Civilian or Soldier: Which Are You?
The Bible makes it clear that the people of God are to be on the offensive in storming the gates of hell (See post) and that Christians are to put on the armor of God (See post). However, in modern Western Christianity, it is much more common to behave more like civilians on a vacation than soldiers in God’s army.
A soldier in battle conducts himself very differently from a civilian. The civilian naturally wants to indulge his or her interests and desires while avoiding inconveniences as much as possible. But soldiers understand they are called to sacrifice their interests and desires, if not their lives, to advance the cause for which they fight.
The NT clearly calls us to live like soldiers. As good soldiers, we are to always seek to please our “enlisting officer” and not become involved in civilian affairs (2 Tim 2:4). We are always to be on guard against our enemy who perpetually seeks to lure us into sin and lull us into compromise. We are to crucify ourselves, set aside all concerns for worldly comfort and security, and at every moment seek first the kingdom of God (Mt 6:24-34). We are to live with the singular mission of advancing God’s kingdom by the unique way we live, the self-sacrificial way we love, the humble way we serve, and the power we demonstrate against oppressive forces.
In sharp contrast to this, almost everything about the consumeristic, materialistic, and hedonistic culture in the West encourages us to live as if we are on vacation. From childhood on we are bombarded with messages that in various ways tell us “the good life” is centered on pursuing “the American dream”: indulge yourself as much as possible; acquire as much wealth as possible; live with as much comfort, convenience, and pleasure as possible.
The extent to which Western Christians have succumbed to the consumer culture that engulfs us is evidenced by the numerous studies that reveal that the lifestyle and core values of most professing Christians in America are almost indistinguishable from those of their secular neighbors.
While it’s understandable that secular people would want to live life as self-indulged and carefree as possible, for a soldier this is equivalent to going AWOL. We are called to wear the armor and retain the mind-set of a good soldier.
—Adapted from Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views, pages 151-152