Spiritual Warfare: Who Is The Enemy - Ephesians 6:10-17
The problem is, my brothers and sisters, that when the People of God begin attacking those who disagree with them, it reveals that we have forgotten who we are, who we serve, and who the real enemy is.
I have to believe that Paul repeatedly faced this problem which led him to write as he did this letter to the church in Ephesus. We read over and over in Paul’s letters as he addresses divisions in the church—with folks arguing over everything from what foods were morally okay to eat, to what Hebrew laws needed to be followed, to which of the apostles were to be considered authoritative and followed, to what gifts were the greatest, to how to address sin within the church. The churches to which he wrote also found themselves in conflict with the society around them, with the influence of pagan temples, civil rights, and governmental pressures.
As members of the churches chose sides and were determined that they knew who they were battling, Paul writes:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
What was Paul saying? Paul was speaking to those churches, and those in the churches, saying, “when you look at those brothers and sisters in Christ who stand on the other side of the line you have drawn, when you look at those in the community around you that you have decided are who you need to claim victory over, rethink yourselves. They are not the ones you are called to battle. They are not the ones who you need to claim victory over. They are not your enemy.” Paul says, “your struggle is not with those with whom you live—not with those of blood and flesh; not with those whom God knit together in their mother’s womb; not with those whom God has given life by filling their spirits with His very breath; and not with those for whom Christ offered His very life.”
My brothers and sisters, we are not in a battle against liberals or conservatives. We are not in a battle against the gay community or those who hold fast to Traditional marriage or those who believe guys are guys and gals are gals. We are not in a battle against Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists, or anyone else along the religious or non-religious spectrum. We are not in a battle with gun-control advocates or gun-wielding 2nd amendment activists. We are not in a battle with immigrants, whether they are legal or undocumented. We are not in a battle with those who wish to see any non-citizens deported. We are not even in a battle with the drug dealer, violent criminal or terrorist. Each one of those folks, like each of us, breath in and out the very breath that God placed within us…each one of them, like each of us are those for whom Christ hung on the cross and offered his life to save. Each of the folks who stand on the other side of the line from us, like each of us, are those for whom Christ’s resurrection offers the promise of a new, forgiven, and redeemed life.
Our battle, our war, our fight, is not a contest simply waged on this earthly plane. Our battle extends beyond what we can see, hear, taste, touch, and feel. We are engaged in a spiritual warfare. Our battle is against the power of darkness and the forces of evil. This is a war much bigger than we we may even imagine.
The front lines of this battle are fought first on our knees and then on our feet in the streets. We are called to engage in this warfare wherever we see darkness and evil. We are called to fight the evils of human trafficking and the slave trade. We are called to fight the darkness of addiction. We are called to fight the evil of racism, ageism, sexism, and every other area of oppressing another living being. We are called to stand against the destruction of life—whether it be that of an unborn child or a person on death row, whether it be through genocide or the disregard of oppressive living conditions. Wherever we see satan at work is where we are called to go…yet we are not to give into his wiles, but to stand against them.
And as we stand against satan, we must be careful not to give in to fighting the battles his way. Out of the chaos that was General Conference two years ago, one of the positive lights that stood out was the sermon of Bishop James Swanson of the Mississippi Conference. During that sermon, Bishop Swanson proclaimed, “It’s all right for you to disagree with me but it’s not all right for you to hate me. It’s all right for you to plot to win, but never use the weapons of [satan] against the people of God.” I would go one further than the Bishop and say that we, as the People of God, should never pick up and use the weapons of satan against anyone that Christ shed His blood to save.
What are those weapons that we should never find in our arsenal? What are the tools of darkness and evil that we must avoid? Among them are hate, lying and deceit, humiliation, abuse, condemnation, and alienation…any weapon that would seek to destroy another person, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. These are tools of the one who would deceive us in telling us that is the way to defeat our enemy. When we pick up those tools, we begin fighting on the side of the one that we should be seeking to claim Christ’s Victory over.
In this war, my friends, we are called to equip ourselves with the divine weapons of battle. What are they? Paul tells us clearly, and in the coming weeks, we will explore each one individually as we engage in this war by putting on the Armor of God: the belt of truth…the breastplate of righteousness…shoes that lead us to places to proclaimed the gospel of peace…the shield of faith…the helmet of salvation…and our only offensive weapon…the Sword of the Spirit.
Now that we know who our true battle is with…let us commit ourselves to this war…and make ready to equip ourselves to wage it God’s way!
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!