Christianity: War or Rest?

Do you rely on Christianity to make you feel good? Of course you don’t! You don’t subscribe to that Prosperity Gospel garbage.

You read your Bible every morning (and don't skip over Nahum in your annual reading plan).

You memorize Bible verses (with the reference).

You live in community (loving-on one another and doing life together).

You give 10% to your local church. (Excuse me, 15%.)

You read hard books with pen in-hand. (Or "pencil-in-hand" if you have true humility.)

You talk about your faith in the workplace. (The "sainthood of all believers," am I right!?)

No, of course you're not a product of Feel-Good Christianity or the Prosperity Gospel. You know that Christianity is a battle and you take up that armor every day!

That’s my story, at least. I come from a church culture that sees the Christian life primarily as a war. To follow Christ requires discipline, sacrifice, some hurt feelings, and the willingness to cut away anything that hinders the completion of the mission.

That’s all true, but—as I’m sure you know—the Christian life is more than a war. It is also rest. It is relationship. It is reconciliation. The Christian life fits somewhere between Rambo and P.S. I Love You.

But where does it fit? 

This question has annoyed me for a long time. Well, it hasn’t annoyed me, but I’ve been annoying a lot of people with my inability to answer it. 

Because when I see the Christian life primarily as a war, I get pretty cynical (and weird). I want to sell the church building so that my entire congregation can buy plane tickets to India so that we can build churches, start businesses, and feed the poor. I start doing in-depth Bible studies on the Minor Prophets and write 10-page articles no one will ever read about the missions strategy of the Old Testament.

Instead of being focused on the well-being of others, I begin to focus on all that I am not doing to advance the Kingdom.

Eventually, I teeter-totter back to seeing the Christian life primarily as rest and I get pretty self-centered (and weird). I stop spending time with my non-Christian friends. (Too stressful.) I get a little too obsessed with my journal and my own Spirit-infused “insights." I start to pray for really weird stuff. I begin to see work as worthless and consider enrolling in seminary classes so that I can “worship” God without the distractions of the nine-to-five.

Instead of delighting in the love of God, I get caught up in bogus, religious mysticism and distance myself from reality.

(But that’s just me. I am much worse at this than you.)

When I see the Christian life as simply war or simply rest, I neglect much of the Bible and make it something that it is not. It’s not a wartime field guide. And it’s not magic.

The Bible is a story. It’s not a war story. It’s not a book of personal blessings to be claimed by incessant repetition.

The Bible is the story of how God is blessing all men through one Man. God is fighting a battle for the souls of men. But what does he want with those souls? He wants them to find rest in Him. And He is using you and me to fight this battle.

The Christian life is not just war and it is not just rest. The Christian life is a war to find rest in God, both personally and corporately. This requires discipline, sacrifice, and some hurt feelings. But it also requires songs, journals, and awkward dancing.

It means that I need to fight for Christ-focused rest. It means that I need you to fight for my rest. It means that I need to fight for my friends who don’t know Jesus.

If I have this big picture, it converts all of those spiritual disciplines into a fight for joy. Bible study becomes a way to immerse myself into God’s grand story of war and rest. Prayer becomes a way to find delight and find backup. “Doing life together” becomes and enjoyable mission. Scripture memory becomes a way to store up treasure and store up ammunition. Evangelism is an outward expression of inward joy, as well as a small rescue mission.

Is it restful to be a Christian, or is it war to be a Christian? And the answer is, It is both. And here is the way they come together: The war is to rest in the right place. And the whole world is telling you to rest in all the wrong places.
— John Piper