a game of ping pong.

There is a place for doves and and a place for serpents, a place for sheep and even a place for border collies perhaps, for the dogs that herd sheep. What shouldn’t be forgotten however is that faith is a fight, it is hard work, we travail. Learning how to fight back even just spiritually is a significant part of what we are called to do.

…..on the front lines of a spiritual war, in the trenches.


****REPOST FROM 2015