1940s and 1950s in America
“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.”
With a line of children convening for vacation Bible school, I marched with head erect and body taut as if I’d enlisted in God’s army. We studied Bible warriors Joshua and David. We learned the strong stands of Daniel and Ezekiel. Teachers armed us with the necessary weaponry. Each child including me yearned to fight for Christ.
Song leaders in our church peppered Sunday music with militant Christian melodies. The titles of our hymns included A Mighty Fortress is our God, Onward Christian Soldiers and Stand Up for Jesus, Ye Soldiers of the Cross. Who could forget the Christian song that became a theme of the civil war, The Battle Hymn of the Republic?
Let’s take a look at the history of the militant church.
Christian beginnings, around 30 AD
The early church fought persecution to stand up for their beliefs. In Acts 7:59, we read of Christianity’s first martyr when Stephen was stoned. Acts 12 tells of James’ sacrificial death and the imprisonment of Peter, while Acts 14 gives account of one of Paul’s many torments.
No wonder Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”
During the first generation, Christians were warriors.
Crusades of 11th, 12th and 13th Century
With the rise of Islam through Mohammed’s influence in the 600s, violence escalated into a military siege focused on the Holy Land. In 637 AD, Muslims conquered Jerusalem. Christians evangelized the known world and through the years, determined to return and fight for the Holy Land. That began the Crusades. Though during that period, they did not completely succeed at winning back the Holy Land for Christianity, they took up the cross, willing to lay down their lives for their Lord.
Time of Reformation, 1517
A German priest named Martin Luther posted ninety-five theses, or beliefs on the door of the church on All Saints Day, November 1, 1517. Christians attending the celebration that day read his declaration. (As an aside, All Saints Day honored fallen heroes or warriors of Christianity, or as the name implies—all saints that had died in Christ). When ordered to take the paper down, Martin Luther refused and faced his enemy’s wrath. The pope excommunicated him from the established church branding him an outlaw. Luther, John Calvin, and others objected to or protested the doctrines of the established church that preached Christians had to send gifts to the Pope to keep their salvation. Their followers were called Protestants.
Luther’s radical views included the idea that salvation could neither be bought, nor earned; it was a gift of God. Today, we can thank this man for searching out the Scripture and bringing this truth to light. Luther fought for what he believed and stood on the premise of evolving from a church penitent to a church triumphant. Many of our warrior hymns came out of that time period. The song A Mighty Fortress is Our God became the theme for these militant Christians of the Reformation.
September 11, 2001 in America
Some of the enemies to Christianity and America besieged our land and killed three thousand people. Radical Islam terrorists kill and maim American soldiers every day. On the home front, atheists seek to eliminate every vestige of Christianity from our schools, our government, and our community programs. Humanists and agnostics hold up tolerance for every idea and belief except Christianity. The devil binds up our children with gangs, drugs and promiscuity Where are the American Christian warriors fighting with the "sword of the Spirit?"
Christians in other countries withstand mighty persecution to hold the line and fight for their beliefs.
Easter, 2011 in Egypt
On Dec. 31, 2010, Coptic Christians in Alexandria, Egypt gathered for a midnight service. While the people in the church prayed in 2011, an unknown terrorist bombed the church killing twenty-three and injuring ninety-seven. The next day dawned with Christians marching in the street near their church shouting, “We sacrifice our souls and blood for the Holy Cross.”
Today’s Fighters for Christ
Our songs talk more of leaning on Jesus’ breast and Jesus breaks every chain. These messages minister to the addictions and problems of the day. Our churches need them. Yet, we must not forget the militant spirit of Christ’s church.
In America, several organizations war against the enemy and hold the line for Christian beliefs. Some of these include Focus on the Family, American Family Association, One Million Moms.com, Christian Legal Services, and most of our churches. Other fighter organizations specialize in their expertise such as: Exodus International, Pure Life Ministries, True Love Waits, and Voice for Martyrs.
Many American Christians fight the devil both through these types of organizations or one-on-one and with small groups. When Martin Luther posted his beliefs that began the reformation, I doubt he knew the impact his stand would have on future Christians. The lonely lady witnessing and taking her neighborhood for Christ may win few but could start a revival.
Let us be reminded of our need not only for Christ’s love, but for His reformation power. Enemies threaten the church on every side. In America, we need the Holy Spirit to fire up soldiers for His cause.
Are you a wimp or a recruit?