If you know your Bible, then you know these three things. First, evil is all about deception:
“I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve,” according to II Corinthians 11:3-4; 13-15.
Second, we are engaged in a spiritual war that has an earthly presence, as Paul write in Ephesians 6:10-12: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Third, our only defense, apart for divine intervention, is truth: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints,” as Paul write in Ephesians 6:13-18. This problem goes all the way back to the first couple, as described in Genesis 3:1-7.
Christians are foolish to ignore this with respect to the political process. We dare not ignore it or accept it at face value. I have never been one to make much of spiritual warfare, but to ignore it completely is to ignore God’s word on the matter. If we ignore public issues and the political process, we are abandoning the battlefield to the enemy. Some fundamentalist Christians seem to think, in doing so, to be taking the spiritual high ground, but they are really deserters, who are far from spiritual. Other Christians are more laid-back, simply not caring enough to engage in what is happening or just taking for granted freedoms that are neither guaranteed nor maintained without effort or cost.
Equally unwise is treating the enemy as if he were one of us. Christians are generally nice people who tend to accept naively that everyone else is nice. Such naïve people are definitely disadvantaged in battle, where the enemy has no comparable outlook; he will be shooting to kill. Off the battlefield, in the realms of intelligence and intrigue, nice Christians may accept their unbelieving neighbors as like-minded and trustworthy only to discover, the hard way, that they play by different rules.
Perhaps that is why I have come to appreciate Doug Giles, a pastor, radio broadcaster, and columnist with a definite edge. I have no doubt he offends many Christians when they hear or read him, but they should consider Matthew 10:34, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” He seems to appreciate that we are engaged in a spiritual conflict where our adversaries don’t play nice. Sometimes, I find it odd that we have to be warned, when even other Christians often hurt each other, that those serving “other gods” have their own agenda, strategies, and rules to follow.
As a person who has studied and given his life to Biblical peacemaking, I know that believers must live with a certain tension as we face the worldview of the culture around us and those who openly oppose faith, particularly Christian faith. What troubles me is that we seem to practice “love your enemies” when we should be standing firm against their evil, but treat our neighbors as enemies, whom we ought to be loving. Giles’ column on the Folsom Street Fair rightly slams the gay activists’ antichristian tactics, something we must do if we don’t want to find our religious freedoms severely restricted. My friend Noel questions, also rightly, the hatred that some Christians express toward gays personally.
In this, as in so many areas, Christians, acting “normally,” tolerate the political agendas of activists and politicians but viciously oppose people who are merely sinners, as we all are. One of my favorite little books is Deadly Detours: Seven Noble Causes That Keep Christians from Changing the World, by the late Bob Briner. He makes a very valid point when he suggests that we have acted poorly if we cannot reach across a “picket line” to share the gospel with an adversary.
What’s a Christian to do? I am certain that the worst choice is to do nothing, but that seems to be the frequent choice among Western Christians in Europe and the United States. Do we imagine that the devil’s schemes are some esoteric abstraction, irrelevant to everyday life? I know I have often thought, “Who am I that the devil should take an interest in me?” For others, it may be more like, “What devil?” I suspect we take either position to our peril. The enemy is not God, is not omnipresent, omniscient or omnipotent, and certainly not equal to God, but he is powerful and the dominant power in this earthly realm. We are to protect ourselves to be ready “when the day of evil comes” so that we may be “able to stand.” I’m thinking that, in many respects, that “day of evil” is here!
God has provided two “truth” weapons, one a belt for protection and one a sword, “the word of God,” for offense. Other armament involves faith, righteousness, and peace which rest on the word of truth. Truth is the ultimate defense against deception. In the political realm, truth is typically the first casualty, and much of that realm accepts its absence with little complaint, except with complaining serves their interests. Fellow-traveling media have likewise given up their stand for truth, without which any news media is worthless. In place of truth and honesty, we have propaganda and manipulation for which the only corrective is truth.
In this war, we have two objectives, defeat the enemy but save his soldiers. For the former, we must wield the sword of truth incisively. Here we must “take a stand against his schemes,” once we are properly armored against his deceptions. Using the sword is not for wimps; it requires boldness and courage but also wisdom. If we allow ourselves to become confused, then we may find ourselves fighting allies rather than enemies; that is one insidious design of the deceiver.
For the latter, that is, to save his soldiers, we must “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), something ordinary soldiers generally cannot do. Ultimately, as Martin Luther wrote, “He must win the battle:
A Mighty Fortress by Martin Luther A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal. Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us: The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him. That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth: Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever. The battle is His to win, but saving the enemies’ soldiers is ours to do. That’s why we must be so careful in using the sword of truth, where we must, but making every effort to “speak the truth in love” at every opportunity. We may need to stand firm against the schemes of the proponents of gay marriage, pro-abortion supporters, or opponents of school prayer, but we need the attitude Jesus urged in Matthew 10:16: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” For me, this puts a totally different perspective on politics, political campaigns, and public dialog. Every party and candidate uses almost every ploy they have to win supporters, but the supporters are our neighbors, co-workers, family members, and fellow Christians. Many are not believer, but some are. On the one hand, we must “fight” to oppose the lies, distortions, and manipulations that rain upon us constantly. On the other hand, the people around us are not merely enemies, regardless of the positions the hold or the candidates they support. Them we are to love and speak truth to them lovingly. It makes for an interesting challenge, but it is one that God’s spirit is equipping us to take on, if only we will.