How To Have Holy Courage During Warfare

This passage comes from a section in Deuteronomy where the writer counsels his listeners to have courage in war. It is full of martial language and military encouragement. It is, of course, related to the times in which the passage is being written; a time of constant warfare for the survival of Israel. But what can we take from it today? Is there a kind of warfare that we must be prepared to face and to go into with the courage of a soldier? The answer, of course, is, yes. We are in a constant state of spiritual warfare, both within our own consciences, as well as without from the world’s growing contempt for all things religious, whether good or bad.

The fact that we are constantly besieged by the temptations of the world, as well as by the actual threats of the world, is not new to us. The Jews knew this throughout their long history, and they also knew the countless occasions that God went with them into battle. They remember, too, his righteous anger when they fell away from trusting in him alone. Yet, he forgave, over and over again. He relented from his anger. His love for them always remained true, and still does.

Christians understand that Jesus came into the world to be with us intimately, to go with us into our daily battles against sin and death. He came to show us The Way that transcends the world and leads to eternal life. When he ascended into heaven he sent us his Holy Spirit to go with us into our daily fights against our enemies, the devil, and those who deny God. Still, as the writer of Deuteronomy counsels his listeners, we are also being challenged in this passage, to develop the habits of courage that we will need in order to face the spiritual trials of our own time. We are not to be weakhearted, rather, we too are to put our faith and our trust in God for, “he [will go] with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

Today, we too must learn to face our “enemies” with the courage that comes from our faith in Jesus Christ. Our courage as Christians must be great enough to “love our enemies, to do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) We must have the courage to, when struck on one cheek, to offer the offender the other, just as Jesus did when he was being questioned by Annas the high priest and one of the temple guards struck him. (Luke 6:29) Even more importantly, we must develop the inner courage to fend off the challenges of temptations that attempt to make the world seem more beautiful than God.

Lord, give us the grace of holy courage, that we may be strong enough in faith to confront the daily challenges that threaten our physical and our spiritual well-being in the light of your Way. Make us champions of your love and mercy in the world. We pray that you give us the graces we need to be worthy of the victory you have gained for us in Jesus Christ. We pray these things in the name of Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.