“For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12
What is it that binds people together into the type of community that the Bible refers to as “koinonia – a sharing of life”? What is it that causes people to be willing to lay down their lives for one another, to serve one another, to sacrifice, forgive, encourage, support, and build one another up? The classic trilogy, Lord of the Rings (LOTR) from J.R.R. Tolkien gives us amazing insight into some biblical truth. It does so by showing us how that kind of community is possible between men who previously distrusted one another, Elves and Dwarves who hated one another, and Halflings who would prefer nothing better than to avoid them all while staying home eating salted pork and smoking a pipe filled with Longbottom Leaf.
Key to understanding how this incredibly diverse group was knit together into a Band of Brothers, sacrificing their all for one another is that they knew they were in a war together. And it was not a small, minor skirmish. It was a war for the fate of the world. It was a war in which the most hideous evil to ever exist was seeking to enslave, torture, and crush all people of goodwill. They knew that they were together in a struggle to the death between good and evil. If you ever speak to, or read about soldiers who together faced an enemy that sought to destroy them then you have learned about the bond that can only come in the face of such danger. In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, you King Henry speaks to his vastly outnumbered men on the eve of battle. He inspires them with the recognition that back in England there is a multitude of men who will one day wish they had been part of that “lonely few”, that “band of brothers”. There is something about facing danger together that forges a bond that nothing else has the fire to accomplish.
Followers of Christ are engaged in such an epic struggle. Paul says that we are in a wrestling match that is a life and death struggle. We are wrestling against a spiritual evil that is wicked and wants to destroy us. In order to face that enemy we must buckle on our helmets and breastplate, take up our sword and our shield and go to battle. It is serious business. What is truly fascinating is that Paul’s call to arms in Ephesians 6 comes directly on the heals of his call to all of us to be in right relationships with one another in which we submit to one another out of love for Christ. We are NOT to go into this battle alone. We are to go into this battle locked arm and arm with other followers of Christ, other fellow soldiers.
The Fellowship of Ring, those nine disparate characters, quickly came to realize that despite all their significant differences, they were not one anothers enemies. They were in fact one anothers brothers with a common enemy. Followers of Christ must realize those same two things. No matter how significant our differences we are not one anothers enemies. We are in fact one anothers brothers and sisters in Christ and we have a common enemy. That enemy is the “devil who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour’ 1 Peter 5:8.
Perhaps for those followers of Christ who have been raised in a western culture, the problem is that our enemy is not a flesh and blood enemy. It is a spiritual enemy. We tend to ignore the spiritual reality around us and focus on the material world. As a result we forget that we are actually in a battle. The more we come to realize that we are in a battle together and that we must trust one another to guard each others back, the more we will see the kind of community that the world longs for. We will begin to see people ask to become a part of our shared life. True Christian community, forged in spiritual battle will provoke the world to want to join us.