Recently Josh and I went to go see the Hobbit. The theater was mostly made up of college students, done with finals and excited to see the last hobbit movie. The room was buzzing with energy. There was even a guy dressed up like Gandalf. Then, the ultimate sign of devotion. A young guy, probably in his twenties, goes to the front of the theater and starts to recite Aragorn’s speech before the Battle of the Black Gate. Everyone cheers, smiles, and laughs as this guy roars out the speech with passion. “…I bid you stand, men of the west!”
Yes, I did think it was awesome.
But, it also made me think: How ironic that none of us will ever know what actual battle is like. But we love it. We love to believe in things true and noble and we love to fight for them.
Trouble is, we’ve got most of America fighting for the wrong things. We all LOVE Lord of the Rings. We all love the idea that there is a greater good to fight for, that the power lives inside of us to defeat evil. Why? Why do we wish we could live in middle earth? Why have the hobbit movies made millions? Because God made us that way.
But we know nothing of true battle. We know nothing of suffering.
Americans are Hobbits. We live in our safe, rich, hobbit holes. We love to throw parties, get drunk, and most of all, we love gossiping about one another. We all live together in Hobbiton, not only ignorant of the outside world, but we could care less what goes on out there. As long as we get what we want, we don’t care. For Pete’s sake, we trample people to death as we run into stores on black Friday. How sick is that? We like to think that given the opportunity we would all be great warriors, yet we don’t train. We are part of the small percentage of the world that doesn’t face suffering as a normal part of everyday life. If I sound harsh its only because I’m frustrated with myself. My heart is so easily led astray. I am so quick to cling to all my comforts.
Now I will speak to specifically to believers. If one does not know Christ, if they do not have the Holy Spirit living inside of them, then they are unable to see the battle altogether. They are ignorant of it.
Now, hear me. I am very thankful for America. I am very thankful that we don’t have to physically toil and struggle for simple needs. I’m thankful that we live in a place where we can actually feel safe. I’m thankful for capitalism, that when I walk into a store I can choose any kind of chocolate my mind can imagine. So, I love being a Hobbit! But I think for American believers, this only means we must train harder. Unlike the actual Hobbits of middle earth, we are not less susceptible to the power of the ring. We must fight longer. We are going to have to try harder than everyone else to be reminded of the spiritual battle. The things of this world and the people in this world will try and distract us with everything under the sun. But it is all vanity. It doesn’t deserve your worship. The enemy wants our minds numb, but we must keep them alert. Because we want for nothing we should give more, send more, pray more, and exhaust ourselves more for the gospel. This is the only way we can stay free, this is the only way we can have victory.
This analogy obviously breaks down at some point, because the difference between middle earth and reality is that in reality evil lies inside everyone of us. We as believers wage war against the flesh and the spiritual forces of darkness. Let me be clear: this battle is everywhere. But I think there is much about our American culture that blinds us to it. In other countries poverty, trauma, and suffering make people see their need for a Savior. It opens their eyes to the spiritual war. Here? We have everything we need. We have more than enough. It deludes us into thinking that the first thing we do when we wake up doesn’t need to be picking up our sword. We let the things of this earth steal our hearts, and we forget our desperate need of Him. I think Lewis describes this desperation the best:
“If we cannot ‘practice the presence of God’, it is something to practice the absence of God, to become increasingly aware of our unawareness till we feel like men who should stand beside a great cataract and hear no noise, or like a man in a story who looks in a mirror and finds no face there, or a man in a dream who stretches out his hand to visible objects and gets no sensation of touch. To know that one is dreaming is to no longer be perfectly asleep.” –C.S Lewis The Four Loves
We can’t let the enemy take the hearts of Americans. We need to become aware of our unawareness. We must stand and fight. We are warriors. Our weapons? The Sword of the Spirit; the Word of God. Faith is our shield against the flaming arrows of the enemy. We have a breastplate of righteousness, and a helmet of salvation. A belt of truth, and shoes of the gospel. We must wake up and realize that war is upon us.
Many would rather wield a physical sword than pray. And I understand that, I would too. But that’s the easy way out. It’s easy to pick up a physical sword and use it to defend yourself. It’s hard to fight for your own heart. It’s hard to discipline yourself for godliness. Its hard to continually direct our hearts to desire God above all things, when a myriad of things parade before our eyes, tempting us to delight in them more. There is the spiritual battleground of the world, and then there is the spiritual battleground inside each and every one of us.
One of the most encouraging things for me to see is how God is calling so many people my age to missions. He is sending out soldiers, fully armored, ready for war. They are in some of the deepest pits of darkness, where they carry the only light. We must help them. We must pray for them. We must give to them. And we must do the same right where we are everyday. America needs the gospel. It’s not a government problem it’s a sin problem. Social reform can’t save us, only Jesus can. No matter how much money we throw at sex-trafficking, no matter how much we communicate, no matter how much we evenly distribute our resources, nothing can change men’s hearts but the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Stand up and fight soldier. Pick up your sword. Multiple times a day. Remember and dwell on the gospel so that your faith will extinguish all the flaming arrows of doubt and pride. Realize that no headshot, not fatal blow can really kill you, because you wear the helmet of salvation. See that no stabs of condemnation can pierce you, for you wear the breastplate of righteousness. Rely on and cling to truth, knowing that it holds all things together. And go. Go for your feet are fitted with the gospel of peace. You are an agent, a soldier of peace. So take it to the ends of the earth.
Scripture references: Ephesians 6:10-18, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, 2 Timothy 2:4