Storming the Gates of Hell
In chapter 14 of Unfinished, Stearns directly discusses spiritual warfare that the church finds itself in, although he has been using the language throughout the whole book. He spends a bit of time discussing how we don’t always know what is going on behind-the-scenes in the spiritual realm, like the book of Job, and some other elements that a lot of mainstream Western Christians wouldn’t even consider because we tend to think of it as superstitious.
The most interesting part to me, though, and an analogy I’ll definitely use in the future, is comparing the cross to D-Day. Some wonder why, if Jesus defeated death and evil on the cross, there is still evil in the world. The cross is a now but not yet victory, much like D-Day. When the Allies established a Western front through the D-Day landing, victory was assured; I don’t think any historian would argue that Germany was doomed from then on as they spread their resources across two fronts and multiple attacking nations.
The cross was D-Day in God’s plan to rescue his children. It was the decisive battle in a great struggle and represented the defeat of Satan. And it, too, was costly. Yet while the ultimate victory had been won, some of the fiercest battles still lay ahead. There would still be strife, hardship, and casualties as the followers of Jesus joined the revolution and pressed the battle to liberate God’s children and establish his kingdom in every nation of the world. Each one would be called by the General to a specific place at a specific time. Each one would be equipped with the right gifts and abilities and empowered by the Spirit of Christ. Each one would play a critical role in the great mission of God.
Stearns, Richard (2013-04-30). Unfinished (p. 191). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Stearns then plays a thought experiment: what if the Allies had just stopped fighting after D-Day? While victory had seemed assured, there was still a lot of work to do and a lot of suffering that was necessary before victory was complete. What if they had just dropped their weapons and settled down in France instead?
Sadly, that’s what large portions of the church has done since Constantine. The analogy would be something like if Hitler had offered them a fairly comfortable compromise and they bought in only to be taken over by Nazi ideals within a couple of generations. Constantine gave Christianity comfort and it stripped us of any sense of mission. A lot of the church is still in this state, not really interested in battling evil anymore.
Of course, there’s an important qualifer when using this military language: he isn’t talking about physical violence as the way in which we fight evil:
I have used the metaphors of war because that is exactly how the Bible describes the conflict between God and Satan. But our struggle is a very different kind of war. The revolution of the kingdom is not a revolution of violence to be won by force. It does not advance on the basis of earthly power or principles of warfare. It has no tanks or guns or bombs. Its weapons are paradoxical: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We go out into the world assaulting the gates of hell by loving our neighbors— even our enemies. We go to the broken and ragged places to comfort the afflicted and bind up the brokenhearted. We carry the message of a new hope into our workplaces, schools, and town halls. We bind up the wounds of abuse, exploitation, addiction, and alienation with acts of forgiveness and healing. We are called to care for the widow, the orphan, the alien, and the stranger— to lift up justice and fight economic disparity, to speak up for the voiceless and hold our governments accountable, to challenge racism and bigotry, to be generous with our money, and to live lives of integrity. We see value in the worthless, find strength in the weak, and anoint the downtrodden with significance. We seek to right every wrong and take every thought captive to obedience to Jesus Christ.
Stearns, Richard (2013-04-30). Unfinished (p. 198). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.