The following was written by Brigadier General E.P. Alexander following the War Between the States:
When I first joined the Army of Northern Virginia in 1861, I found a connection of my family, Wilmer McLean, living on a fine farm through which ran Bull Run, with a nice farm-house about opposite center of our line of battle along that stream. General Beauregard made his headquarters at his house during the first affair between the armies – the so-called battle of Blackburn’s Ford, on July 18. The first hostile shot which I ever saw fired was aimed at this house, and about the third or fourth went through its kitchen, where servants were cooking dinner for the headquarters staff.
I had not seen nor heard of McLean for years, when [April 10], the day after the surrender, I met him at Appomattox Court-house, and asked with some surprise what he was doing there. He replied, with much indignation: What are you doing here? These armies tore my place on Bull Run all to pieces, and kept running over it backward and forward until no man could live there, so I just sold out and came here, two hundred miles away, hoping I should never see a soldier again. and now, just look at you! Not a fence-rail is left on the place, the last guns trampled down all my crops, and Lee surrenders to Grant in my house. McLean was so indignant that I felt bound to apologize for our coming back, and to throw all the blame for it upon the gentlemen on the other side.
As Christians, it is not too uncommon for us to feel like Mr. McLean. We seem to do our best to remove ourselves from the spiritual warfare that rages around us only to find that it has once more engulfed our lives at some later point. My humanity wishes that it could say that there was a nice comfortable place located in some secluded part of our country where all could find peace from this constant warfare, but it cannot. There is no way to be removed from this fight. Jesus, in His prayer to the Father as recorded in John 17, mentioned that we are in the world, but we are not of the world. His prayer was not for us to be magically removed from this world but that His Father might keep us from the evil one.
Thus, as we remain in this world, it carries with it certain realities that we find unpleasant. For example, in this same prayer Jesus pointed out that our status makes the world hate us. Paul later reinforced this truth by telling Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12 NASB). It is inevitable. If we are truly living for God, we will suffer some form of persecution.
The important thing, then, is how we react to these times of persecution. It is all too easy for us to allow our feelings to become wounded. We desire the acceptance of our peers and the oddity that is observed in the Christian lifestyle makes us so uncomfortable that we can be tempted to revert back into their lost state. But that is not how we are to react. We need to be more like the early Christians who rejoiced when these times of testing came (cf. Acts 5:41). Why? James pointed out that such trials bring about patience and that patience brings about maturity in our Christian lives (cf. James 1:2, 3). Thus, in an odd way, this warfare is needed. Peter called it the process whereby we are purified like gold (cf. 1 Peter 1:6, 7).
One has to wonder if perhaps the Lord wasn’t also telling us that this persecution should be our desire; for, as He is rebuking the Laodicean church, He says, “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself…” (Revelation 3:18b NASB). The Laodicieans were being chastised for their lukewarmness. In other words, the Lord was getting on to them for not taking a stance in the spiritual war that raged around them. They had said that they were rich, but, spiritually, they were in poverty because they had yet to be refined like gold in the fires of trial.
How is your attitude in the face of the persecution that is brought on by your desire to live the Christian life? Do you rejoice at such trials knowing that they are leading to you a greater level of maturity? Or do you shrink back and become lukewarm, refusing to take a stance for the Lord because of them? How you react will determine your worth to the Lord. Do not make Him sick to His stomach by remaining neutral. Get into the middle of the warfare today.
Featured in the November 14, 2002 edition of Glad Tidings, published by the Jacksonville Church of Christ, Jacksonville, AL.