Although I have been transparent to my blog readers that I don’t have a favorite movie, I do have movies that I greatly enjoy watching. Like Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings story.
If you haven’t seen it, shame on you! Go watch it and then come back and read this. (Spoiler Alert: good guys win). If you have seen it, remember the last battle? The humans and elves without, the hobbits within. Aragon is leading the small army of men against waves and waves of Sauron’s forces. Meanwhile inside Mordor, Frodo and Sam are struggling up Mount Doom in order to destroy the One Ring. It’s epic!
This cinematic tactic of duo battles is used constantly. In Cowboys & Aliens, Independence Day, and Star Wars: The Phantom Hope, troops war with the enemy outside “the mothership” while brave souls have to battle obstacles within.
Don’t you love how movies can be used to visualize issues facing Christianity and the Church?
Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”
There are two great battles that a believer faces. You have the inner battle, the struggle against the effects of sin and our natural fallen human nature. God calls us to holiness, and that sanctifying process is the hardest battle we have to fight. Like Frodo trying to get rid of the ring, it’s difficult to shed something that is a part of us. Our flesh is always wanting to go the way of the world. Hold onto a sin we know we need to let go of. Letting the Holy Spirit have His way instead of ours is a lifelong discipline.
Some congregations focus exclusively on discipling members. However, in choosing to say separate from the world, they become so removed that they see little of the poor and hurting. They don’t want the world to touch them; neither do they touch the world.
Then you have the outward battle, fighting the effects of the curse upon the world and the evil that pervades it. Jesus is the true victor, but He does ask his warriors to fight where and how we can — bringing aid to AIDS ravaged villages in Africa, finding ways out of prostitution for teen girls in South Asia, or donating clothes to missions to help the homeless in a nearby city.
Christians of my generation prefer this helping aspect of Christianity. They’re not into religion. But they love to get involved in causes. Again, nothing wrong with that, but we’re also the generation that likes to use the term “Christian liberty” a lot. We’ve forgotten that we’re not supposed to use liberty as an occasion to the flesh. Self-discipline is less valued these days than giving of ourselves at soup kitchens.
To choose one or the other is to ignore half of the commandments. The first and greatest commandment is this, love the Lord your God. Obey Him. Be holy as He is holy. The second commandment is love your neighbor as yourself. (In this global age, your neighbor is as much in another hemisphere as they are in a another subdivision.) Help the poor, the sick, the starving, the thirsty, the unlovely, the unpopular.
In my own life, I’ve fought the inner battle for years and years. “Don’t do this and be holy; do this and be righteous.” However, I developed a self-absorbed view of my own spirituality without developing the compassion for those that have been bruised and beaten down by the sorrow of the world.
What I didn’t realize until recently is that the Salvation Army is more than a place to buy cheap clothes with designer labels. It is actually a denomination in 124 countries. They are a self-described “’holiness movement’ whose members seek to become more like Jesus Christ through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.” (Salvation Army International http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/spirituallife). However, people around the world know them for their compassion to the downtrodden. I think that’s fantastic. Their founder, William Booth, recognized that the spiritual war is on two fronts. We should too.
Spoiler Alert. God’s guys win.