“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 and a magician with the same delight. This is certainly true about Satan. Some people totally dismiss him as an impersonal force or somebody in a red suit with a pitchfork. On the other end of the spectrum, many people attribute too much power and importance to Lucifer. They feel he is God’s equal.”
It is so very true, isn't it? Likely you know many people who seem interested in a physical devil and utilize it to their advantage in situation to dismiss involvement or control where "the devil made me do it." Or there are those who in the interest of non-dualistic thinking scrap everything so we are left with no answer to the question: "Then why do people commit such horrific acts against one another?" This week in our Scripture we are speaking of arming ourselves for spiritual warfare, and part of our Ephesians passage (Ephesians 6:10-20)was designed to empower the politically oppressed persons of the first century. Their daily fight for their faith against what was and continues to be, the forces of evil in this world.
I do think it is interesting how often persons attach to this idea as a personalization of evil. Perhaps it makes it more relatable to us. But this dualistic thinking has also placed us in some challenging theological discussions of atonement, in which the power of God is negated. But the reality we can not deny: though the format might differ, there is a power of evil in our world. That evil grows and builds whether it starts with a thought and ends with an action, or is ever present.
Resentful feelings, vengeful motives and abused power can be the face of evil. Or try the "isms" that have destroyed goals and motivations for all who have been on the receiving end of sexism, racism, classism and discrimination based on sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. I'd say that is about as flesh and blood as you can get.
So is the devil real? I'll admit I've never seen a red horned, pitchforked figure in my life. But I've definitely felt the pull of power and contributed to the injustices in this world by lack of action. I've witnessed the pain of persons who are hopeless due to exclusion and looked into the panicked eyes of those without food for their children. And so we are encouraged by the writer of Ephesians to be aware and be dressed for battle. Because the more we are aware of these powers of evil in our lives, the more we must work towards justice and peace in our world with and for God. And the more peace and justice reign, the more God's kingdom is built on earth.
The red suit and pitchfork aren't part of the outfit, but I certainly believe we must be prepared by protecting our hearts and minds, with a belt of truth and a shield of faith.
Be a Blessing,
P.S. This Sunday we will bless the backpacks of our children returning to school as well as dedicating the briefcases, diaper bags, and purses of anyone who wants to have their day to day ministry blessed. It is one reminder of how the presence of Christ goes everywhere you go.