Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
- Ephesians 6:10-12
A friend forwarded some information to me, and in the forward from a third party was a comment that referenced the evil perpetrated by progressives in Congress (or universities or the media, depending upon the topic). While researching a different subject shortly thereafter, I came across multiple references to extreme right-wing science deniers (or climate, or ESG, or misogynists, or racists, and so forth, again depending upon the topic). Apparently, the middle ground has become a chasm. We cannot have reasonable discussions about matters of significance because we are too polarized.
At a family gathering in the past year, a relation spoke generously about understanding all sides by following conflicting news sources, after which said relation waxed eloquently on a hot topic of the day with an appallingly superficial and one-sided opinion. I finally put my head on the table – as luck would have it, not during an actual meal – and held up my hand. When the monologue slowed, I just said, “Please, stop talking. Just… stop. Please, don’t say anything else. Just stop talking.” What I didn’t say was, “You are an idiot, and if you don’t shut up, my head is going to explode all over you.” (I thought it, though, just in case you were under the mistaken assumption that I am making great strides in sanctification and Christian virtue…) The best part? This person went to my parents and said, “Elizabeth sure is opinionated, isn’t she?” I don’t know how my parents responded, but I’m pretty sure they thought, ‘you have no idea…’
Am I the only one who thinks it’s odd that we have conflicting news sources? Just on the face of it, is that not a paradoxical sort of phrase?
I must admit that I find it hard to deal with people with whom I disagree. It’s not so much a matter of being close-minded (although I can be that), but rather, I have little respect for group think. As a friend shared, while trying to reach agreement on some matter with a member of his family, the response he received to the information given was, “Yes, but the alternative facts are…” Alternative facts? There are a different set of facts someplace? His actual response was that there aren’t any alternative facts, just an opinion.
In some degree, that is the problem we face. There is a set of facts with which we’ve lived for centuries. Whether we like it or not, the underlying formation of Western civilization begun in Greek philosophy and carried forward with the spread of the Roman Empire was shaped and perpetuated by Christianity before and after the empire fell. Another set of facts arises from the opinion that the world would be better off by rewriting history to make Christianity the culprit of all that is bad and wrong. The reality is the opposite. Without denying the misuse of Christian teaching or hypocrisy in the church and among professed Christians or even apostasy to attain worldly power, it still is not wrong to say that followers of Jesus Christ have created and done more for the human race than any other civilization in history did or has done for its own people. Science comes to mind, universities and hospitals, as well.
It stands to reason when we think about it. The Son of God came into the world to inaugurate the Kingdom of God where sin and death have prevailed. In Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God has drawn near, and in His ascension, the restoration of creation began. The work of God in His creation is not limited to a particular denomination and not even to a particular religion. Creation and all it entails are the beneficiaries of the grace of our God.
Who gains if Christianity is destroyed? (Realistically, Christianity cannot be destroyed because it’s true, but it can be temporarily silenced by force or by acquiescence.) Whowins if Christians are shut out of the conversation? Irrespective of what people believe contemporarily, the preponderance of actual evidence reveals overwhelming good for humanity has come through Christianity.
One example is blindingly obvious. Respect for human life arises from Christianity alone. That is true for females, true for all races, true for the unborn and the aged, true for the infirm and the mentally impaired. The rightness, the justice, of human rights is assumed around the globe, even though it is not practiced in many nations. Currently, the unapologetically communist Chinese government is increasingly accused by atheistic organizations of enslaving, persecuting, and martyring the Uyghurs, a Turkish Muslim people, because the Son of God became incarnate for the salvation of the world. That is the influence of your God. Two thousand years after the He lived, died, and rose again, atheists believe the Uyghurs have value and deserve better than China’s enslavement and abuse because Christ said we are to love our neighbors in real, life-giving actions. Because that is Who He is, we are to follow in His footsteps and to seek, in His grace and through His Spirit, to be like Him.
So, if people do not benefit from the silencing of Christianity, who does benefit? Perhaps the better question is: who loses when Christ prevails? Is it not Satan and his army of demons?
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Irrespective of what a person thinks or believes, without regard for their political opinions or sexual preferences, Christians are not against human beings. We wrestle with the powers of darkness and the spiritual forces of evil.
As acknowledged in the last blog, there are times when physical battles and wars are inevitable, but that cannot be our first choice. We are for human beings. We are against evil. Across the nation in nearly every aspect of public life (and in a great deal of private life), we are being pushed toward an “us or them” mentality. That is not a Christ-like view of others. Christian life is “us for them” not “us or them.” As our Father calls all people to Him and desires their salvation, so also should we desire this more than anything else.
Several weeks ago, some political fundraising article or social media post came through my inbox and caught my eye. An image of a little girl holding a doll and standing with her daddies watching a gay pride parade was headlined with some derogatory accusation, and the thought that crossed my mind is the whole point of this blog. That little girl loves her daddies, and when we talk about Jesus Christ, Christian morality, and American life, the image of the little girl needs to be before our face. Do I recommend changing Christian teaching on marriage and family? I do not. But we do not war against flesh and blood. We do not speak and act in a manner that tears down human beings, not even those who seek to tear down Christ. He’s already been crucified on their behalf. We do not honor Him by trying to crucify them in return.
If we read the rest of the passage in Ephesians 6, Paul gives instructions for engaging the spiritual battle we must fight. As Christ hung on the Cross between the forces of Satan and the salvation of God, we too are called to stand between Satan and those from whom he seeks to steal from God. Paul tells us how…
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (vv. 13-18a)
These are the skills we need to stand firm engage the battle.
Peace with God.
Sword of the Spirit – the word of God.
Know this with certainty: He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
If we want to know what we can do to make a difference during these unsettling times, Scripture could not be clearer. Let us begin every day on our knees, praying, “Lord, deliver us from evil. Grant us the strength and the skills to stand firm against evil, so that rays of grace and love can shine into the lives of every person we meet.”
Know your enemy. It is not the person in front of you. We are not part of “us or them.” In the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, we are to be “us for them” because Christ was for us before we wanted Him. Out of love for Him, let us go and do likewise.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau