Could you identify your enemy in a police lineup?
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
My enemy, the enemy, the devil, is always in my face accusing me, laughing at me, seducing me to do things I don’t want to do. The devil is not just my enemy. He is the enemy of anyone and everyone that professes the name of Jesus Christ. And our enemy has a very familiar face. And even though the Scriptures instruct us on how we should deal with him, most of us rarely read our Bible to learn the instructions. And if we do learn about them, we rarely use the tools because, well – we either don’t know how to apply them or don’t recall them, or we don’t have any confidence in those tools, choosing instead to rely on our worldly wisdom and practical strategies.
Revelation 12:9-11 (NKJV)
“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
The Scriptures tell us that our battle is not against flesh and blood.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
This is my truth. When I face the enemy, he often wears a familiar face. It’s interesting, that we take significant steps to guard ourselves and family against attacks from the unknown, the home invader, stranger danger. This knowledge seems to give the enemy the advantage. Because, while we guard against stranger danger (and sometimes bad things happen to good people), we forget that the enemy can use anyone, even family and friends, and co-workers to attack us – making it difficult to go on the defense. Yes, our greatest enemy can be within our walls of protection. Thus, when I see a loved one coming at me (regardless of the offense), all I see is my loved one. OMG! The enemy counts on this. And let’s not forget that we can be our own worst enemy. We (Christians) are likewise offended by the slightest unappreciated comment, and we launch a massive attack on the one we love. And here we have the vicious cycle of offense and defense relationships. There are lots of reasons Christian marriages fail – but failure to communicate – I believe ranks at the top. And that goes for most relationships.
We are in this world, but we are not of this world, so we should not act or behave, or communicate as the world. Our words should be used to edify, and in love, rebuke. I say again, as Christians, our battles are not against flesh and blood.
Have you wondered why the human condition is so unequal, so frail, so easily exploited, difficult to rise above for so many?
Acts 4:32-35 (NKJV)
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
When you witness a believer (in church, or other fellowship) making jest at someone else’s expense, slight as it may be – especially about physical appearance, or passing judgment on someone on the word of a gossiper – or bullying someone, you get the gist. How do you rationalize the behavior, or do you ignore it? “He didn’t mean anything by it.” “He was just kidding!” People say a lot of mean hurtful things, by kidding. If those comments are directed at us, we may brush it of, but believe me – it stays with us for a long time – lurking – waiting to reveal its ugly head.
A few weeks ago, I overheard a conversation at church. Now, this is not about politics, but the conversation was about politics. Anyway, I heard a woman discussing her confusion over who to vote for with a church leader. She seemed sincere in her question. She says, she doesn’t know who to vote for, so who should she vote for. Now, the gent was equally sincere in saying he could not tell her who to vote for. He added, but you have to look at these two parties and what they stand for. Then he tells her, democrats are baby killers and republicans more reflective of her beliefs, or something like that. I was shocked. I consider myself more of an independent, but I know democrats that are pro-life and conservative, and I know conservative/republicans that have had abortions, affairs, Christian women that conceived children by married men. Words, the wrong words, can destroy, deceive and manipulate. Let’s not call the kettle black when we are holding it.
It was also my unfortunate experience to observe Goffman’s front stage – backstage phenomenon (it has to do with social interaction). Actually, I was witness to conversations in two primary professions that deal with our most vulnerable population. Yes, children. I was horrified to hear these “professionals” bad-mouth parents and children. In public, these women were caring, supportive, and whatnot, but behind the scenes, they were cynical, judgmental, and just plain hateful when they referred to parents and children. I have to admit, I lost respect for “professionals.” As Christians we are like that too! We show one face to the world, and behind closed doors we wear another face. And that’s not wrong. But what face are you putting on? Are we Mr. Jekyll & Hyde? Or like me.
When I was young, I had three sets of clothes; work clothes, clothes for public view, clothes for sitting around the house. When I had children, that became to much to handle for myself, so I did that for my children. They had different sets of clothes – that’s pretty normal. My older sister, to this day, will not go out without looking perfect with clothes and makeup. If she’s not dressed perfectly she won’t even let people in her home Me, these days I dress for comfort. And, yes I do get criticized.
James 1: 21-24 “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.”
It’s always been challenging to be a believer of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the Bible because the people to whom God spoke and called were compelled, if not commanded, to write down their experiences. There are many people in a variety of disciplines, and stations in life, that believe that people who can find faith in an unseen entity are weak, weak in character, weak in mind, and on and on goes the critics. Those of us that believe – know different – know the truth.
As Christians, our life, and every word that proceeds from our mouth is our witness. With our mouth, we bless and we curse? Our witness to the love of God – the glory of God. And our witness can take a massive hit when our loved ones go on the offense, or are offended by something we said, or did and in retaliation – we go full-frontal assault. And honestly, that can be said of all interactions What was said may or may not have been intentional, but if that’s how it was perceived…well. Perhaps, we were not considering the feelings of others.
So, for the many already in a weakened state, do we make their plight worse with our words?
Romans 13:8: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-5: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
1 Corinthians 13:2: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
1 Corinthians 16:14: “Do everything in love.”
2 Corinthians 2:10-11 “Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
Matthew 10:21-23 (NKJV)
“Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
Now tell me, is that not difficult? We know well, the enemy of all believers, but do we accept, recognize, acknowledge that he can use anyone to accuse us, to attack us, to take us down with him? Can we identify the real culprit, or do we go with what we see? We want to see poverty, obesity, addictions, violence as the enemy of our society. These are things we must overcome. But these conditions are not our enemy. These are outcomes of allowing the enemy to rule over our lives – instead of – trusting in the Creator to direct our lives. And we all pay the price for mankind’s disobedience.
Learning to live like Jesus, is not easy, never has been. It takes surrendering to the Spirit of God. Learning to love in the midst of hate is equally difficult, but not impossible, if that love flows from the Spirit of God. Truth is, no one wants to be a victim. Everyone wants to be a victor. The reality of that is that we cannot become victors without first being victims.
I recall reading that the apostle Paul was a great victor, an overcomer. Yet, he dealt with his torn in the flesh, he was beaten, thrown in jail, accused of all sorts of things. Although, he said he had known plenty, I am sure he had no mansion on the hill, even if there was, I don’t think you would find Paul living there. Jesus didn’t have a place to lay His head.
1 Peter 2:20 “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.”
1 Peter 5: 6-11 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.”