Every kingdom has an army, so I was thinking about what the army of the Kingdom of God would look like as we endeavor to bring that kingdom into reality here on earth. Certainly this army would not look like the traditional army. Jesus rebuked Peter when he lashed out with a sword to try and defend Him (John 18:10-11), so this would seem to dictate that superior firepower should not be a goal of our army. Christ taught that the meek would inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5), so the tactic of aggression appears to be out as well. Similarly, we are taught that we should not “lord over others” (Mark 10:42-45), so domination and conquest are also out. What then, does the army of the Kingdom of God look like, and how is it that they will achieve victory?
One of the clues is found in the second half of the reference in Mark we looked at above (Mark 10:42-45). Here we find Jesus teaching that if we want to win, we have to lose in the eyes of the world, in the prevailing viewpoint of our society. He teaches that we must become the servant to those around us. Instead of conquering our enemies, we are instead to serve them. This is a counterintuitive battle strategy, but it should surprise no one accustomed to living in the upside down Kingdom of Jesus Christ. The King James Version of the Bible translates 1 Peter 2:9 to say we are called to be a peculiar people, and it doesn’t get much weirder than this. The way we prepare for battle as the army of the Kingdom is to voluntarily lay down our lives in order to serve the very ones who are warring against us. How peculiar indeed.
A typical army is financed and outfitted from the support of the nation through taxation. Supporting the army is not an option, it is rather the law. By contrast, financial support for the army of God is totally voluntary. Those engaging in battle rely on the generosity of their fellow soldiers to provide the means to furnish their supplies. In this way, we are more of a brotherhood than an army, a family that looks after one another. This is a good thing, because unlike the typical soldier who can count on the support of His family, God’s warriors are more often despised by their families for their participation in the war. Jesus told us that He came to bring division not only to the earth, but also within families (Luke 12:51-53), because not all would be willing to accept His mission. Without the support of our earthly families, we must rely on our spiritual brothers and sisters to encourage us on in the fight.
The one area where the army of God is very much like a traditional army is in the arena of battle. Make no mistake, there is a very real and very deadly war being waged in the spiritual realm, and you and I are in the thick of it. People are hurt, maimed and killed as a result of the wounds inflicted in the war in which we are engaged. Satan seriously wants to destroy you and Jesus has set in His heart to redeem you. This spiritual battle is often manifested in physical ways through oppression, possession and redemption. Do not make the mistake of believing that what happens in the spiritual realm does not affect your everyday life. You are being influenced by one side or the other in every moment, and it is up to you which way you will choose.
Though we may lack traditional firepower, we possess the greatest weapons of all: faith and love. The Bible tells us that faith can move mountains (Matthew 17:20) and can extinguish every attack of the enemy (Ephesians 6:16). Love is the ultimate weapon in that it can diffuse discord, counteract hate, and turn an enemy into an ally. Jesus said that the greatest expression of love was to lay your life down for another (John 15:13). As we seek to carry out the mission of Christ, we must daily be looking for opportunities to serve others to the point of giving our lives for them. We must invest ourselves authentically into everyone we meet. As we demonstrate the love of Christ to others, we win victory after victory for Christ. Every act of kindness and servitude brings His Kingdom on earth one step closer to fruition. Together our selfless acts of love combine to amass a movement of love that cannot be stopped. This is what the army of God looks like; this is how the war will be won. Not by acts of violence or through weapons of force. God will rule the day by beating back the darkness with His unstoppable light. As we join Him in the battle we will find victory through our acts of service and mercy. We are His army, an army of love.