Is Jesus a Lover or a Fighter?

from the archives

When I thought of Jesus, I used to think of a lover. He is the lover of our souls, after all. When we see images or interpretations of Jesus in Biblical times, He is always portrayed as gentle, kind, and loving. I always used to imagine Him almost whispering His parables, as if to say, “Hush, still your hearts, quiet yourselves before me, and listen to what I am saying…shhh.”

We have all seen the stereotypical Jesus painting: The Son of Man, in a white flowing robe, with children, sheep, or both, strewn around His feet.

And then I read the Book of Revelation for the first time…

I did not know what to expect as I read, but I heeded the words in the very beginning of the book which say, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy.” So I read it aloud and was awakened to a new vision of my Lord.

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dripped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.” Revelation 19:11-13

I was suddenly struck with an image of Jesus that I had never had before, not only was He to be covered in blood, but He bears a name written on Him that only He knows. What would that name be? In vain, I tried to imagine what He would name Himself. I was left with no answer to that question, but instead, for the first time, I saw Him as He is: gentleness and strength, fierce and freeing– a lover and a fighter.

It is difficult for some Christians to recognize Jesus as both a meek and sympathetic Messiah come to bring peace and a Righteous King ruling with a “rod of iron.” Many outside the church have difficulty reconciling these opposing ideas, as well, and use them as a means with which to call into question the character of God.

The dichotomy of God in scripture is striking. Author Rachel Held Evans, in a  post on her blog, described the Bible as “teeming with conflict and contrast, brimming with paradox, held together by creative tension.” It is difficult for me to grasp the duality of God within scripture, and yet, the more I grow to know the Lord, the more this seemingly huge juxtaposition is lessened.

Jesus is God and, as God, He can be both:

  • The Prince of Peace and The Deliverer
  • A Fountain of Living Waters and a consuming fire
  • The Preserver of men and a jealous God
  • A rewarder of those who diligently seek Him and a rock of offense
  • A Father of mercies and He that judges righteously
  • God of patience and consolation and He that ought to be feared
  • A strong tower from the enemy and the Lord mighty in battle
  • My hope and my judge…

I take comfort in knowing my God not only loves me, but He fights for me. He does not just forgive me, but He seeks justice on my behalf. He pours out Grace, but also hates evil and abhors sin. He does not call me to battle to then leave me there, defenseless and unarmed. He engages in the battle right beside me with sword and shield, all the while loving me with His everlasting love.

Do you generally think of Jesus as a lover or a fighter? Is the dichotomy difficult for you? What is your favorite “God juxtaposition”? Why?

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24 thoughts on “Is Jesus a Lover or a Fighter?”

  1. One of my favorite juxtapositions is spelled out in the Nativity prayers in the Orthodox Church. It highlights the contrast between God being the Creator of the universe, and yet he’s born to a human here on earth. He never ceases to be God, but he is also man–frail, weak, needing his mother for food and protection.

    Here is one of the prayers/hymns that I’m talking about:

    “A strange and most glorious mystery do I behold: / the cave is heaven; / the Virgin, the throne of the cherubim; / the manger, the place wherein lay Christ God, / Whom nothing can contain, // Whom praising, we magnify.”

    Beautiful, isn’t it?


    1. Josh,

      The paradox of a babe laying in a manger, come to eventually die a cruel death on a cross for all of humanity, is probably one of my favorite paradoxes in scripture.

      To me, it pretty much sums up the Gospel.

      And yes, that prayer/hymn is beautiful. I love it. I read it a few times last night.

      Thank you for sharing.

  2. Well I’m supposed to be doing coursework right now… so of course I’m here, commenting ;)
    I don’t think there’s many Christians who don’t struggle with those two sides to Jesus – a lover and a fighter. Except they’re not sides, he is fully loving and gracious and merciful, and he’s also fully almighty, strong and just. After the big debate on your Rob Bell post, I think it’s interesting that you post this a few days later. Because isn’t this the very thing Rob Bell seems to be struggling with? I don’t want to drag him into every debate (and I haven’t even read his book so am probably unqualified to comment!) but I understand that Rob throws out a few questions about God being both loving and angry, the ‘God of the New Testament’ and ‘God of the Old Testament’ thing.
    I don’t have the answer. But I’m fascinated by the endless paradoxes found in Christianity and God. And when it comes down to it, no I don’t understand, but I do know that God is good, and for me that’s all I need to know, and I can rest in that.
    Right, now back to that assignment…

    1. Rachel,

      That is interesting that you brought up Rob Bell. Honestly, I hadn’t thought of it.

      This post is from my archives. But yes, I can see what you are saying. Bell, I believe, does struggle with the dichotomy of God. Many Christians do.

      I feel like you, however, and I know that God is still Good and Just and Righteous. I know that translates to my life and to all of humanity (despite pain, suffering, and the like).

      I love your point too that His character (lover and fighter in this case) are not sides, but that He is fully Good and fully Holy (meaning He abhors evil). Such a great addition to the post!

      Thank you for delaying schoolwork and commenting!

  3. Am I the only one that wonders if His secret name written on Him looks like a tattoo? I know, not the question and yes, I’m odd. But — coming from religion as a person who is Pentecostal, we’re taught not to *mess up* our body because it’s God’s Temple, which I agree with. However, I see tattoos as art, like a stained glass church window? Uhh…. Pentecostal ppl do NOT agree with me. Nor do they cut their hair, wear makeup, pierce their ears, use fancy clothes, ect. And I’m getting way off subject but there was a point to my crazy musings. I just wondered if Jesus’ has Himself a cool tattoo. I wonder if God sits in Heaven and rolls his eyes at our arguments in what He wants and doesn’t.
    Twisted inner workings of my tired mind. LOL

    1. Ade,

      That one verse captivates me. It always has. I had never considered that it was a tattoo.

      Makes sense though. I would imagine it could even resemble something more like a branding..or a scar.

      I bet though that yes, God rolls His eyes at some of our ridiculous debates because they don’t matter and they have nothing to do with Him.

  4. One of my favorite paradoxes right now is in Micah 7:8-9

    “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him,
    until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.”

    It’s amazing how Micah knows that he has sinned and that the darkness he is in is from God. But at the same time, he trusts that God will be His light in that darkness and that God will plead his case and will execute judgment against the enemy for him (even though it is God who has placed him where he is).

    That is so hard for me to comprehend, but it’s the paradox of the gospel- God’s justice and love. Craziness!

  5. Love this Nicole, such a great reminder too. We’re so quick to harp on the fact that God is love — and He is, but He’s also holy, powerful, mighty, jealous and righteous, etc. as you’ve mentioned. He is anything but a pacifist!

    1. Agreed. He is anything but a pacifist.

      I love knowing I serve a God who is complex, multi-faceted (and by “multi”, I really mean infinity) and mysterious even.

      Some might find it difficult, but I find it encouraging. That is the kind of a God I want to serve.

  6. I was just thinking not so long ago about how some Christians (*cough*Joel Osteen*) only see Jesus as the Lamb of God, while others (*cough*Mark Driscoll*) only see Him as the Lion of Judah. But He’s both! In fact, it’s through being the Lamb of God, who willfully allowed the enemy to crucify Him, that He was able to defeat the enemy and be the Lion of Judah. Know what I mean?

  7. I am just reading John Eldredge’s book “Beautiful Outlaw”… it talks about the sides of Christ’s personality that we don’t think about: his sense of humor, his ferocity, his creativity…

    We have to realize that like any human (and he was human, of course) he has multiple personality traits, he is definitely not one-dimensional…

    1. This!!! I don’t know how many times I’ve told other Christians to lighten up a bit, because God actually has a sense of humor! In fact, imagine how much more hilarious His jokes are and uproariously He laughs? Besides, He’s laughed at me and we’ve laughed together more times than I can count during prayer.

      That’s another thing that baffles people, “How could you laugh when you pray?” and I always response with, “Because… we’re talking to each other? Why wouldn’t either of us laugh, cry or shout? We are having a conversation after all.”

      1. Chris,
        I admit, I am a little envious because I have never laughed during prayer. Oh, I’ve cried. I’ve wailed. But I’ve never laughed. I know God has a sense of humor, but…hmmm…maybe I do need to lighten up a bit.

  8. That’s so cool that I’m reading this today. I was just teaching in Romans 2 this weekend and I was talking about how we can tend to go overboard with how we perceive God in His grace. Then we get confused when we see His judgement and we think, wow God is so much meaner than Jesus.

    The thing is that God’s judgement is His love and His love is His judgement. I heard it said that all of God’s judgement is towards that which interferes with his love. I love that!

    I like how The Message interprets Romans 2:4:

    “God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.”

    I also like how the Narnia books portray Aslan. There is a line that says “Aslan is not safe but he’s good.” I think that nails it.

    1. Tony,
      I love that idea–that His judgment is love and His love is His judgment. It sounds so counter-intuitive, but when we come to know the Lord more intimately, we see how this can be true.

      And that line from Lewis about Aslan is one of my all-time favorite descriptions of Jesus (outside of the Bible). Even my little kids can partially grasp the idea when they hear that quote. It is so powerful in its simplicity.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting too!

  9. I also find Rachel Held Evans’ comment that the Bible is, “teeming with conflict and contrast, brimming with paradox, held together by creative tension” to be a wise observation. In recent months I have begun to adopt a personal philosophy that I don’t have to come to a quick and final conclusion about many aspects of doctrine or the Christian life. In many cases, I simply don’t have enough data to do so, and my perspective is not broad enough. I have also come to be more and more wary of folks who seem to adamantly believe that they do have things figured out.

    Nicole, your paragraph on taking “comfort in knowing my God not only loves me, but He fights for me” is a good summary of the new direction my spiritual life is taking. I am learning to trust that God has good plans for me, and that my own efforts to make things happen often serve only to frustrate his efforts. My trust for God also extends to the belief that if he wants my behavior or perspective changed on some issue, he will find some way to communicate this to me or change my convictions to match his holiness. I trust that as long as I continue to trust him, I need not live in fear of his judgement. He will guide me to a place where he can both make use of my life, as well as a place where he can bless me with good things that satisfy my soul.

    Thanks for articulating this well, and for and sharing it with all of us!

  10. I need to think of Him as the warrior. I need Him to stomp some butt and liberate me sometimes. I am so good at incarcerating myself that the meek Jesus couldn’t bust through my walls. I need turbo bone-crusher Jesus to swagger in and pop a cap in somebody, me.

    However, when the consequences of my actions are dealt with I like to know that He is with me, uh, I’m with Him. I feel tougher when I am with a tough guy.

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