Yesterday we toured the National Museum of Costa Rica in San José.
The fortress was built in 1917 and was originally a military barracks. The exterior walls still have bullets lodged in them from the country’s 1948 civil war. Interestingly, Costa Rica does not have an army. The military was disbanded in 1948. In 1950 the building became a museum.
Among the fascinating exhibits and artifacts displaying the country’s rich history is a section on the Spanish Inquisition which began in 1478 and was not officially abolished until 1834.
As you entered the exhibit, there was this explanation entitled “Between the Sword and the Cross.
“The conquest was a violent encounter among two societies with very different armament and culture. The Spanish had military superiority including iron weapons, gun powder and horses.”
It further explained “how the Spanish had struggled for seven centuries to recapture their land from the Muslims” and why they envisioned the conflict as religious. The injunction declared the natives must render “obedience to the Spanish Crown and the Catholic church, so they would baptize and convert to Christianity.”
When the subjects failed to submit, “the Spanish would declare them “Just War,” meaning they could subjugate them militarily. The injunction further threatened, “I assure you that with the help of God I come powerfully against you and make war to you everywhere and in every way I can, and will submit you to the bondage and obedience of the Church.”
Reading these words reminded me of Paul’s powerful declaration by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
This passage teaches us several important truths.
(1) Christians are not to be passive, but active.
We are not to sit on the sideline oblivious to the assault of Satan. We must not ignore them. Or submit to error. Or engage in compromise. Understand we are engaged in warfare.
Daily the “enlightened philosophies” of the world tell us that truth is relative. There are no absolutes. Abortion is a woman’s right. That homosexuality is an alternative lifestyle. And gender is not determined by birth, but individual choice.
We must oppose error. Rebuke sin. Oppose the works of darkness. And stand courageously and valiantly for the Truth of God’s Word.
(2) But our warfare is not carnal, but spiritual.
Unlike the error of the Spanish Inquisition, we understand that we “fight the good fight of faith”, not with fleshly weapons, but with godly means and methods. We employ the teaching of the gospel to convert people. We realize the battleground is for the hearts of men and women and boys and girls.
There is no place for Christians to become physically aggressive, or emotionally enraged while confronting the enemies of Truth. Spewing angry epithets, spouting unkind words, and “slinging mud” at our opponents are carnal, fleshly tactics. They do a disservice to the cause of Christ. We all would do well to remember that the next time we engage in a facebook discussion.
(3) The subjects of Christ are not coerced but converted.
And so we appeal to the intellect with reasonable arguments while we seek to touch the emotions with the love of God. Like those on Pentecost in Acts 2, when honest people hear the message of Jesus Christ, their hearts will be touched and the consciences pricked.
Their obedience is voluntary. We cannot make people become Christians. That is not God’s will. Just as in Bible times, some will hear the Word and obey. Others will reject it. And some will refuse with scorn and sarcasm.
(4) The answer to the world’s problems is not political change, but spiritual conversion.
Our country is very polarized politically right now. Unfortunately, that spirit has infiltrated many Christians. While it is everyone’s right to make personal choices regarding candidates for political office, let’s not become so enamored with “our guy” or our position, that we think that’s the answer to our ills. The problem of humankind is still sin. And the answer is Jesus Christ. We pull down the strongholds of Satan, not at the ballot box, but through preaching the gospel of Christ.
Onward Christian soldiers. Keep marching. And hold high the blood-stained banner of our Lord.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman