The term spiritual warfare has a way of igniting the imagination. One thinks of rebuking an evil spirit or casting out a demon. One passage records, “And someone from the crowd answered [Jesus], ‘Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.’” (Mark 9:17-18).
Nothing you want to mess with. But then, few people do.
But there is a more subtle form of conflict. In flipping through the pages of the Bible, one notices the killing of the infants in Bethlehem; Christ’s temptation in the wilderness and later in the garden of Gethsemane, and all that transpired at Calvary. No writhing on the ground, foaming at the mouth, or screaming obscenities.
To look at it from the outside, you would only see tragedy and existential angst.
It’s seldom a good idea to reduce a spiritual truth down to where you think you’ve got it all figured out. What you think you’ve got all wrapped up can soon become your undoing.
In his preface to The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis begins with this foundational observation,
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”1
Self-proclaimed exorcists make me nervous. So do self-deceived materialists.
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” – Ephesians 4:26-27.
- C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1980), 3.