December 7, 1941 September 11, 2001
These are days that will forever be associated by Americans with the word "attack".
Days we will all remember, days we all wish to forget.
There's another date that I will never forget. February 14, 2002. Yes, Valentine's Day. But for Tiffany and me, it was quite possibly the worst day of our lives. The day we both came to grips with the understanding our marriage was under attack.
But this attack didn't just suddenly happen. No more than the Japanese just decided to bomb Pearl Harbor or the terrorists decided to crash planes into prominent American structures. Those attacks involved a lot of forethought, organization, and planning.
I don't think our spiritual enemy works any differently. We don't just wake up one day and realize our lives are under spiritual attack. Our enemy walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He's cunning, intentional, purposeful, and even skillful. He looks for ways to "get in" and disrupt our lives, our relationships, and especially our witness to others. And those ways may seem silly, innocuous, ridiculous, beautiful, attractive, or even foolish. But he doesn't care, as long as they reach his objective. And be clear, he comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).
A funny joke.
A second glance.
A little longer watching TV or surfing the internet.
A new app or game "addiction".
A little less time communicating with those we love.
Just one more bite.
A conversation that lasts a little too long, gets a little too personal.
Sleeping too much.
Sleeping too little.
Choosing to keep the Bible closed today.
Neglecting to exercise.
Saying goodbye or hello without a hug or kiss.
Dismissing the concern of a loved one.
Neglecting to pray.
...and the list goes on and on and on and on!
Giving the Enemy Too Much Credit
You see, all our enemy needs is the slightest opportunity - a "foothold" (Eph. 4:26-27) and our lives and relationships can come under attack.
But I think we often give the enemy too much credit. We use some phrase like "the attack of the enemy" to define every negative encounter we experience. And I've heard some real doozies in this regard. Heartburn. Physical illness. Lack of finances. Someone else's behavior/choices. You name it! The thought process seems to be that temptations/trials do not come from God (James 1:13), so this must be the enemy.
Sometimes we do experience real spiritual attack. We give the enemy a foothold, and he starts kicking! But I also believe that more often times the temptations and trials we encounter come from 1) the sin nature of the world we live in or 2) the depraved nature of our own human condition (apart from Christ).
Romans 8:19-22 tells us that all of creation has been unwillingly subjected to vanity or futility. It's the Greek word "mataiotēs" - which also means perversity, depravity. That's why someday God will destroy this world and create new heavens and a new earth. It's the only way to set everything right. It's part of what Christ guaranteed by His death, burial and resurrection.
Likewise, Jeremiah 17:9 states that the human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. That's Greek for really, really, very, incurably awful bad - like there's nothing worse. Ever. Anywhere. Left on our own, we don't really need an enemy to condemn us, to tempt us, or give us a reason to sin. In fact, it really is the other way around. Our own actions and choices, motivated by our own hearts, invite the participation of the enemy. Or, as Walt Kelly so famously quipped through the comic strip character, Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
So what do I propose as the solution to this dilemma? In a word: Jesus. He is the only solution (see the other half of John 10:10: I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.). And then, when things don't go as expected, maybe we should redirect some or most of the blame back where it belongs, and adjust accordingly.
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