I told you yesterday how a recent visit, along with eleven Aussies, to one of South Asia’s most spiritual cities got me thinking about spiritual warfare.
I began to wonder if the fact that I haven’t experienced the type of hair-raising, shiver-inducing spiritual warfare that most intrigued our group and gets written about in books meant I was missing some “higher level” of spiritual intuition.
As I pondered, I thought of something one of my professors had said about spiritual warfare. That in the Bible, we see three types of warfare mentioned – that against “the flesh” – the sinful nature (ala Romans 6), that against “the world” – forces in society like corruption, injustice, or materialism, and finally against evil powers and demons. Often these are intertwined; for example, there is a personal as well as a societal element to corruption or injustice.
Then I realized I often experience spiritual warfare – but it more usually presents itself in the first two arenas. In the city where I try to live with a clear testimony, I am privately more tempted towards acting out of impatience and anger than I normally am elsewhere. I have faced greater pressure from friends to lie than anywhere else. These are clearly sins – yet I did not readily classify those temptations as “spiritual warfare”. Why?
My best answer so far is because these types of temptations and struggles are not the sexy kind of warfare we like to hear about. Frank Peretti doesn’t write books about people overcoming bad tempers – he writes about people overcoming encounters with legions of demons. We applaud stories of people whose post-Jesus, life change story includes getting off of alcohol or drugs – but we really lean in for the stories including deliverance from demons or encounters with evil presences.
I think this is a problem in two ways.
1) It raises one kind of spiritual warfare over another. Imagine if in the group mentioned above, an issue with disunity or a lack of love (the defining marks of Jesus’ disciples) had opened up among them. Would they have been as concerned with that as with the “evil spiritual presences” they felt during our walks through temples?
How would your personal response to “we’ve got an issue with a lack of integrity” and “we’ve got an issue with witchcraft” be different? Would you naturally ramp up the adrenaline and response level just a few notches for the latter?
I think Satan laughs gleefully when his attacks of greed, pride and lack of love walk right through the front door while we keep a careful watch for demons slipping in through the cracks.
2) It makes places like this seem extra-super evil and people like me who live here out to be super-spiritual warriors because “you live in a place like that”.
Yet we are all warriors and every place holds its temptations – you and I both fight daily battles with holding grudges, letting go of anger, apathy, lack of joy and ungratefulness. I do not face a spiritual warfare at a different level from what you face, though mine does perhaps a different face.
So, 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. (Ephesians 6:10-11)