Following last episode’s introduction to the Book of Revelation, we’re talking about the Lamb’s War, which comes directly from that book. It’s also the next bit in Traditional Quaker Christianity. This also means that, in general, we’re talking about spiritual warfare this time.
Ok, first off, the lamb in the Book of Revelation is Jesus. In Judaism in the time of the Temple, you’d make burnt offerings to God. Some were just “first fruits” (giving your first 10%), and a lot of that went to supporting the priests. Some were “sin offerings,” to apologize to God for something you did wrong. Those sin offerings were usually animals, and they had to be both unblemished and raised specifically for slaughter. You couldn’t use an old ox that was retired from plowing or an injured animal. Christians often compare Jesus’ death to one of these sin offerings.
But in the Book of Revelation, if you flip to chapter 17, you’ll find the stuff about the Lamb’s War. It talks about kings who receive their power and authority then hand it over to “the beast.” They go to war against the Lamb. Spoiler: the Lamb wins. This part starts a bit earlier with a scene with a dragon and the Whore of Babylon. It gets explained, kind of. There’s a lot of denunciation of luxury, in particular, in Babylon.
That “the Lamb wins” part is a major piece of a way of thinking about atonement called “Christus Victor,” meaning “Christ wins.” The idea there is that through his death and resurrection, Jesus won a war against Satan. But the idea of the Lamb’s War, as Quakers talk about it, is that while the war is won, there are still smaller battles being fought in individuals’ lives. Satan won’t give up easy.
As 18th century Quaker John Woolman was fond of noting, luxury comes at the cost of oppression. Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament include lots of admonitions against oppression. Naturally, this gets pulled into the Lamb’s War. Quakers reject the world’s hierarchy. All that weird stuff Quakers are known for doing? Not flattering the powerful nobility, not following fashion, working to abolish tithes? That was part of ensuring they were on the Lamb’s side instead of the wealthy oppressors’ side.
Aside from oppression, there’s also a lot of more internal stuff. Something important is that spiritual warfare is strictly spiritual. The Peace Testimony of 1660 is very specific that it’s talking about “carnal” weapons. Micah talks about his own personal battle against hatred. So, we talk about loving correction as part of the Lamb’s War.
We also talk about the difference between “I’ve kept my hands clean” and actually working for the kingdom that is not of this world.
Mackenzie: Welcome back to Quaker Faith and Podcast with Mackenzie and Micah. Last time we were talking about the book of Revelation, because we had a listener request on it. And this time, following on from that, we’re going into the Lamb’s War, which is a section in our book, and also used to be the name of Micah’s blog. Or might still be the name of Micah’s blog? I’m not sure.
Micah: It used to be.
Mackenzie: Okay. So, clearly, that’s a topic Micah likes. Want to introduce it?
Micah: Sure. So in our last episode, we talked a bit about the book of Revelation, and I was really having to discipline myself not to talk about the Lamb’s War, because the idea of the Lamb’s War is so … it is completely derived from the book of Revelation. And the idea of how we follow Jesus in this world, and how we participate in God’s war against evil, that God is actively moving against the false gods, the false powers, the false rulers who exploit the creation, destroy the earth, mistreat the people, and live in greed and confusion.
Micah: I think anyone who believes in God has to believe that God cares about these things, and that God does not intend for us to be abused and exploited and confused forever. And the book of Revelation lays out what it looks like to participate in this story of revelation and transformation. A central image in the book of Revelation is the image of the lamb, and the lamb is a symbol for Jesus. And it’s a potent symbol that works very well for Jesus, and there’s so many layers to it I won’t even get into it. But there are lots of layers to the symbol.
Micah: But Jesus as the lamb is this … and I think it was Mackenzie said in the last episode, is this defenseless creature.
Mackenzie: I didn’t actually say it in the last episode.
Micah: We just talk too much before this episode.
Mackenzie: We read the chapters out loud is what happened. And [crosstalk 00:02:19]-
Mackenzie: … reading.
Micah: Yeah. So, the lamb is this defenseless creature that somehow it makes absolutely no sense. It is a defenseless creature that conquers the world. And it’s a symbol for, it’s an image of, it’s a metaphor of Jesus’ way of non-violent love that conquers evil and conquers sin and conquers death.
Micah: I want to read just a little snippet from the book of Revelation, one of many places where it talks about the lamb, but just to give you an idea. And I think for those of you who are familiar with the Old Testament, you will hear echoes of the Old Testament in this and throughout the book of Revelation. There’s immense resonances with the Old Testament as it references all the prophetic works and of the places.
Micah: It says, and this by the way is from Revelation 7:15-17, “Therefore they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple. And he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore. The sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat, for the lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd. He will guide them to the springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Micah: And the “they” in this passage are those who have been martyred, who have died in the service of Jesus, in the world. And so you could say, this is how God will treat his veterans, those who have died in the service of truth and love and transformation.
Mackenzie: Bringing it to real life, in the book that we’re reading, they point out that to early friends the Lamb’s War was not this abstract theological idea. It was this reality that they were experiencing through conviction, and I think we’ve all experienced conviction at some point when we know that what we’re doing is not right. And so for early friends that conviction looked like staying away from oaths and military service and paying tithes and superfluous fashion and dishonest dealings. That kind of brings around to what does that look like nowadays? Or what things do we feel convicted about? Our participation in the way that the world is organized?
Micah: And I would point out, too, that list of things that Mackenzie said, I think is from a Quietist perspective, but from the early Quaker perspective the Lamb’s War looked like actively confronting people who were teaching false doctrine, actively confronting-
Mackenzie: Well, the tithes thing was certainly at the beginning, because they got thrown in jail for not paying tithes.
Micah: Exactly. Actively confronting the powers and the authorities who were oppressing the poor, and who were posing as followers of Christ but in fact were taking advantage of his people. The Lamb’s War, I think, and this is one thing that attracted me to it is it’s an engaged Christianity. It’s a Christianity that says the pain and suffering of the world are our responsibility. And there’s an alternative to it, and we’ve experienced this alternative, and we have a responsibility and invitation in Christ to help spread that love and joy around.
Micah: And some of that spreading love and joy around … for those who like living in darkness, the light is painful. And when we start spreading love to people who are doing evil it’s going to look uncivil. It’s going to look disruptive and problematic and offensive, because those who are used to living in darkness hate the light.
Mackenzie: Something, in the course of that, you mentioned tearing down oppressive structures and things, and it just made me think of what was going on at the time of the early friends. And the close association people often have, if they know about early friends, with the Levellers and the Diggers, and so that just makes me want to put out a shout for the book, The World Turned Upside Down, which is about that era and has a whole lot about all the religious sects and how they’re responding to what, as we mentioned in the previous episode, seemed like the end of the world.
Micah: I think a real challenge for … for those of us who want to follow the lamb, and are attracted to this sort of radical vision of living into the kingdom of God now, I think a real challenge for us is discerning how we can be, as somewhat said to me recently, radically sold out for Jesus. How we can be radically living into Jesus’ invitation for us, which is the cross, and which is counter-cultural, and be engaged with our moment in history, which is deeply political and economic. How we can be engaged in these things as followers of Jesus, and as members of a gathered community, the church? How can we do it following Jesus and not merely as adherence of a secular ideology?
Micah: And that’s not to say I’m … I think we have our favorite secular ideologies. There are some pretty coherent and good ideologies out there, but at the end of the day for those of us who are Christians, we discover that at the end of the day every ideology falls short and can’t account for the complexity, mystery, and joy of human life, and life in this creation. What does it look like for us to be participating in this historical moment, and probably participating with some folks following certain secular ideologies, too, without letting that become our center, but instead, always calling ourselves and others back to following Jesus?
Mackenzie: I think we’re doing that thing again where you come up with the queries in the middle of the episode instead of at the end.
Micah: Well, you want to take a stab at answering that one?
Mackenzie: No. I wanted to engage a little bit more of what was in the book.
Micah: Okay. What’s next?
Mackenzie: We haven’t really talked about the use of the word “war” in there.
Micah: No, no.
Mackenzie: Which of course is something that for a lot of Quakers today is a very uncomfortable word on account of that whole we really like peace thing.
Micah: Right. Yeah.
Mackenzie: And so, it’s important, I think, that we point out that when we’re talking about the Lamb’s War, we’re talking about a spiritual war. The book points out that the primary battle ground is inside of a person. Robert Barclay would write about the seed of the serpent and the seed of Christ. Or I’ve heard before a parable with two wolves, and which wolf wins is the one you feed, and that sort of thing. And so in the book, it talks about the inward enemy being that within you that leans towards disobedience to God. Or leans away from God’s will, which, I think, probably somewhere in the Bible refers to as the old man. And I know Elias Hicks loves to refer to refer to the old man, and crucify the old man. Quakers have some very strong born-again stuff in there when you’re actually paying attention.
Micah: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Micah: I think there’s a real challenge in there. You talked about this is a spiritual warfare, and it took Quakers a little while to figure this out. Many Quakers were involved in insurrectionist, military activity in the very early years. It took Quakers a little bit to fully figure this out.
Mackenzie: Right. Like our peace declaration of 1660, but Quakers started getting started in the late 1640s or early 1650s, so they went about a decade there before they actually got around to, oh and by the way we don’t do the war with the weapons stuff.
Micah: Yeah. They certainly were leaning that direction, but there was a little bit of [squishiness 00:10:49]. But I think the real challenge is realizing this is spiritual warfare. I think about our present political situation, and social situation, and economic situation. And I think about, there are people in positions of leadership in our country that I want to hate. Like I want to hate them as people, right? I really, really dislike a few of these people, and if I’m not careful I wish them ill.
Micah: And the invitation of the Lamb’s War is to make war on hatred, is to make war on injustices, is to make war on structural oppression, and on individual brokenness precisely because we love the people, and communities, and nations, and ecosystems that are oppressed by these things, including the people that we are tempted to hate.
Mackenzie: And I think there’s also … thinking about love and people doing wrong, it’s really easy to feel like if somebody is telling you that you need to love somebody who’s doing wrong or telling you not to correct them, but any parent knows that if you love your kid you correct your kid. Like you tell them, “Do not put your hand on the hot stove. You are going to get burned.” Things like that.
Micah: But yeah, absolutely. For me it’s an invitation to consider … and it’s so hard. I mean, y’all probably know who I’m talking about when I say there’s some public figures I just hate. I want to hate them, right? It’s hard-
Mackenzie: Micah, pray for those who persecute you.
Micah: That’s exactly what I’m saying. It’s hard for me to hear their voices without reacting towards them, right? But the invitation is how can I love them? How can I love them enough to pray for their transformation? And how can I be honest enough with myself to recognize that there is a tendency in me to behave in the same way that I see these people behaving? I am not so different. It’s not like I’m a different species of person from these people that I’m tempted to hate. We are the same humanity, and we’ve been captured by evil. We’ve been captured by darkness. What is the way to liberation from that? And exactly as Mackenzie says, the way to liberation is not to back down and say, “Well, I guess it’s okay that they’re acting this way. I guess it’s okay if they’re separating children from their families. I guess it’s okay that they’re killing black and brown people in the streets everyday. I guess that’s all okay, because after all they’re children of God, too.” That is not the answer. But the answer is also not to want the destruction of any person. The way of Christ is to want the salvation of all.
Mackenzie: The book goes on to talk about the kingdom for which we struggle, and it refers to Jesus when he’s answering Pontius Pilate. He says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest. But now my kingdom is coming from another place.” And there’s certainly other spots in Scripture where it talks about, “Come out from among them and be separate,” because we’re a different kingdom. And for a little while there, Quakers did have this tendency to go and create their own towns, away from everybody else, with their own schools, and have nothing to do with anybody who wasn’t a Quaker.
Micah: Most of our history.
Micah: The majority is still at this point.
Mackenzie: Like a couple of hundred years. Yeah.
Mackenzie: We absolutely can work for God’s kingdom even in the midst of everybody else if we’re doing the right thing. Jesus says that only those who do the will of the father who is in heaven will go to heaven. And the beginning of that sentence starts out with not all who say to me, Lord, Lord will enter heaven. Just saying, “Oh, yeah. I’m on team Jesus,” isn’t enough. You actually have to be engaged in doing the things that God wants you to do.
Mackenzie: I also really like one of the other lines that the book pulls out which is from 1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but have not loved, then I have nothing.”
Mackenzie: I guess, what you were saying about not hating people, that’s focusing on the love part.
Mackenzie: The book continues on pointing out, this goes with what Micah was saying, that the enemy is not these individual humans. It’s the powers and principalities, is how it’s often translated from the Bible. But as Micah pointed out, also, systems of injustice and oppression. So, it can be really easy to feel like if I’m not participating in a particular flavor of oppression then my hands are clean. But really, if we’re participating in the Lamb’s War on the side of the lamb, then we actually do have to work on bringing down the systems of oppression and injustice. And that’s something people are far less willing to do.
Micah: I think something key for me is realizing that we do have choices in life. There are choices. Quakers believe that we have free will and we can choose good or we can choose evil. So we have choices, but for me, something that’s been critical is the realization that if I am put in the same situation as someone else that I see doing evil, it’s likely that I, too, would have a tendency to do that kind of evil, if that makes sense.
Micah: For example, if I was elected a council member for DC. I’m not a council member for DC. I’m not in that situation. And then I look at council members in DC, I’m like why have they sold out on this? And why don’t they care about that? And why don’t they do this? Or why do they do that? And I may have a legitimate critique, but I also have to take into account, not to excuse it, something that I see is wrong, but I have to take into account that were I in their situation, I am capable of doing the things that they are doing.
Mackenzie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Micah: I, in their situation, am capable of acting the way that they’re acting. Just because I’m not in the position to do things they’re doing, as Mackenzie says, make my hands clean, and doesn’t make me, necessarily, a better person. I guess, it’s always wise to appreciate the different people.
Micah: Just the same way, I think, for more conservative people, I’m going to get more of a hearing by saying people in positions of power have special pressures on them that we have to take into account. Whereas liberals are like, no, that doesn’t even matter. They’re people of privilege. On the other hand, I think liberals are going to be more sympathetic, and conservatives less sympathetic, with me saying look, this person who murdered someone in gang violence, look at their upbringing. Look at all the challenges they were facing. It was very difficult for them. They were addicted to drugs, or whatever. These are mitigating circumstances. And they’re like, no, but you have to make a choice in all cases. We are all in our particular situations. We all have special challenges. And I think it is good for us as followers of Jesus to recognize that … what’s that popular phrase I’ve heard? Everyone you meet is going through a great struggle, or something like that? All of us are in a particularly difficult situation. All of us are facing unique challenges.
Micah: I think this is one of the reasons why Jesus teaches us not to judge. Again, that doesn’t mean not to hold accountable. It doesn’t to not speak for truth. But not to judge means not to condemn. And I think one of the reasons Jesus teaches us not to condemn is because given similar circumstances most of us would end where most of us end up.
Mackenzie: And thinking of a specific example from Quaker history, with this dealing with personal action and systems and things like that, would be the system of slavery in the US.
Mackenzie: Some Quakers were content to say, well, I don’t own slaves. I’m fine. And some Quakers said, no, but this system needs to be broken down, and they [inaudible 00:19:39] that’s part of the Lamb’s War was ending this oppression that was perpetrated across an entire race of people in the US. That was a big source of contention among Quakers, was whether it was enough to be yourself pure, or whether you needed to be part of the bigger fight. Or in 20th century world history you have the whole fight against fascism in Europe, with some people were not members of whichever party, whether you’re talking about Germany or Italy. But they weren’t directly participating, they were just keeping their heads down. And now we see them as culpable, as having been on the side of evil, because they tried to be neutral. And I think when you’re looking at the Lamb’s War you’re looking at having to include that in there, that if you’re not fighting for justice and for ending oppression and for the things that the lamb is for, then you are tacitly on the other side.
Micah: Well, to bring us back to something I think we were discussing during the last episode, which is we said, “Wonder what was up with the church at Laodicea?” Where they were not hot nor cold. Maybe that’s where most people end up in life in general is neither hot nor cold. Not in any particular situation, not actively being an oppressor, but not standing up for justice, either.
Mackenzie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Micah: And if that’s what Jesus meant by neither hot nor cold, then Jesus clearly had no tolerance for that.
Micah: Has no tolerance for that.
Mackenzie: And that kind of make me think of the testimony in Testimonies episode that we’ve already done, because I’m pretty sure that in there I said that sometimes people’s testimonies sound a little bit funny when they’re saying, “I was a terrible person before.” And you’re going, “Okay, but the thing that you say made you terrible doesn’t actually sound that bad.” But if you’re considering neutrality about oppression as something that is almost everyone, really, when it comes down to actually having to do something, most people fall into that category, then compared to others you’re not that bad. But that is on a grand scheme, bad.
Micah: It’s tricky, too, because a danger here, as we go theologically where we were discussing, a danger is to start judging ourselves and measuring ourselves and trying to determine when we have reached a certain level of saintly-ness. And then getting trapped in our own judgements about ourselves, whether positive or negative. And that’s not helpful, either. And just realizing that we’re not called to die on every cross. We have different callings, and-
Mackenzie: We each have our cross, but we don’t have everybody’s crosses.
Micah: That’s correct. And so we each have our own callings, and our own gifts from God, and our own purpose in life, and I think a lot of us now are being called to mobilize and get in the streets and make some noise. But I know for me, maybe I’m not being faithful enough, but I also know that I have young children at home, and I’m in a new and demanding career, and I’m trying to support my family, and I just can’t make it out to protest like I want to. And so, I’m praying for the folks who are making it out to protests …
Mackenzie: If you’re disabled then getting out to protest is often not physically a possibility.
Micah: Right. I guess just being-
Mackenzie: We all have our ways of participating.
Micah: Yeah. And just being mindful of that, that in the Lamb’s War there are different roles. Just like in an army of this world, you have people with weapons on the front line, and then you’ve got support-
Micah: You’ve got scouts, you’ve got support personnel, you’ve got logistics people, you’ve got all sorts of stuff.
Micah: You’ve got medics. And in the Lamb’s War we have that too. And not everyone has the same role, and I think it’s really important for us to be conscious of our own tendency towards spiritual elitism and self-righteousness, and not judge others and not judge ourselves. But instead, be encouraging everyone towards greater faithfulness.
Mackenzie: I think the idea of taking it one day at a time helps here, because rather than trying to think about did I do enough, just what’s the next thing for me to do?
Micah: Right. That’s an insight from software development , right?
Mackenzie: Is it?
Micah: Just do the thing. Don’t think about the entire project.
Mackenzie: Oh, okay.
Mackenzie: And as far as that idea of the just doing the next thing right, there’s an idea among friends of spiritual perfection as not being necessarily a thing that is, you hit and then you’re good forever. It’s, you can be being perfect for a bit, and maybe you screw up and stop for a while, but you can get back there again.
Mackenzie: You can find us on the web at quakerpodcast.org, as quakerpodcast on Twitter, Facebook, or Patreon, and on iTunes.