One of my favorite western movies is “The Outlaw Josey Wales.” And “no,” it is not the most godly, or family-oriented, movie out there. But as with most westerns, the good guys win in the end. There are several memorable lines in the movie, but one line in particular includes the title of this article. It occurs near the end of the movie, right before the big gun battle scene. The main character, Josey Wales, is giving a pep-talk to his ragtag band of old men and women who are about to fight a bunch of trained, but lawless soldiers. The “good guys” are preparing a small house to be a fort, and getting all their assigned duties from Josey. Knowing they would be facing seemingly insurmountable odds, Wales begins to tell his friends that when the bad guys start breaking through their defenses, and it looks like it’s all about to end badly, he snarls and growls (paraphrased), “Then you gotta get mean- mad-dog fighting mean!”
Certainly, I’ll be the first to admit that this is an unusual way to begin an article, but it seems to me that even this crude and graphic language has a good spiritual application. I think we sometimes need to adopt the mentality Josey was urging of his cohorts. Sometimes, we too face seemingly insurmountable odds in our “fight” against Satan and sin. But all too often, we don’t get “mad-dog fighting mean” in our struggle with the forces of evil- either the internal or the external ones. Instead, we roll over and play dead (just to keep with the whole “dog” metaphor going)! We don’t get our dander up and fight “like you’ve never fought before” as Josey further urged his comrades. Instead, we give up and run away with our proverbial tales between our legs….and Satan wins! And if we do it often enough, we’ll forget how to fight the passions and pride of sin altogether, and subsequently make pacifist’s pact with the Devil. Such was predicted in 1Timothy 4:1, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,”.
But if we “resist” sin as God commands, it will mean more than just saying “no”. Resisting might mean going on the offensive in the fight. Think about it: the Devil is depicted in 1Peter 5:8 as a “roaring lion”. Now, if you’re locked in a struggle to the death with a lion, you’re not going to be able to talk your way out, negotiate your way out, or “play-dead” your way out. There is but one way out. You’re going to have to get “mad-dog fighting mean” and fight your way out!
Make no mistake about it: the roaring lion and his “rulers….powers… and world-forces of this darkness” (cf. Ephesians 6:12) are not playing tidily winks here- they mean to kill your soul! While we play around with their sinful influences thinking them relatively harmless because, after all, “they won’t affect me,” they’re playing for “keeps” eternally. Remember, “forever” is forever. You and I had better realize that we are in the immortal “fight of, and for, our lives”- and get mad-dog fighting mean in it!
I know that 2 Corinthians 10:3 says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” I’ll be one of the first to say that we do not, or should not, endeavor to use “carnal weapons” in our struggle against Satan and sin. But, please do not make the mistake of forgetting that we are at war! Or at least we’re supposed to be at war. Note that the verses following in 2Corinthians 10 speak of “the weapons of our warfare…are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” When these words were inspired and written, war was not a “push button” computer screen affair. War was then hand-to-hand combat. It is one thing to sit miles away and watch the destruction of an enemy in an innocuous way, it is entirely something else to shove an eighteen to twenty-four inch (typical Roman sword length at the time) piece of metal through him, withdraw it as he collapses, and move on to the next target as quickly as possible. But such was then the nature of war! These are the images portrayed by these verses when they speak of the “destruction of fortresses” because it was what was involved. In such a struggle, passivity gets you nothing but killed! The survivors of this kind of struggle, just like in “Josey Wales”, had better get mad-dog fighting mean or they will lose much more than their lives….they’ll lose their souls!
Please don’t misunderstand my point. I’m not suggesting that Christians must become angry, violent, or aggressive people in their day-to-day interactions of life with other people. Certainly not! I am saying that we must take on a soldier’s mentality of aggressively fighting for our spiritual lives in our struggle against sin within ourselves, and against the forces of Satan without. Sin and Satan’s fortresses are between you and the heavenly reward. “Mad-dogs” that are “fighting mean” destroy whatever stands in their way. What are you going to do?
Philip C. Strong,
Southside Church of Christ,