Whether it’s a nerf gun, a slingshot, or a plastic sword and shield, my three boys love a good pretend weapon. My youngest, in particular, has a proclivity for turning everything from tree limbs to decorative crosses into the battle arms he wields on his mission to slay the bad guys. For him, a battle is always on the horizon.
These weapon-loving, warrior-like tendencies so common in little boys have the potential to worry parents, making us wonder if our little boys are prone toward violence. While the realities of sin make this a legitimate concern, I believe these tendencies are given by God to be cultivated for his purposes and glory. This begins by teaching our little men not to use their nerf guns to shoot people in the face or their swords to bang up the walls of the house. It continues as we explain to them why fighting and wars are even a part of our lives in the first place.
War–of both a physical and spiritual nature–is far less than ideal, but it is a reality of life in a fallen world. While our boys might not serve in one of the five branches of the American military, they will certainly not escape battle. Either they will “fight” in cowardice for the kingdom of darkness, or they will fight with courage for the Kingdom of God.
If we are seeking to raise up Christ-like men of God, then, by extension, we are seeking to raise up men prepared to war against the enemies of God–namely sin and Satan. As Christian parents, it’s our job to help our boys channel their warrior inclinations, training them to fight the right battles with the right weapons for the right reasons.
The God of War
Our boys need to understand that the God we serve is a God of righteous war (Exodus 15:3). He is committed to justly defending his holiness and mercifully rescuing a remnant of his undeserving children from enemy captivity, transforming them into a holy people for his own possession who proclaim his glory (1 Peter 2:9).
In the beginning, the world God created was good and free of conflict. Peace reigned in the Garden of Eden where a Holy God lived with his children–a King with his royal vice regents. But things changed when evil embodied a serpent who slithered into the garden to deceive God’s children, tempting them to distrust and disobey his word. In this act, Satan foolishly declared war on the Almighty Creator. Adam and Eve succumbed to the serpent’s wicked plot, and, in their rebellion against God, Satan drew them into his camp to do his bidding.
Surely saddened but not surprised by this rebellion, God went to war. Adam and Eve were expelled from his holy presence (a place where sinful people cannot dwell), and an angel with a flaming sword was placed at the entrance of the garden. But before their expulsion, God gave his rebel children a promise of hope. God foretold a lifelong battle between the children of the woman and the children of the serpent, and he promised that a child of the woman would one day crush the head of the evil snake (Genesis 3:15). God would win the war against sin and evil through a victorious warrior.
The Victorious Warrior
The most important thing we can teach our boys about war is that they are not God’s promised victorious warrior of Genesis 3:15. In fact, they come into this world as cowardly cohorts of the enemy, powerless and lacking any real desire to free themselves from his grip. They need to trust a warrior to fight and be victorious on their behalf, just as David, the (then future) Israelite King fought and conquered Israel’s greatest enemy Goliath for them.
There are whispers of the God’s victorious warrior on every page of Scripture, hints of his coming and his ultimate victory. But he first comes on the scene and does battle against God’s enemy in the most unexpected and unlikely way. Jesus Christ is born into obscurity and poverty. When he grows up, he wields no sword for battle against the enemies of God’s people but willingly lays down his life unto death, crucified by the ones he came to defeat. For two days it looks as though evil has won, but Christ’s final victory against sin and Satan is inaugurated on the third day as the Spirit of God powerfully raises him from the dead.
Through Christ’s atonement, sin has lost its ultimate power. Satan and his forces have been disarmed (Colossians 2:15). The victory is secure, and Christ will soon return as a conquering warrior on a white horse. He will consummate the victory against the enemies of God with his sharp sword (Revelation 19:11-15) and put an end to fighting and war forever! We must repeatedly share the good news of this victorious warrior with our boys, pleading with them to put their hope for salvation in him alone rather than in their own perceived strength.
The Ongoing Battle
Though the ultimate victory for all who are in Christ is secure, the battle still rages until he returns. Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie says, “Satan is like a snake whose head has been crushed but whose tail is still whipping around creating havoc.” We need to prepare our boys for a lifelong battle against sin and Satan in the strength that Christ their victorious warrior provides (Ephesians 6:10). They must not sit back passively, letting the enemy’s tail “go to town” in their lives and the lives of those God puts in their path. No, they must be ready to pick up their weapons and fight for truth, holiness, purity, humility, and justice. They must be prepared to stand and fight even when they stand alone.
Their weapons are will no longer be nerf guns and plastic swords, but the arsenal available to them in Christ will be better than their little minds can now imagine. Truth will be their core support. The righteousness of Christ will be credited to their hearts. The message of good news about the victorious warrior will lead their feet to tell others how to find peace with God. Faith in the sinless Christ will extinguish the fiery accusations of the enemy that still plague them. Salvation secured forever will guard their minds from fear of condemnation. And the living and active sword of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12), coupled with prayer in the Spirit, will give them offensive power as they labor for God’s Kingdom until he comes (Ephesians 6:14-18).
I’m raising my boys to be men of war. They may never march in the infantry, ride in the calvary, or shoot the artillery. They may never fly o’er the enemy, but–by God’s grace–I pray they will fight the good fight in the Lord’s army.