A Time to Fight
By Anthony Casperson

There’s a scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers that I personally find running through my head more often than any other. The non-hobbit contingent of the fellowship (at least, those who remain alive) sit in the halls of Edoras. Their desire? To rouse the de-sorcelled King Theoden to fight the army of the enemy.

But Theoden doesn’t want to listen. His people have suffered enough while he’d been kept near-catatonic by the deeds of Wormtongue. And he feels it best to not fight in a war that he believes has nothing to do with Rohan.

His direct quote of refusal is, “I know what it is you want of me, but I will not bring further death to my people. I will not risk open war.”

Death had surrounded the people of Rohan. They’d been fortunate to escape as much as they had of the enemy’s destructive capability. Attempting to rise up again would only cause them more trouble. And it was a risk Theoden was unwilling to take.

And to this, Aragorn responds, “Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.”

Sometimes it seems best to keep our heads down and let things blow over. Or maybe even advocate some sort of compromise. But the truth is that there comes a time to fight. Any other response will lead only to destruction. And in such situations, it is better to prepare for and step into the altercation than to sit back, thinking ourselves safe, and be caught unawares in the war that came anyway.

This type of situation is where the people of the church in Pergamum find themselves in Revelation 2:12-17. And Jesus’ words to them are akin to Aragorn’s.

The image that Jesus reminds them of is the double-edged sword coming out of his mouth. It is a weapon of war, but also a means of executing justice. It’s needed to fight against the enemy of Jesus’ kingdom, even while it is an image of rightful judgement.

And the church in Pergamum knew well how the sword was used. They dwelt in the shadow of the throne of Satan. The enemy’s rule was near. But they did not deny the truth of Jesus because of it. They continued to proclaim him regardless. And it cost them dearly. A man named Antipas was one such person who died for this refusal to deny. Jesus commends them for this. And calls Antipas his faithful witness, a martyr of outstanding testimony.

But some among the church in Pergamum had fallen into an old trap, one which continues to ensnare some today. There’s a temptation to ease the suffering of persecution by advocating compromise with the enemy. Allowing the teachings and worldview of our surrounding culture to mix with the truth of Jesus. We dare not risk open war, so we hope for a compromise that will not come from an enemy who seeks our destruction from the beginning.

It’s something that the Israelite people had done before they even settled in the Promised Land (hence verse 14’s reference to Balaam while referring to the leaders of this group). And they continued to do this throughout their time in Israel.

These advocates in Pergamum were not the first, nor would they be the last to attempt to marry the truth of God with the idolatry and adultery of the culture around them. (Notice that the constant unification of false worship and sexual impurity throughout the bible continues here.)

There were even some among the church who’d given in to the teachings of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus hated, according to his words to the church in Ephesus. And so, Jesus attempts to correct them from this adding false teachings to his truth.

The call from the great God with a sword in his mouth sounds simple. “Therefore repent.” Turn back to the truth. These teachings are false. They need to be cut out.

And if the people wouldn’t listen to Jesus, then he warns that he will come to make war against them with that same sword. If they continue to keep their heads down and not fight against the false teaching infiltrating their ranks, if they keep on advocating compromise with falsehood, then Jesus will come to fight them along with the false teachers.

Open war was upon them. There was no risk that a fight had come. The risk was only on which side of Jesus’ double-edged sword they found themselves.

And it is upon us as well. Let us step forward and fight for the truth. Cut out the lies and idolatry that permeates our compromised understanding. It is better to stand with Jesus and his sword than against it.

And to we who overcome, who remove the false teaching from ourselves, Jesus promises a triple reward. He will give hidden manna. The food of the wandering Israelites who didn’t have to strive in their daily provision. As well, he promises a white stone. Such colored stones are indicators of acquittal in various justice systems. We will be found not guilty before his sword of justice. And finally, on that stone is a new name. The new identity given to us by his sanctifying work.

There is a great warning here to step up and fight against teachings that go against the truth of God. It will be difficult. And it might seem easier to compromise in order to keep from the persecution. But that earthly sword is nothing in comparison to Jesus’ sword. So, let’s cut out the falsehood.

Open war is upon us. It’s time to fight alongside Jesus.