When discussing missions with any zealous evangelist, it won’t be long before the phrase ‘siege mentality’ is mentioned with a head shake and a furrowed brow. From their spiritual walled castle, adherents of this mentality fearfully examine the moral decay in their surroundings and resolve to have little to do with unbelievers. The call to keep oneself unstained by the world has become their great commission; they’ve raised the drawbridge and put extra piranhas in the moat for good measure.

It is an amusing thought experiment to look out over my Tasmanian suburb and imagine a walled castle amid the streets. While such a building would be geographically strange, perhaps it is spiritually appropriate. After all, the siege mentality has one thing going for it: Christians are actually at war (Eph 6:12). This celestial war, waged on a terrestrial battlefield, rarely reaches the front intellectual burner for many Christians. While the siege mentality is a problem – and it is a problem – very much greater is the problem of believers walking out into the battlefield each day with their spiritual armour in a box under the bed. Walking out into the fray in one’s spiritual birthday suit doth not a battle plan make.

Adherents of the siege mentality have rightly discerned that we are at war, yet they labour under a crucial error: they’ve placed themselves on the wrong side of the door. It’s easy to forget that the siege metaphor is divinely sanctioned; Christ himself adopts this language:

Matthew 16:18 ESV

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

A biblical siege mentality isn’t fearfully watching your door tremble under the strain of the enemy’s battering ram, but rather a confident expectation that the bride of Christ will put a big, gospel-shaped boot right through the gates of hell. We do well to remember who is on the offensive.

Embracing a biblical siege mentality doesn’t mean adopting aggressive evangelism or open hostility toward unbelievers. The full compass of Christian living – warm hospitality, sensitive evangelism, joyful fellowship, and discerning cultural engagement – are arrows in the Christian’s quiver. It is worth noting that these do not exist alongside the Christian’s spiritual warfare, they are our spiritual warfare. These are precisely the behaviours that Christ is pleased to use to storm the very gates of hell.

As Christians, we need to remember that we are at war. We should embrace a siege mentality, just so long as we remember which side of the gates we are on.

–  Paul Matthews