I get what the hymn is after.
It’s not really about destroying; it’s about persevering in a time of difficulty. Hence, “Crowns and thrones may perish, Kingdoms rise and wane, But the Church of Jesus constant will remain. Gates of hell can never ‘against the Church prevail, We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.”
And I get where the hymn comes from. We’re reading it in worship this week. “11Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:11-17)
But have you noticed that almost all of the military stuff in Ephesians 6 is defensive in nature? And that this military language is not about defeating any people but rather about battling the forces that would drag us down, lead us astray, suck us in?
So, maybe the military metaphors aren’t the most helpful. I mean, if we are out to convert the world to God’s ways, God’s love, God’s justice, then killing is not exactly one of the options. What if instead of seeing enemies all around us, we saw people to be converted to God’s ways? The question then becomes, “How do we go about accomplishing this mission?” Perhaps those same defensive (and one offensive) implements (truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Spirit) might just be the right tools.