In 2003, Miami Hurricane Kellen Winslow, Jr. received a good amount of attention in the media. In a game against Tennessee, Winslow injured an opposing player with a powerful block and then stood over him. When asked about the play after the game Winslow referred to himself as a *expletive* soldier. He talked about the war of the football game and killing someone before they kill him.
He was, quite correctly, called out for the idiocy of his statement. Football is a game. It isn’t war. It isn’t really a battle. And the odds are quite favorable that an opposing player will not give you a date with a hearse. It makes one wonder if Winslow even knows what doing battle and being a solider actually means.
My thoughts went back to that Winslow moment the other day as I thought about how we Christians tend to use words. Particularly the word “battle”. I think we know that so long as we use this word in relationship to our sin that people won’t be too hard on us.
Hiding Behind Poorly Drawn Battle Scars
If I confess to a friend my anger, resentment, and bitterness I’ll get a different response if I say, “I’m battling anger, resentment, and bitterness”. Saying that I’m battling something gives the idea that I’m fighting hard, I’m going to gain victory, and I still have some modicum of respect and control in the situation.
You don’t discipline a guy that’s battling sin. But you might discipline a guy who has given up and doesn’t really care much that he’s indulging in sin. We are crafty sinners that are madly in love with our own filthy rags of self-righteousness. And so we use tough words–like battle–to make ourselves look better than we really are and to keep people from really prying into the uglies.
But I just have to wonder, am I really battling? Am I really waging war on sin or am I just getting knocked down and back up again? If so, that’s not a battle. That’s a beating.
I can’t say that I’m battling an anger problem if I spend all my time on blogs that I know will stir me up, and if I don’t start digging for the roots of my anger.
I can’t say that I’m battling lust if I spend my afternoons at the beach, watch Cinemax at 11:30, don’t pursue accountability, and use an unfiltered computer.
I can’t say that I’m battling gluttony if I buy season tickets to Golden Corral, sleep next to a bag of Cheetos, and watch a streaming loop of food commercials on YouTube.
Our sin problem goes so deep and it’s so treacherous. We like to give off the aura of doing battle without actually having to do battle. We’re like a guy that proudly wears a Purple Heart for being injured in combat, when in reality he just so happened to be wearing uniform when he drunkenly cut off his finger with a can-opener.
Thankfully that is not Jesus. And thankfully, Jesus who has truly done battle, is radically dedicated to His relationship with posers like you and I. Our rescue isn’t won because of our efforts in battle. Our rescue is secure because of what Christ has done and will continue to do on our behalf.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t repent of our foolish display of an unearned purple heart. Nor does it mean that we don’t actually do battle and not just talk like we do. But it does mean that as we continue to dwell in this body of death we give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ who has delivered us from this body of death. We battle—actual bloody knuckles battle—because Christ has secured our victory and he calls us to obediently follow Him in waging war against sin.