We are at war. No, not our nation. Christians are at war.
It is not terribly uncommon to hear this expressed today in various media outlets. But what is offered is usually some suggestion that war is being waged against Christians. Attacks are reported to be initiated by Muslims, by American politicians, or by militant atheists. While there may be some validity to those claims, such ideas can cause us to miss the real issue. Christians are under attack. But the enemy is Satan.
Peter described him as “our adversary” and said that he was like a hungry lion ready to devour (1 Peter 5.8). Eugene Peterson translates that verse with this descriptive language: “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping” (The Message). Paul describes his attacks on people as “flaming arrows” in Ephesians chapter 6.
Even more sinister is that this enemy can alter his appearance to even that of an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11.14). That means he doesn’t look like a lion; that would make him much easier to spot. Nor is he walking around Duke-boys-style with a burning arrow nocked on a compound bow. That, too, would make it easier to avoid his attacks.
Instead, he can look like one of us. He can walk among us and set his snares without us even noticing. He can use people we love and trust to lead us astray. He can influence even those Christians we respect, setting brothers and sisters at odds with each other. This has devastating effects; too, since Jesus said the one identifying mark of Christians to the world around us is our love for each other (John 13.35). How destructive Satan has been in tearing churches apart while the world watches, slowly believing less and less in Christ because of the actions of his followers.
But there is good news regarding this cunning, deceitful thief. God has given us an array of personal protective equipment, described as armor in Ephesians 6.11-18. It covers us head-to-toe and includes a powerful weapon – the word of God. Knowing its power, Satan even tricks us into using the Bible against each other. That keeps our focus off him, thus leaving us vulnerable to his attacks from behind.
But God didn’t just give us tools and leave us to fend for ourselves. Paul tells us that the real force for defeating the enemy is the very power of God. God’s power in us is so great that nothing is able to stand against it, or us when we are clothed with him (Romans 8.31).
Don’t be discouraged, or afraid. In the heat of battle you can know that the angels of God are deployed to the aid of those who are fighting Satan. Go read 2 Kings 6.8-17. Take courage from the chariots of fire, and remember that the army who fights for us is greater than the one fighting against us.
Tim Parish is preaching minister at Maple Hill Church of Christ.