How should we proceed when there is ample reason to be afraid?
I’m not talking about the anxiety that many people suffer from, the kind of thing where our brains search for things to worry about.
Nope, I’m talking about the days when North Korea shows a video of one of their missiles blowing up San Francisco, when it seems like our president is hiding something (why else beg the FBI Director to stop his investigation?), or when he leaks classified intelligence to the Russians and tells the murderous Philippine dictator who kills his people that he is doing a great job – and then tells him where our nuclear subs are?
I’m sorry, I don’t want to be too political, but I know I’m not the only one who thinks these are pretty scary times.
So as followers of Jesus, what should we do?
First of all, I think we need a sober analysis of God’s view of this world. Those of us who keep saying God is in charge haven’t read our Bibles thoroughly enough. Yes, of course, God is sovereign and this world has a destiny of renewal in God’s time, a new heavens and new earth where God will dwell with his people (Rev. 21). Amen!
But in the meantime, the Bible seems to say that the Devil is having his day.
Paul speaks of the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph 2:2), which is to say the earth, “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”
Satan seems to think he’s in charge – he tells Jesus so in Luke 4: “The devil led Jesus up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give ti to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
The picture we get of the world and its people is that we are blind to spiritual things, and easily led astray in spiritual ways by a force that is hostile to our Creator. Under those circumstances it is no surprise we choose badly, even though we are made in the image of God and are also capable of goodness, kindness, love and wisdom.
Satan, though, is a liar and the father of lies, and wherever there are lies he is at work. That’s why it’s hard to believe that any president can be God’s “chosen one,” (or that God chooses our presidents!) since it is pretty difficult to get to be president in our current system while always telling the truth – although I have to say, at this moment our president has taken lying to new heights.
So, while there are real reasons for fear, we ought not really to be surprised – what else could we expect?
So what should we do?
Armor up! That’s the Bible’s prescription. We should be very clear what it is we are dealing with and what our orders are. We’re told to “put on the armor of God” – that’s a reference both to David and Goliath and to Isaiah.
It’s a reference to being defended by something better than we can arrange for ourselves. We’re told to find our defense in things like our faith, the gospel, righteousness – our relationship with God – and the word of God. And then to stand firm. God is actually fighting the real fight, the spiritual one, and we aren’t going to be consulted on how he does it.
We will sometimes bear the scars, however.
And when we are wounded, we need to go to the Healer and find our peace in Him. It might take time before we gain his perspective on what’s going on, but it will come. And then we can be empowered to do the difficult things Jesus commanded us: if someone slaps us on one cheek, turn to them the other one and let them have another shot. If they compel us to carry their burdens for one mile, volunteer to carry them two. If they take our coat, give them our shirt, too.
Why would we do that? What kind of nonsense is that?
It’s the nonsense of Jesus, which demonstrates that this battle has already been won. We are supremely confident because we know how it ends. What can the devil take from me? I am eternally safe, and those I love are in the hands of God. Evil will not prevail, even if it wins this skirmish. And nothing enrages evil more than when we demonstrate that our faith has conquered our fear.
Sometimes I say things like this on Facebook and people who identify themselves as Christians say I’m insane. Well, maybe, but what do they think Jesus was talking about when he told us to do that? And we can’t say he doesn’t know what he’s talking about – he went on to do EXACTLY those things, as they humiliated him, beat him, spit on him and crucified him. But he rose from the dead and they couldn’t keep him “gone.” They can’t erase us, either.
The answer to our fear is not nice-sounding bromides but the real truth: we have always been in a battle but we are wrong about who the enemies are. It’s not “flesh and blood,” as Paul writes, but rather God’s Enemy, the spirit of evil. We win by love. We win by trust. We win by standing, in the Spirit, with God. That’s the only thing that ever wins.