For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete… But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.| 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, 13
There is this strange tension in Scripture where we are continually reminded that we are in a battle, while also being told to be gentle, kind, and loving. Holding this tension is hard. How does one engage in battle in a loving way?
The way most struggles are fought is through power. Influence and authority are seen as these exhaustible resources that need to be fought over. Feminism: fight to restore a balance of gender power. Affirmative Action: fight to restore a balance of racial power. You could keep going for any group, be it religious, sexual identity, or legalization of marijuana. In order to get the influence you think should be yours, you have to defeat those who have it (in reality or perception). This ‘war’ is waged by overcoming the opposition.
Activism minimizes people. In an effort to lift a group up, another group has to be brought down, (forcefully). This is usually justified by arguing that the group being minimized is in control of the power and has been for some time, thus wrestling power away is okay. The problem is, this limits people to their categorical definition. Men are abusers; women abused. White people are privileged; minorities discriminated against. While there are systematic issues at hand, this broad minimization of people into caricatures makes everyone feel misunderstood and minimized. What we need to do is treat people as people, with ALL of the complexity that this includes.
Which is why activity empowers. Being willing to serve people directly does not allow anyone to generalize. It is a person serving another person. True reconciliation and healing happens when we are forced to rethink our preconceived notions. This doesn’t come through campaigns or movements, but though relationship. The gospel gives us the opportunity to overcome the sinful division caused by declaring war on one another. The gospel changes us and gives us the disposition to work with others toward their best interests, not simply defending our own.