Choose Your Battles
A devotional by Malinda Fugate
Ephesians 6:10-18, Matthew 5:13-15, Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)
“I may never march in the infantry…. But I’m in the Lord’s army!”
Our young voices rang out on Sunday mornings or in summer Vacation Bible School, declaring our allegiance to a holy cause. Stories of Joshua, Gideon, and King David filled our imaginations with the glory of war. Before graduating elementary school, we were ready to be all that we could be in God’s military.
Youth group lectures warned of the dangers of public school and pending adulthood as we emerged into a world that did not love Jesus Christ the way we did. Our loins were girded with preparations of encounters with those who would challenge the Word of God. We were called to be set apart as God’s holy people and ready to defend against rejection while being on the offense, boldly declaring God’s truths in a sinful world. The imagery of battle was often used to illustrate this modern Christianity.
So is it any wonder, in our current climate of political divisiveness and high stakes, that our approach becomes oppositional?
Young Christians who prepared for war are now adults, armed and ready at our keyboards, slinging charged words with the rest of the world. Scriptures become weaponized and targeted for impact. We march in protests, speak out against those who disagree, and often train our children to do the same. But when our humanity creeps into good intentions, do our words become mean-spirited? Do our efforts focus on outwitting our neighbor and winning arguments? Are we now trying to score points for the Lord in a religious war we spent our childhood preparing for?
In our zeal, we’ve forgotten something very important. In our fervor, we turned our neighbor into our opponent and it was never meant to be that way.
Let’s start with a familiar call to battle, the description of the Armor of God in Ephesians. Our preparations include a belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, feet equipped to share the gospel, helmet of salvation, shield of faith, and the very crucial sword of the Spirit – the Word of God. The spiritual conflict is very real, so we need to prepare ourselves appropriately. Clearly, there is a raging battle and we were called to fight.
But Ephesians 6:12 shares with us an extremely vital piece of information: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
In the frenzy of the fight, we took the target off the true enemy and placed it on our neighbor.
Jesus knew that it was difficult to live in a sinful world and there would be people who opposed us, just as they opposed Him. Yet, He instructed us in Matthew 5:44-45a, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” We have been commanded by our God to love both our neighbors and our enemies. We are not fighting them, but instead taking on Satan and his forces.
We were not called to combat with violence and anger, but to live as Christ, actively demonstrating the love of God. Every action and word should reflect His character. Should we be bold in telling the truth? Yes, but with kindness and compassion.
God’s Word stands firm and speaks loudly without our attempts to use it forcefully or manipulate verses to match our own perspectives. In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus tells us that we are salt and light. We are here to be positive, Christ-like influences on the world around us with hearts so full of love that they spill over and bless our neighbor. How much more profoundly does His truth speak when delivered with that love rather than shouted with insults? A battle plan executed with God’s love is astronomically more effective than any strategy we create on our own.
As we log on to social media or engage in conversations with our brothers and sisters, let us meet each perspective with the love of God. Friendly discussions examining our differences are a gentle yet powerful testimony. Following up with loving actions is even more impactful as we pray for and meet the needs of our neighbors who are different than we are.
Let’s aim to be like Christ as we speak truth and stand firm against the spiritual forces of evil while simultaneously loving our neighbors. May we truly be a light in the world, humble servants used by the Lord for the glory of His kingdom, vessels of His love.
Malinda Fugate writes from the heart.
Though she serves full time as the Children’s Education Director at a church in Southern California, she is also a crafter of words published in books, including The Other Three Sixteens (May 2020 release with Ambassador International), Bible Time for Active Kids, which is an activities-based devotional that is available for purchase on Amazon, and The Pen and the Sword: Connecting With the Word of God, which is an interactive creative writing journal.
Malinda earned a communications degree with a theatre emphasis from Azusa Pacific University, then worked behind the scenes at the Los Angeles Salem radio stations, including The Fish and KKLA.
Her writing includes children's faith resources, commercial copywriting, and various faith-based stage and screenplays. Malinda lives by the beach with her pup, Yoshi.
When she's not writing or working at church, she might be creating art, reading, or exploring the many adventures to be found in the Los Angeles area.
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