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For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
— Galatians 5:13

There’s a moment in the Sam Mendes film 1917 (which is brilliant, by the way, and you should see it, though this post is not a review), in which Lance Corporal Schofield, who has been tasked with crossing through enemy-infested territory to deliver crucial news of a secret ambush to the British front lines, is given a warning about the commanding officer to whom he is delivering the letter. “Make sure there are witnesses,” he’s told. “Some men just like the fight.”

The instruction is sobering. Even though Schofield is bringing direct orders to stand down, which will save thousands of lives, he is cautioned that the orders might be ignored. Why? Because regardless of the superior command to stand down, regardless of the cost, regardless of the impossible odds and the foolhardy death that would ensue, there is a zeal for battle in some that overrides all sense. When you feel built for war, when you long for the rush of conflict, not warring feels like cowardice, uselessness, pointlessness.

Some men just like the fight.

But these are not real men. Real men are willing to fight when it is necessary. Faux men are itching to fight no matter what.

The lesson is important for any Christian and even more pertinent for Christian leaders. We live in crucial times for the church, especially in the West. There are skirmishes a’plenty, opportunities every day to go to war with our neighbors, with our brethren, with every Twitter rando with an itchy keyboard finger. We are called to wage relentless war on our sin (Heb. 4:12) and the spiritual powers of wickedness (Eph. 6:12). But not every invitation to battle with flesh and blood ought to be accepted. And rarely should such invitations be given.

Those in Christian ministry ought to especially take this to heart. Fighting is sometimes necessary. Liking to fight is not. In fact, it is forbidden.

Consider whether you are in fact with every caustic tweet chipping away at your qualification for ministry. It is not manly to get up every morning thinking of the brethren as your enemies, not even the ones you disagree with on important matters. “The Lord’s servant is not to be quarrelsome” (2 Tim. 2:24). Pastors are forbidden argumentativeness (1 Tim. 3:3).

And while the Lord’s violent cleansing of the temple may offer some model of holy zeal worth emulating, he said an awful lot more directly about blessing those who hate, praying for those who persecute, and turning the other cheek. Those are direct orders.

But some men don’t care. They just like the fight. No matter the cost, no matter the death it brings.

So we bring the witness of sober-minded accountability and pleas to stand down. Will we be man enough to listen? Courageous enough to obey? Humble enough to repent?

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . .
— Colossians 3:15

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