Christian combativeness may be defined as the fighting quality whereby a Christian defends himself, others, good principles or good things against evil, by resisting the real or imaginary attacks of the devil, the world or the flesh on these.
Combativeness consists of two elements: (1) it takes a stand for some person, principle or thing; and (2) it resists attacks thereon.
The idea of Christian combativeness becomes more clear from a consideration of its opposite, which is the quality of weakness that stands for nothing positively and is non-resistant under attack, regardless of the propriety of taking a stand against and resisting such attack.
The Exaggerations of Combativeness
Of all our Christian graces, combativeness may be the quality that is most frequently exaggerated, or overdone. Let us consider six forms of exaggerated combativeness:
(1.) Anger may be used when the interests of truth, righteousness and holiness require it – righteousness indignation – but uncontrolled loss of temper, regardless of its intensity should be curbed.
(2.) Variance is the spirit that enjoys contradicting others, that loves to take issue with others, that instead of making for peace seeks to stir up strife, that differs from others for the sake of differing, etc.
(3.) Faultfinding in one is characterized by almost always complaining at the work, speech, opinions, looks, achievements and appearances of others. In the husband and father this evil criticizes the meals, the appearance of the home, the wife and the children; in the wife and mother it nags the husband and children on all sorts of subjects; and in the businessman it tears into his competitors, his employees and his wholesalers.
(4.) Contentiousness is another form of exaggerated combativeness. While we are privileged to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints for ourselves and for others (Jude 3), we are never to do this contentiously. Yet there are some who engage in strifeful debate on almost every possible opportunity. Such preach the Gospel from strife (Philippians 1: 15, 16), and do a world of mischief to others.
(5.) Ill-nature is a soured disposition, that is almost always surmising evil, impugning motives, putting an evil construction on almost everything, harboring suspicions against others, accusing them of evils, indulging in harmful slanders and gossip, exercising much backbiting and seeing almost nothing good in anyone or anything.
(6.) The holding of grudges is the sixth and last form of exaggerated combativeness, and it needs no further comment.
Curbing Overdone Combativeness
Because combativeness is frequently overdone, as was described in our previous section, it needs to be curbed, restrained. One of the methods to be used in curbing overdone combativeness is displacing it by putting its opposite grace, longsuffering, in its place.
Another good method to curb it is restraining its exaggerations by operating against them graces other than the opposite grace. Faith, self-control, brotherly kindness and unselfish love are the most helpful. They will discourage a too defiant, bold, resistant and self-defending spirit. They will help us to turn the other cheek, to be longsuffering, to bear impositions unresentfully, to avoid too much encountering and to leave off unnecessary debating. They will overcome the partisan spirit. They will put mildness, pleasantness, tact, meekness and gentleness into our expressions of combativeness.
The Results of Combativeness
When combativeness is properly exercised, it glorifies God and honors Christ. It gives the leaders and those who are not leaders among the brethren needed support and encouragement in their battles for truth, righteousness and holiness, especially weak brethren.
These results often extend to winning some from the world to the Lord, and will in the next Age help the rest of the world who behold our present good exercise of combativeness to glorify God in the Millennium. Its results even extend to the devil, the world and the flesh, in discouraging them from hopes of successfully overcoming us by their attacks. And finally, its results extend to the vindication, progress and victory of truth, righteousness and holiness.