If you weren’t aware that the West’s culture war is also a spiritual battle, let the martyrdom of Christ’s six precious saints in Nashville, Tennessee this week open your eyes. We “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
It should be no surprise that worshippers of demons rage against those bought and sealed with Christ’s holy blood, and identify Christians as their worst enemy. They hate us because of Christ. Our Savior, whose torture and triumph we honor next week with Holy Week and Easter, told us to expect their violent, unceasing hatred.
Here’s Jesus in Matthew chapter 10:
If they have called the master of the house [Jesus] Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! … Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell…
Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, William Kinney, Cynthia Peak, Katherine Koonce, and Mike Hill lost their lives for Christ’s sake. Not metaphorically, as all Christians must do, but also literally. It is a heavy cross, and thus a heavy honor. That heaviness is why Christians have always, from our first days, honored our martyrs.
Martyrs imitate Christ in deep and profound personal suffering for the truth. They are those counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ’s name. Like Christ and his apostles, the martyrs’ “shame” is truly their glory.
Partly because of the United States’ history as a majority-Christian nation, and the unusual peace our ancestors fostered here among Christian sects that had previously fought long, horrible religious wars in Europe, we are not culturally used to such religious violence. But Christian brothers and sisters across history and the world are.
It is common across the world today, and at all times, for Christians to be persecuted for Christ’s sake. Given human history, Christ’s warnings, and the wicked, completely unrepentant response to this shooting from our ruling class, we should expect more of this to come in our own land. We should of course oppose it by every prudent means, but it would be foolish to expect that our efforts can fully prevent what Christ clearly prophesies His people will endure.
These worshippers of demons project their own evils onto Christians. The righteous know that Jesus Christ has already vindicated us before God. But we should believe His other words too, which tell us, “You will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
The six Nashville martyrs endured to the end. March 27 is their saint’s day, marking their elevation to the great cloud of witnesses. Like Saint Paul, they fought the good fight, they kept the faith, they endured to the end, and they have a glorious eternal reward.
We all must also seek to endure to the end, like our sisters and brothers in Nashville. While of course we must use all legal means at our disposal to restrain such evils in our country — such as readying to exercise our Second Amendment rights solely in self-defense and defense of innocents, and electing authorities who will rebuke rather than enable demonic ideologies that fuel murderous hatred — we also must use the weapons of spiritual warfare.
For, again, this is clearly a spiritual battle. It cannot be fought solely or even primarily with physical means. We war with words, many of which we pray.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 says: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience.”
Until eternity, these six souls will join the millions of others “slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held,” who cry to God “with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?'”
While temporal justice belongs to the proper earthly authorities, who are judged if they do not punish evil rightly, eternal vengeance, God says, belongs to Him. Christians are commanded to pray for those who persecute us. So we do, another act of spiritual warfare.
We are also called to repent. Every calamity is a warning from God that should have His people hitting their knees in repentance. The heathen may rage, but Christians cry out to God. Just as the lack of repentance, or a doubling down on wickedness, is a hallmark of the heathen, turning away from evil in repentance is a hallmark of the Christian. So let’s get to it.
Ephesians 5 also teaches us how to fight spiritual battles. “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,” Saint Paul writes. “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.”
Prepare to stand. Is that not the defining test of our day? It seems so simple to stand courageously for the true and the good, but it’s incredibly rare. When evil comes, we don’t run. We must not participate in it or refuse to see and name it. We simply stand.
To stand, one must prepare. It is not easy, nor getting any easier. So prepare. Repentance is the first step. In itself, it is a preparation.
The children and teachers killed for their faith at The Covenant School in Nashville this week stood. Their faith, courage, and witness are now known across the world, and will never be forgotten on earth or in eternity. May they rest in glory.