from our partnerLightWorkers Guest
written byErwin Raphael McManus
It’s probably not a good idea for a writer to reveal to his readers where his ideas come from, but in this case, I am making an exception. I could try to give you context, but I’m not sure I can fully explain what came to me—or maybe more precisely, how it came to me. I was driving through Los Angeles on a seemingly average day.
I should preface what I am about to say with the fact that I have a wildly vivid imagination that is informed by a lifetime of daydreaming. More often than not, I find myself in unexpected places, talking to people I’m fairly certain I have never met in real life but who feel very real to me. Sometimes I’m in the curious situation where my imagination takes the lead and I feel more like an innocent bystander.
So on that day as I was driving through Los Angeles, I suddenly heard a voice inside my head whispering a thought that had never occurred to me. I share it with you just as I heard it: The warrior is not ready for battle until they have come to know peace. This is the way of the warrior. What I heard felt like more than just an insight; it felt like an invitation. And this invitation, as strange as it sounds, was the beginning of this book.
The words were not without personality. It was as if I somehow dropped into an ancient time. I could see the warrior’s face and every wrinkle that defined a lifetime of both struggle and wisdom. In that moment, I had been transplanted to sixteenth-century Japan and was listening to the counsel of an ancient samurai trying to teach his young apprentice the difference between the way of violence and the way of the warrior.
It’s easy enough for me to understand some of the experiences that had informed this moment in my imagination. Probably my favorite film of all time is the Seven Samurai, written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The movie is set in sixteenth-century Japan, where farmers from a small village are being oppressed by a band of roving bandits. It’s a story about how one retired samurai, long past his prime, gathers together six other samurai to help him defend this poor village. This film came out four years before I was born, and although I grew up without a knowledge of all the heroes written about in the Bible, it was stories like this one that placed within me a heroic narrative. Throughout my life, I have always admired the courage and honor of Kambei Shimada, the first of the seven samurai.
It was years later that I sat mesmerized watching for the fourth or fifth time the 2002 release of the Chinese film Hero. Through the breathtaking cinematography, I felt transported into the world of a hero whose name is literally Nameless. I had a similar experience only a year later as the only person in a theater who could not speak Chinese, watching the premiere of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And I must confess that the year after that I was deeply impressed by the elegance and profundity of Ken Watanabe’s performance as Katsumoto in The Last Samurai.
Each of these stories wove a heroic narrative within my soul and reminded me that there is a significant difference between violence and honor, between revenge and courage, between the way of war and the way of the warrior.
Perhaps these films and the endless number of narratives that have formed my imagination allowed me to hear the first line of this book as if it called to me from ancient times, but I know it was more than that. My thoughts were also informed by the realities that we face every day in our present times. We live in a world that seems to be marked and defined by senseless violence. We now have a generation whose only impression of human history is an era of global terrorism. Our children can no longer go to school with the assumption of safety but must live with the imminent threat of a senseless massacre taking place on any given day. From Islamic extremists to white supremacists, hate seems to be the order of the day. I still struggle to grasp the kind of rage, hate, and violence that drives a person to walk into a school with more ammunition than a military specialist and senselessly take innocent lives.
It seems pretty clear to me there is something terribly wrong in our world. I, like so many others, long for peace. I would give anything to see the end of violence. Where wars once seemed solely the concern of soldiers, we now know that the problem runs much deeper than places on maps “over there.”
I have been asked many times over the years why the Bible depicts God as a God of war. You can’t escape the fact that there are many battles recorded in Scripture. In the ancient world, the language of war was very common, and for many ancient peoples it was almost interwoven into the language of faith. I am always reminded that it is not God who created humanity to live in violence, but rather it is humanity that chooses violence. That is our history. That is our present, both as a species and as individuals. We would have a history of even more wars if God did not exist. Our past is one of conflict, of division, of greed and power—a constant battle where nation rises up against nation, and brother rises up against brother.
This is not the history of God; this is the history of us. God is tainted by being part of our story, but the story of God is a story of peace. What does the story of peace look like when it’s dropped into the middle of a humanity that knows only conflict and violence? The language of God as a warrior came to exist because he intervened for the defenseless. He heard the cries of a people battling slavery and came to set them free. So yes, it was a declaration of war against injustice, oppression, and inhumanity.
It was Cain who killed Abel. It was God who held Cain accountable and yet still protected him from further violence. It would be easy to blame God for what we have created and to impugn his character because he works to bring peace into our stories rather than manipulating every aspect of the story from the outset. I have become convinced that, more than any of us, God understands the war that rages within and around us and that he longs to lead us to the end of violence. We are people of war because we are a people at war. All the violence we see in the world is but a small glimpse of the violence that churns in us. This war that rages within us eventually boils over and sets the world on fire.
It is the war within us that is the focus of The Way of the Warrior. I choose this imagery because I am convinced that the only path toward world peace is inner peace. Even as I write this book, I am surrounded by an endless number of people—people I love, people I care deeply about—who struggle with inner demons that put them at daily risk. Suicide has become a global epidemic even among the educated and affluent. Those who would seem to have the most reasons to live can’t think of even one.
Depression is at an epidemic level, and we can’t seem to design medication fast enough to keep us from drowning in an abyss that exists within us. Otherwise talented, gifted, and extraordinary human beings are paralyzed by anxiety and overwhelmed by stress. And a growing number of young men and women who have never gone to war find themselves in a battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The sudden outbreaks of violence that have marked the history of our children can no longer be seen as an anomaly and must be addressed as a cultural state of emergency. I am tired of losing people I love. We cannot sit idly by, hoping that the problems will somehow self-correct. Maybe I can’t bring peace on earth by writing this book, but if I can bring peace to one person, I will consider my job done.
Our only hope for societal peace is inner peace, and inner peace will not come without a battle. The struggle is real. The battle lines have been drawn, and it is a battle for our souls. I chose the language of The Way of the Warrior not because I desire to romanticize war but because I hope to help us find a pathway to peace. This war must be won one person at a time, one heart at a time, one life at a time.
This, by the way, is the way of Jesus. This is how he came to bring peace on earth. While others hoped he would call out an army, incite a rebellion, and use his power to topple an empire, he chose a different way. He did not surrender to the status quo nor succumb to the inevitable rule of oppressive powers. He had absolute confidence that his revolution would prevail. He knew the way to peace. He understood the source of all wars. He knew it all began in the human heart.
It is the way of Jesus that is the ancient path to inner peace. In choosing to follow him, I have chosen the way of the warrior. Every day I find myself at war. Even after all these years there are battles that rage within me. But rather than losing ground, I find myself gaining it day by day. I am still fighting behind enemy lines. I have known all the enemies of the human spirit. I have known fear and doubt; I have known bitterness and anger; I have known jealousy and greed. They are all too familiar to me. And after many years of walking this ancient path, I have come to know this one truth most certainly: the world within you will create the world around you.
Inner peace does not come by accident, nor by desire. Inner peace is a journey toward self-mastery. The way of the warrior is a discipline of the soul. It is a journey toward enlightenment. And ultimately it is the outcome of a relationship with the Creator of the universe. The world in which Jesus lived never knew peace, yet no matter how hard the powerful tried, they could never steal his peace. It should not surprise us that it was an act of violence that became for us our way to peace. The cross points the way, but we must choose the path. The Bible speaks of darkness and light, reminding us there is a war that rages within us all.
Have you surrendered to the darkness? Have you lost sight of the light? Have you found yourself exhausted by the struggle yet somehow you refused to give up on the fight? You are not alone. The battle that rages within you was never meant to be fought alone. And if you feel as if you are one breath from giving up, I hope somehow I can convince you that the God who created you is fighting for you.
You cannot give up on yourself when God considers you worth the fight. The cross upon which Jesus died will never be known as a symbol of defeat or a declaration of surrender. The cross will be forever remembered, long after time ceases to exist, not just as a declaration of the one who stands victorious but as a promise that in the end war will surrender to peace. It is the way of Jesus that is the ancient path to inner peace. His life is the way of the warrior.
Erwin Raphael McManus is an iconoclast, artist, and cultural thought leader known for his integration of creativity and spirituality. He is the founder of MOSAIC, a church movement started in the heart of Hollywood with campuses across Los Angeles, Orange County, and Mexico City, and a global community that spans the world. Erwin is the acclaimed author of The Last Arrow, The Artisan Soul, Soul Cravings, and The Barbarian Way. His books have sold more than a million copies worldwide. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Kim.
Excerpted from The Way of the Warrior: An Ancient Path to Inner Peace. Copyright © 2019 by Erwin Raphael McManus. Used by permission of WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.