Occasionally you might hear a Christian you know use the term “spiritual warfare.” In Christianity there’s the concept of “spiritual warfare” which refers generally to the struggle between good and evil. Those with a biblical worldview see personal as well as global events through the lens of the Bible. I’d like to explain “spiritual warfare” so you understand where your Christian friend or co-worker is coming from when he or she uses that term. The Apostle Paul describes the struggle we all face in Ephesians 6:10-12 in the New Testament:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (NRSV)
We see God involved in our struggles in many places in the Bible.
In 1 Samuel 17:46 David said the following to Goliath:
“…for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.” (NRSV)
In 2 Chronicles 20:15 God says the battle is his:
Thus says the Lord to you: “Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s”. (NRSV)
Part of our spiritual battle has to do with temptation. Speaking about temptation, 1 Peter 5:8 warns:
Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. (NRSV)
Christians believe that many of the struggles in this world have a spiritual component. Let’s look at an external struggle and an internal one to get an understanding of the spiritual aspect of each.
(1) Extremism and terrorism
Whether we like it or not, I believe the struggle against Islamic extremism has a spiritual component. What makes it a spiritual battle is the fact that these radicals are evil by any religion’s definition. Secondly, they are killing people under the banner of their religion. While most Muslims are content to live their lives in peace, aggressors like ISIS kill even their fellow Muslims.
Thirdly the battle against radicals, extremists, and terrorists is a spiritual battle because of their desire to wipe other religions off the face of the earth. If they had their way, there would be forced conversions, mass executions for those who refuse, and everybody would be subject to harsh Sharia law.
By the way, calling these radicals “fundamentalists” is wrong and misleading. The term originated in Christianity to identify those who rejected liberal theology and wanted a return to the “fundamentals” of Christianity. These Islamic radicals aren’t concerned about the purity of their beliefs. Moreover, they don’t even obey their religion’s scriptures, which forbid killing of civilians and harsh treatment of “People of the Book” (Sura 2:62; 5:69). They want an Islamic society but don’t seem to want to follow the teachings of their holy scriptures.
(2) Temptation to sin
Interestingly, Islam recognizes the struggle that takes place within a person. One meaning of the word jihad is the struggle within the believer between good vs. evil. Christians also understand that life is constant battle against temptation and the lure of the things of this world which can separate us from God. That is the heart of spiritual warfare.
Now when you hear somebody talk about “spiritual warfare” you’ll know where the person is coming from.