Battle Lines

– Pastor Brandon’s article from the October 2016 Newsletter

Have you ever noticed that people love stories about good over-coming evil? All we have to do is look at the popularity of the latest blockbusters. Our screens are filled with superheroes, Jedi Knights, and secret agents who take down the forces of darkness. Throughout the history of humanity, people have cheered when the good guys win. It is clear that there is something deep within the human soul that cries out for triumph of good over evil and longs for the wrongs of the world to be set right.

This is exactly what God is doing in Christ Jesus. He has sent his son to redeem the world from evil and its effects. On the cross, Christ paid the price for all the wrong things that we have done, and when he returns in the fullness of his kingdom, he will complete the work of freeing the world from evil, pain and suffering. Furthermore, as his people, God invites us to join with him in this work as he sets things right in the world around us.

In the last section of Ephesians, God calls us to rely on his power as we make our stand against evil:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-17)

I think one of the most important things to note about this passage is the identity of the enemy. I’m afraid that in our thinking we often draw up battle lines with people in mind. As we struggle for good in this world, it can be very easy to picture various individuals or groups as standing against us. We think things like, “If John would just get his act together, this would work,” or “If Jane would treat me right, my life would be so much better.” We start painting others as the enemy, and we extrapolate this mindset out to larger communities. We have a tendency to distrust people who are different from us. We imagine ourselves battling the Baptists or the Pentecostals, the foreigners or the nationalists, the Democrats or the Republicans…the list goes on.

Yes, there are some debates and discussions worth having. Yes, there are people who do evil things. However, a problem arises when we start viewing people as the enemy. The passage above indicates that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil at work in the world. Therefore, I need to start looking at people the way that God looks at them. He knows we are fallen, but he also loves us and desires our healing and restoration.

Therefore, when I approach what I might be tempted to think of as “problem people,” I need to be reminded of God’s desires for them. I have found the principles of 2 Timothy 2:24-26 helpful in this regard:

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

When it comes time to engage with others, I ask myself the following questions:

  • What is my goal in interacting with this person?
  • Am I truly concerned about helping them overcome the effects of evil in their life, or am I just trying to fix them so that I don’t have to deal with their problems anymore?

Do you see the difference? The first mindset is rooted in love for the other person while the second is all about me.

So, as you think about the struggles you’re in right now, what is your mentality? Do you find yourself fighting against people? Or, do you find yourself fighting on behalf of people against the forces of darkness? May the Lord empower you as you take your stand!

– Pastor Brandon