In the Lord of the Rings, Faramir, one of the Dúnadan and a prince of Gondor says to Éowyn, a princess of Rohan:
I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend…
While the Dúnadan (Rangers) stood for truth and defending those in need in Middle Earth, they did not go around looking for a fight. This echoes an important truth that all true prophets and defenders of the truth, especially the “faith once delivered unto the saints” should know. We could easily recast Farimir’s statement as:
I do not love the argument for its sharpness, nor the confrontation for its focused attack, nor bearing the Word of the Lord for its glory. I love the faith which they defend…
Too many who step up to “defend the faith” become enamored with the power and perceived clarity the battle brings. They enjoy the not just the fight, but the glory of being in the battle. However, they often forget that they are fighting with living souls, many of whom are bruised reeds or dimly burning wicks that, while possibly having strayed from the path of truth or having burdened themselves with a load of wood, hay, and stubble, are still inheritors of the Kingdom in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 and will eventually:
…suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:15b
It is not without significance that Paul’s admonition to Timothy addresses this very issue.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 [Emphasis added]
It is easy for holy warriors to become self-righteous and insular to the suffering they inflict. Yes, sometimes it is necessary to be hard, very hard; Jesus himself showed that in many of his discussions with the religious rulers of his day. A simple example will suffice.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. Matthew 23:29-36
But there is a difference between Our Lord and those of us called to defend the faith. On most things, only he may condemn the person as well as the act, for only God can see the heart; we cannot. We can only judges the actions, the speech, the choices of those we contend with. We must always remember that our primary battle is against the error, the untruth, the deception spoken and advocated by those who have strayed from or abandoned the faith.
While we often want to confront the person also, some people are just not ready to deal with their error. I remember discussing the changes that had happened in their life with the last group of men who went through Knowing God with me. They were all older, retired men. I asked them if they wished that they had gone through this study earlier in their Christian life. One replied, “No. I would not have been ready to deal with it [the issues raised by the book and study].” He felt the effort would have been wasted and might have even prevented him from having this fruitful later study.
Sometimes the battle is foisted on us; we have no choice. Other times, and sadly I believe this is the more common occurrence, we go around looking for a fight, primed to take offense, on a hair trigger. We may have lost sight that there is wisdom in knowing which fights God would have you enter into and when, where, and how they should commence.
The apostles did not confront the Sanhedrin; it confronted them. Stephen did not begin the fight that led to his martyrdom.
Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. Acts 6:9
Stephen did not go out looking for a fight, but when the fight came to him he stood his ground. He had his priorities correct. When things turned confrontational, Stephen did not act on his own initiative. His words were guided by God.
They could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Acts 6:10
The final confrontation that turned their anger into action was initiated by God, not Stephen.
But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. Acts 7:55-58 [Emphasis added]
If God has called you be a Dúnadan, a defender of the faith once delivered, remember what it is you have been called to do, and not to do. As someone once said to me, “There is nothing wrong with being a bull, if that is how God made you, but every bull should know the limits of the pasture.”
Grace and peace.
H.T. Namárië at Lord of the Kingdom.
Excellent post and important reminder! I think many times some of us let our passion get the better of our prudence.
Prudence. What a good word, so seldom heard these days.
Noun. prudence – refers to the exercise of good judgment, common sense, and even caution, especially in the conduct of practical matters.