Marching in the Streets

By Mike Willis

God said of the Messiah whom he would send into the world to save mankind from sin, that he would not march in the streets.

He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth (Isa. 42:2-3).

The kingdom of Christ is not political. He neither organized armies nor protest marches, but there are lessons to be learned from such events when they occur in the kingdoms of men.

War is deplorable. Each of us wishes that war with Iraq were not necessary. The brutalities which Iraq has committed against the citizens of Kuwait, the bombing of civilians in Israel and Saudi Arabia, the eight year war against Iran, and similar instances have convinced the member nations of the United Nations that Iraq must be stopped now. Consequently, America has joined hands with her sister nations in going to war against Iraq.

No sooner had war begun than a vocal minority went into the streets to protest American involvement in the war. They burned the American flag, decried the policies of President Bush, and committed acts of violence during their peace protests. Both the protestors and some Congressmen have sent a signal to Saddam Hussein that says the American people are not prepared to engage in and sustain a war.

The popular, politically conservative columnist, Cal Thomas, wrote an article entitled “‘Anti-war’ Crowd Strips Life of Moral Values” (The Indianapolis Star [28 January 1991, p. 9-A) in which he said,

The peace movement always tries to seize the moral high ground by declaring itself against all war . . . . The demonstrators are constantly referred to in the press as “anti-war,” but this is a serious misnomer. Everyone detests war. The difference is that most of us are willing to accept war if it is the only way to protect our highest values. These demonstrators see no values worth fighting for.

Some peace activists tell us that “war never solves anything.” That will come as a surprise to those who fought in World War II and to the people of Nazi-occupied Europe.

To be “anti-war” strips life of true moral concerns and accepts a view of man that denies the possibility of human evil. To acknowledge evil is to acknowledge goodness and the necessity to oppose evil’s agenda, which seeks to impose itself on the good.

There Is a Way for Peace

There is always a way for peace. America could have lived in peace with Adolf Hitler and the Japanese during World War II. All that would have been necessary for peace to exist would be absolute and unconditional surrender to the tyrants who wish to run rough shod over their fellow man. Peace could be had with Hitler, even though he methodically slaughtered innocent men in gas chambers, by executions squads, and during unprovoked invasions. Yes, there was a way to have peace without going to war with Hitler and Japan. Men could have submitted to their tyranny.

We can be at peace with Iraq as well. We can sit back and watch Iraq destroy one Arabic republic after another until he has complete control of that part of the world. We can wait until he is able to tyrannize the whole world, not just a part of the world, with nuclear bombs, not merely with chemical and biological weapons. Then, when he threatens with these bombs, we can quietly and meekly surrender to his threats and no war will ever have to occur.

Marching in the Streets

The handfuls of protestors have the right to march in the streets because their forefathers did not agree with the principles which they are advocating. If these same protestors lived in Iraq, they would not be allowed to march in the streets in protest of the war policies of Saddam Hussein. If they lived in China, they would not be allowed to march in Tiananmen Square. If they lived in Lithuania, their papers would be seized and their voices silenced. But, American protestors can march in the street and protest the war in the middle east because brave Americans fought to preserve their freedoms. Our forefathers thought liberty was worth dying for; they preferred to fight and die as free men rather than be in subjection to tryants such as Hitler and Hussein. These words of Patrick Henry have inspired many Americans, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Not A Political Article

This article is not intended to be a political article, any more than Jesus intended to make political statements in his references to the affairs of the kingdoms of men (Matt. 22:19-21; Lk. 14:31-32). Rather, I want to point out some similarities between our political peace protestors and their spiritual cousins who protest religious warfare.

A minority among us protects every opposition to false doctrine. They howl and accuse when someone exposes false teaching, whether it be taught by a brother among us or a denominational preacher. They decry the “brotherhood watchdogs, ” “the guardians of orthodoxy,” spiritual “McCarthyism,” and similar such things.

They write their condemnations in church bulletins paid for by churches which exist because there were God-fearing men who opposed the in-roads of institutionalism in the 1950s. They speak from pulpits which were built because faithful preachers opposed the introduction of instrumental music in the late 19th century. If their spiritual forefathers had followed the path they advocate, they would not have a pulpit from which to preach or a bulletin in which to write. They would have no medium to undermine the men whose spiritual brothers built the congregation with which they labor. They would have no financial support for themselves or their families, because the churches where they preach would not exist today.

I don’t know how you feel about either these political protestors or their religious cousins, but I have had my fill of both. I wish that some of these political protestors would start their own countries in which they demonstrate by 200 years of application of their principles that their plan will work – that they can establish and maintain peace, a peace with all the liberties available in our country, without ever taking up the sword in self-defense.

Similarly, let their spiritual cousins, the religious peace protestors who call for a positive gospel, go out and start congregations where they never condemn denominations by name from their pulpit, where social drinking, mixed swimming, and divorce for any reason (still allowing both parties to marry another) are not condemned, where there are no elders and no contributions because they deny that there is any such thing as the local congregation. Then, when they have built up the cause of Christ and shown its ability to exist in the denominational culture without imbibing the spiritual darkness of this present world for a couple of centuries, we can believe their way will work.

However, I grow tired of these political and religious protestors living like parasites, all the while despising authority and biting the hand that feeds them (Jude 3).

Like their political cousins in the anti-war movement, those who decry all religious controversy also are saying, by implication but not in so many words, “There are no moral or doctrinal issues worth fighting for.” If this is not so, let them tell us what issues are of enough importance that they will don the ugly clothes of a debater and join the enemy in conflict. Is instrumental music in worship, church support of human institutions, church sponsored recreation, divorce for causes other than fornication and marriage to another, and such like issues worth entering the fray? No, these brethren have condemned the “guardians of the party, ” the “brotherhood watchdogs,” and their ilk who wage spiritual war against these assaults against the truth.

All the while that they condemn us for doing battle, they tell us that they agree with the truth we are defending. They are like their political “anti-war” advocates who say, “We are against war, but not the troops. ” Nice try, but it won’t work. If one really believed that these apostasies were evil, he would join in the battle to stop their spread, instead of raising objections against those who are willing to do battle to stop their spread.

Carnal and Spiritual Warfare

Carnal war has to do with the affairs of nations, relations between nations, and the rise and fall of nations, all under God’s providence. It is not the purpose of this article to address the question of a Christian’s participation in carnal warfare. All Christians agree that God rules over the nations to accomplish his own purposes, and that Jesus used war to illustrate several lessons, whatever we conclude about a Christian’s participation. There is room for liberty of conscience on the latter point.

The political protestors we see in the streets are not humble Christians who are conscientious objectors with a conscience rooted in the gospel of Christ. No, they are carnal minded men with their own political agendas, many of whom display bitterness and malice toward all authority.

The warfare of which we speak is spiritual, not carnal. Paul described it in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

This spiritual warfare is designed to advance the kingdom of Christ, not the kingdoms of men, which explains the difference in methods. Jesus explained this difference saying,

My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence (Jn. 18:36).

Our warfare is limited only by the spiritual nature of the church. Beyond that, it is unlimited war designed to eradicate sin and eliminate error. “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13). Jesus demands the unconditional surrender of all men to himself. Short of that conclusion, there are no compromises to negotiate, no terms of peace to sign. Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I come not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34).

Every Christian is enrolled for the duration of the conflict. There are no furloughs, holidays, or retirements. Instead of signs littered with venom and protest against war, instead of offering aid and comfort to the enemy, instead of chanting in defiance to authority, we carry the bloodstained banner of the cross. Following King Jesus we sing, as Sabine Gould wrote,

Onward Christian soldiers,

Marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus

Going on before;

Christ the royal Master,

Leads against the foe;

Forward into battle,

See His banners go.

Our slogans and mottos are, “Fight the good fight of faith,” “I am set for the defense of the gospel,” “Earnestly contend for the faith,” and “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Tim. 6:12; Phil. 1:17; Jude 3; 1 Cor. 16:13).

Brethren, let us press the battle for truth and right. Let us not send a signal to Satan that the people of God are not prepared to engage in and sustain a war against the armies of sin and false doctrine. The way to peace is through the victory of truth. Laying aside every personal ambition and human loyalty, confident in the victory of the cause of Christ, let us press the battle.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 5, pp. 130, 149-150
March 7, 1991