A classic painting of a war scene. This painting represents how Christians are at war with their flesh.

What war we’re in! The tongue can be perfect, but it’s at war; it fights its poison and fire constantly. “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:21-25)!

The tongue is at war with the soul, but the Christian has victory through Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the battle remains, and it remains for everyone. Only those in Christ have the victory in this battle.

Now, it appears that the law wins. Does not it say that the law of sin makes the law of my mind (or it can also be said law of my soul) captive? The world says since a person has the law of the soul and the law of sin and the law of sin produces evil thoughts and actions that a person must say or do evil. “If you claim that you are perfect,” the world adds, “you are a liar!”

How the world does not see perfection! Of course, the world reminds us we can’t throw a sinless stone (John 8:7). Yet, the world leaves out that the first sin is to pick up the stone.

So are we to accept sin as commonplace? Are we to go to the battlefield and accept that the law of sin conquers us? Are we to dress up for war only to tell the enemy he has, by consequence, won?

The world would have us accept an imperfect body, an imperfect tongue. “The Freudian slip of the tongue is always present,” the world says. “The tongue,” the world says again, “will always have mastery over the soul.” But what is a war without a fight? Are we captive because there is one who makes us captive?

It is far better to believe that one always has the choice to fight. It is also better to believe that victory is not already determined—given to the enemy. That is to say, the enemy may make people captive, but I’m not defenseless. I am not a slave, a prisoner to the enemy, or dead because the enemy wants to enslave, capture, and kill me. That is to say, why would one say that the law of sin wars against me if there’s not another law that can resist it.

So we read that “let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6:12). And we read that “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). And we read that “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). The enemy’s desire is separate from my will. In other words, I choose to either obey God’s righteous passions or the enemy’s sinful passions. How I obey determines my victory.

To be sure, the body is a battlefield, and it must obey either God or the devil. Might I say, there’s no middle ground in this fight (a sort of lukewarmness at war) lest one is caught in the crossfire and dies in vain (Revelation 3:16). A person who is at war and chooses neither side but stays in the war is hit, shot, and attacked from both sides. This war is too big to just be neutral and get out of the way, get out of the war. Everyone must choose a side and fight. A person might say, “I’m not taking sides!”

Yet, this position is characteristically demonic. Do we not know we must take sides? Does not a warrior know how to choose and fight for a side. A great warrior once said “if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). At any rate, we are under command. Our tongues are under command. Our tongues are ruled by God or the devil.

The Christian is loyal to God. Therefore, the one who controls the mouth yields to the rule of Jesus Christ. “For kingship,” for the Christian, “belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). The Christian detests the law of sin and, rather, embraces the law of grace. For the Christian holds these words like a banner: “For by grace I have been saved through faith. And this is not my own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). “Therefore, it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all” (Romans 6:14).

This law, the law of grace, is surnamed “the law of the Spirit of life” to indicate that because of God’s gracious gift of faith, we can receive eternal life. The Christian can fight against its fleshiness, its fleshy tongue.

However, the world claims that the battle for our soul is already lost. To the world, the fleshy tongue always wins. The world endows the fleshy tongue with power and might and bows down to its crookedness and perversion; all to “enjoy doing evil and rejoice in the twistedness of evil” (Proverbs 2:14-15).

But it is better to love the straight paths of Jesus Christ in which he leads the Christian (Proverbs 4:11; Matthew 7:14). So it is best to do as the Christian: “give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:26-27).  When we walk circumspectly according to God’s rule, only then can we keep our tongues from perversion and corruption (Proverbs 4:24).

Therefore, although we’re in a difficult war, it’s not lost to profanity. Because as the soul yields to the supreme rule of Jesus, the tongue triumphs over the enemy of sin.