I am bugged by analogies that compare the Christian church to an army. When I hear talk of spiritual war I flinch and try to steer the conversation in a new direction. It's not that the church-as-an-army is actually a wrong idea, but too often I see this idea being used to turn Christians against their neighbors instead of against the Enemy who lies and divides (Eph 6:12). Sadly idea of a holy army always makes me think of well dressed church-folks shouting at poor people.
It's not that I don't believe that Christianity stands uniquely opposed to the habits and systems of the world. It is precisely because I believe that Christ and Christianity are so opposed to the world that military analogies bother me. The trouble with overextending these analogies, is that they turns people towards the wrong sorts of battles. My revulsion most often comes up when I hear the phrase “Defending the faith” and at the heart of that annoyance is, in actuality, a loathing for the ass I can be when I'm at my worst.
I spent my freshman year of high school engaged in what I believed to be the holiest of wars for the kingdom of God. At every opportunity, and with any excuse I could find, I wrote and spoke about God's word and my faith in Jesus Christ. That sounds fine if not excellent, but unfortunately what I was often doing was trying to set myself apart from people at the school whom I thought were evil. I was trying to show them that if they had faith they could just stop being evil and be like me. That was a pretentious mission with a rather faulty premise. A Christian who is under the impression that their faith makes them superior to others has missed the point of faith. Faith is a gift (Eph 2:8), and not the mark of some holier tier of society.
If people become Christians solely because they find that the Christian way of thinking is morally or philosophically superior to all others, they are not the sorts of people I really want to call brothers and sisters. Race, gender, religion, and every other conceivable distinction between individuals has been used since the beginning of time as an excuse for one group to call themselves superior to another. Christ's religion does not have room for that nonsense. Christ came to serve, love, and bless anyone who wanted him. Christianity even thwarts those who would earn God's favor. The Bible tells Christians that we are “the worst of sinners” (1 Tim 1:15) who are justified freely by the action of God. (Eph2: 8-9)
Here's what I think about truly “Defending the faith”:
Arguing does not defend Christianity. Arguing, as I understand is a competition in which two people stroke their own egos while belittling the beliefs of others. This closes down opportunities to minister while isolating and dividing peoples. Arguments honor a winning intellect, but Christianity exalts humility (Lk 22:27). When the faith is defended, it is by Christians of humble spirit who do not conform to the petty and adversarial patterns of this world (Rom 12:2). A smart Christian defends the faith when they value loving their neighbor above proving their neighbor wrong.
I know of no one who was intellectually persuaded into faith in Jesus Christ. Bringing people into God's kingdom is rarely done in debate (though God may make use of any means he likes). People are brought into the kingdom of God by generous Love. More practically, people are brought in by Christians who politely listening to people they disagree with, who show authentic friendship, and who act with generosity and kindness (Romans 2:4). These things are much more attractive than arguments, however clever the arguments are.
“Christian” is not a badge to pin to one's chest nor is it a set of rhetoric that explains why one is better or smarter than anyone else. Christianity is a loosing of the cords that bind and blind the rest of civilization. Christianity is freedom. It is freedom from pride, violence, bigotry, judgment, and fear which sap our energy, kill our joy, and repulse our neighbors. Christ sets us free indeed (John 8:36).
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8&9)