The Christian Jihad

prayFew Arabic words are more well-known among Westerners than the word “jihad.” We hear it often and see its definition played out on the news.  Literally, it means to “struggle.”  However, it is most often used and understood in the context of “holy war” and is associated with the Islamic faith.  Although not all Muslims agree on what a holy war means, it has been brought to the recent forefront by terrorist groups who claim to be jihadists, bent on making the whole world Muslim.  To many Muslims, dying in jihad is not just an honor, it is their hope and goal.

In the fourth century a very influential Christian, Augustine of Hippo, introduced the idea of the “just war” among Christians.  In short, Augustine suggested that under certain conditions Christians might rightly go to war.  Thoughtful Christians have long struggled with the idea of taking up arms.  Some have done so with the “just war” concept in mind.  Others have refused to be so engaged.  It is not an easy to decision to make since compelling arguments can be heard from both sides.  However, it is not the purpose of this article to wade through the issues of a just war.  Rather, I would like to suggest to Christians that there is a type of ‘jihad’ with which we should be engaged.

From the onset of His public ministry, Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God had come.  By accepting the title “Son of David” (Matt 15:22, Matt 21:9Luke 18:39), Jesus acknowledged that He was an heir to a throne – a King.  When pressed by Pilate for clarity, Jesus confessed that He was in fact a King (John 18:37).

Yet, in spite of being a King, Jesus made it known that His Kingdom was different.  He suggested that it was not a Kingdom that could be visibly seen or one that you could point to and recognize (Luke 17:20).  In fact, He told Pilate that His Kingdom was not “of this world” (John 18:36).  Peter would later describe his readers (those who were already in the Kingdom) as sojourners and pilgrims (I Peter 2:11).  In other words, while they walked this earth they were really just passing through. They belonged to another place. They were strangers here.

These descriptions are enough to make the Christian understand that the Kingdom of God is unlike any other kingdom.  Jesus expressed no interest in controlling land or amassing wealth. When some tried dragging Him into political debates, He sidestepped their attempts, remaining completely disinterested.  Rather, He kept His focus on calling sinners to repentance. He didn’t even require that everyone join his traveling band of disciples.  They were free to remain where they were and live a life of faithfulness to God (Luke 8:38-39 & Mark 9:38-40).

I don’t believe that Jesus’ focus has changed.  His followers, the Church, should be engaged in the same kind of struggle.  That struggle is calling sinners to repentance and making them into His disciples right where they are (1 Cor. 7:20).  Our goal is not capturing land, amassing wealth, or gaining power.  We are not interested in killing our enemies, but loving them.  The only prisoners we take are those who desire to become prisoners for Jesus.

The Christian struggle is a battle. It is a war.  In a sense, we are jihadists.  We fight, not by the end of the sword, but with spiritual armament.  When our enemies utter a curse at us, we bless them.  When they hate us, we retaliate by being good.  When we are struck on the right cheek, we engage our spiritual weaponry by turning to him the other cheek.  If we are demanded of our coat we surrender our shirt as well. If compelled to march one mile, we fight our enemy by going two. We take the battle to the spiritual plane, where Jesus Himself leads the fight.

Like the Muslim jihadist the Christian jihadist must be ready to sacrifice everything for the battle. We must be no less committed to the cause.

As long as there remains lost and rebellious people, the Christian “jihad” must continue. We must not get comfortable or distracted. Rather, we must be deliberate and focused. This is war. Let us rise to the fight.



Dane Cramer is a backpacker, Christian blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmaker, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us.



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