Conflict or Compromise

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Right from the time that sin entered this world, those who have wanted to live for God’s glory have had to face opposition and conflict. Abel’s sacrifice excited the hatred of his brother Cain; later, faithful men like Noah and Abraham found themselves at variance with the world around them. Scripture notes that when the occasion demanded, Abraham’s servants were already “trained and armed” (Gen. 14:14). When Israel entered the land of Canaan, they had to engage in conflict, if they were to possess and enjoy the land.
The Lord Jesus came into this world as “the Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6), but when He was rejected, He said to His followers, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division” (Luke 12:51). In Christianity, under the full light of the revelation of God in Christ, we are not called to physical warfare, for “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (2 Cor. 10:4). Rather, we are called to a spiritual warfare, a warfare which is just as real and just as deadly as physical combat. If we are going to walk with God and obey the injunction to “hold that fast which thou hast” (Rev. 3:11), then Christian warfare will be inevitable.
The Conflict
True Christian conflict is brought before us in Ephesians, where the believer is exhorted to “put on the whole armor of God,” in order to be able to withstand “principalities and powers,” “the universal lords of this darkness,” and “spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies” (Eph. 6:12 JND). This refers to Satan and his hosts, who seek to rob the believer of his joy in Christ, of the enjoyment of his heavenly blessings, and also of his ability to be a testimony for Christ in this world.
While this warfare is a necessary part of the Christian life, it is often either avoided or perhaps carried out in the wrong way. On the one hand, because some dear believers have not practiced self-judgment properly in their private lives, such things as unjudged sin, wrong attitudes and a difficult personality may cause them to defend the truth of God in a wrong spirit. Such warfare may use fleshly means, and the result is to turn hearts away from the truth rather than to commend it. Such believers may be in the right position, but their condition is wrong.
Peace at Any Price
Others, having seen such a wrong spirit in warfare, may go to the opposite extreme and want “peace at any price,” even if it is at the expense of truth. Since contending “for the faith once delivered to the saints” is hard work and sometimes uncomfortable, some would rather avoid it. Others may take a similar attitude, excusing themselves by saying that Christianity should be characterized by love, not conflict. Still others would allow conflict with the world, but object to any disagreement with fellow Christians, except in extreme circumstances. In these last days, it is also easy to fear defeat, as we see the collective testimony growing weaker and a general giving up of what was once held dear.
We see this warfare illustrated for us in Luke 14:31-32, where one king with only 10,000 men is faced with the prospect of doing battle against another king with 20,000. As Scripture points out, it might well be prudent for the king with only 10,000 to sue for peace, rather than risk defeat at the hands of the enemy. If the king with 10,000 represents the believer, then surely the king with 20,000 is Satan, and many dear Christians are prompted to make peace with him when they perceive that he is too strong for them. However, it is easy to see that any peace under such circumstances would certainly favor Satan rather than the believer, and it is in this way that he often gets us to compromise.
What, then, is the answer? Must Christian warfare be avoided, or must it be carried out in human energy? The answer is found in the Word of God, which encourages us to go on to victory. We read in 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Also, in Ephesians 6:10, we are told to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” The battle is the Lord’s, and in His strength we can gain the victory. We cannot go out in our own strength; if we try to do so, we will find ourselves defeated, like Israel at Ai (Josh. 7:1-4). It is only in complete dependence on the Lord and in renouncing all human means that we can draw on His power. But in His strength, victory is assured, no matter what the power of the enemy might be.
Individual and Collective Warfare
This brings us to a consideration of individual and collective warfare, and also private and public conflict. We notice in Ephesians 6 that most of the armor of God is defensive. This part of the armor must be put on privately and as individuals. It must be put on every day, and we must be careful to put on the whole armor of God. We read in Romans 8:7 (JND) that “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God,” and we find that we must be continually “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5). It is only with the whole armor of God that we can do this. We cannot allow in our lives what is inconsistent with the light we have received, and the moment we do so, we give Satan an advantage over us. But with the whole armor in place, we do not need to succumb to “the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).
When we have put on the armor of God individually and taken up Christian warfare in our private lives, the result will be seen publicly, and we will be able effectively to wield “the sword of the Spirit.” But while it is the Word of God which we hold in our hands, it is the sword of the Spirit; it is not ours to use in human energy. Rather, it is the Word of God which we have read, digested, and walked in; this is our sword. What we may know intellectually as head knowledge cannot be used by the Spirit; God’s Word must be a living reality in our lives. What a need there is today for those who will engage in Christian warfare privately, as David did with the lion and bear, and who will then be able to win great victories publicly, as David did with Goliath! In each case the power was the same, for it came from the Lord; it did not matter whether it was a lion, a bear or Goliath. If we are willing to engage in private warfare, we will have His strength to face public conflict.
The Collective Testimony
But there is a need for collective warfare too, and this is often neglected. The sin of one man was enough to occasion Israel’s defeat at the hands of Ai, for the Lord could say, “Israel hath sinned” (Josh. 7:11). So also today, the sin of one may well affect a whole company of believers. We do not read exactly of collective conflict in Scripture, but we know that Satan is attacking the collective testimony as never before. While Satan surely does not know when the Lord is coming for His own, yet he doubtless realizes in these last days that “he hath but a short time” (Rev. 12:12). If believers seek, as individuals, to enjoy their heavenly blessings and to live for God’s glory in this world, they will be a special object of Satan’s fury. So it will be also when believers seek to express the whole truth of God in a collective way and to exhibit the precious truth of the one body.
We have already mentioned the sad difficulties that Satan has brought in among God’s people down through the ages. These difficulties are allowed of the Lord, for our state collectively is only a reflection of what we are as individuals. Sometimes we may blame others for the collective failure, when we should be examining our own hearts as to how faithfully we have put on the whole armor of God and how diligent we have been in preparing for warfare. In 2 Chronicles 14 we read of Asa, who used the ten quiet years to accomplish two important things: He removed all the trappings of idolatry in the land, and he built fortifications. He also made sure that his army was well prepared for war. As a result, when war did come, he was ready, and in relying on the Lord, he achieved one of the greatest victories in the Old Testament. So we as believers should use times of peace and quiet in our lives to deal with those things which are not consistent with communion with the Lord and to build ourselves up in the things of the Lord, in preparation for the warfare that will surely come. All too often we are complacent, and thus we find ourselves unprepared when conflict begins.
In summary, then, let us remember that conflict in the Christian life is inevitable, if we are to live for God’s glory in a world of sin and Satan. Let us remember that individual, private warfare is most important and that all public and collective victory ultimately rests on this. Let us be willing to face the enemy, even in these last days, and not compromise in order to have an easier path. At the end of his life, Paul could say, “I have combated the good combat.  ...  I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7 JND). There is no reason why we cannot do this too, for the Lord is the same.
W. J. Prost