Stryper influenced me... “Soldiers under command.” I considered myself a soldier at that time. In high school I was actually discipled through Christian rock music. Kind of scary to think about, but God used it. Despite the spandex, makeup and big hair, these bands had a message that resonated with me. The message was a relentless one; a battle between light and darkness, between good and evil, between right and wrong. I saw the world in these terms along with them.
I remember attending my first Christian rock show when I was 14 years old and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. The band Undercover preached afterwards and told us that life was a war.
You want me to let you in on a secret: It is. Life is hard and cruel for most. It is a war.
And so despite the excesses, spiritual warfare was always a part of the language of our generation, at least in that subculture. We believed while there was a very real God there was also a very real Satan. That both angels and demons exist. That there are forces, principalities, powers... there are strongholds that exist, and it is our job as believers to engage in God’s work to combat these evil spirits.
It wasn’t long thereafter that we started our own Christian rock band, with a similar message. We were terrible, but we had a good message. As I look back I know that God can use anyone for his glory. Despite our lack of talent, we preached Christ. We preached heaven and hell. And people came to Christ at our concerts... God really can use anything.
About that time we started our own Christian youth group called “Soldiers of the Light”. Pretty original, right? But we really believed that God could use us to make a difference in the spiritual an supernatural realm. And so our youth group held prayer vigils. We prayed on the nearby college campus against immorality and sin. We participated in marches against abortion. We saw spiritual fruit, despite our extravagant approach.
What I learned from that time was precious. God gave me a keen understanding of the reality of evil, of powers, principalities, strongholds. While we sometimes we overemphasized our role and underemphasized God’s role, it was a true learning experience.
Let’s jump forward 25 years or so to 2015. Heavy metal is not dead, but it is in a coma, a niche market of music. Battle-oriented themes in music are hard to find. Most of us make fun of anything that came out of the 80s and 90s, and especially as it relates to the idea of battle. Nowadays we in the church often scoff at the language that was used 25 years ago. Many of us say... “How foolish to use all of this battle terminology. Jesus spoke about loving people, loving our neighbors. Loving them to Christ. Not using judgmental terms. How can you engage and dialogue with culture with armor on?”
The problem is that being in a battle requires some judgement, doesn’t it? It requires armor or you'll be destroyed quickly.
At least in the American church, these days it is fairly popular to dismiss or at least downplay the idea of the battle we are in... Of spiritual warfare. If we do talk about battle, it’s less about the battle belonging to the Lord, and more about the battle being ours. That we would win our battle to become the best person we would be. That we would win “our victory”, that we would achieve “our destiny.” That the Lord would give “us” something. It all seems to be really about “us” these days. Prosperity theology hijacked much of our understanding of spiritual warfare, making it largely about us and little about God. We have a lot to learn. We have to put our armor back on. For too long many of us have despised it.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-17
The truth is the battle we are in is largely fought on our knees. But it is a battle nonetheless. Let us not gloss over the reality of the battle we are in for the hearts and minds and souls of our generation. Let us not despise the idea of war to run after a life of convenience and achievement. Let us remember that we are not only sons and ambassadors, but we are also soldiers. Soldiers under command of the King.