There is a line in the sixth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that we can never hear too much.
For we are not contending against flesh and blood…
Think of the implications of those words. Our enemy is never something of this world. If we have a group in our crosshairs that we begin to see as our real enemy, then we are being deceived. No ideology, no religion, no criminally minded people, no human beings or work of human beings is our real, true enemy. Though we must resist a lot of evil that human beings do, it is imperative that we are reminded that we always contend…
…against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12)
Big government, big corporations, certain family members, bad bosses, people who have deeply wounded us, the abortion industry, academia, ISIS, secularism, Hollywood, unchristian Christians, Wall Street, other religions, any ‘-ism’, anyone else who doesn’t agree with us – none of these is our true enemy. They may be manifestations of the enemy at work, but they themselves are not the enemy. Our only true enemy is the devil and the forces of Hell. If ‘who we ultimately fighting against’ becomes anything or anyone else – we are off base.
It’s tricky, because we have to fight against a lot of evil movements in the world. Because we live in enemy territory, we have to resist many things that are not of God but are of the enemy. And in the process, we can get confused about who we are really fighting. In trying to dodge and resist the bullets shot at us, we can start to think that the bullets are actually our enemies, instead of the one shooting at us. For example, in fighting to end abortion we can begin to think that our enemies are abortionists, pro-choice people or the pro-choice movement in general. That’s ignoring the gunman for the bullets.
And wouldn’t the best tactic of any enemy be to convince those he attacks that any one, anything else is their enemy except him? Wouldn’t he want us to think, “Oh yeah, the devil is ultimately the bad guy, but for now I’m fighting other things that seem to pose a greater threat. That’s what I’m really resisting.” That’s how we end up hurting those around us who are actually our brothers and sisters, not our enemies. Though the world may rage against the Church and consider us their enemy, they are never our enemy – they are our estranged siblings.
No! The devil is our one and only enemy. There is only one source of evil. The battle we are in, regardless on which ‘front’ we are stationed, is against spiritual forces. It is good to try and dismantle the artillery and resources of the enemy, but we cannot lose the whole vision – they are but movements and manifestations of our real enemy.
We are in a grand battle for one thing – souls. The devil doesn’t ultimately care about making anyone’s life miserable or killing millions of people if it doesn’t lead to the destruction of souls. So no matter what we are fighting, we can’t lose the ultimate picture. We must always…
… look not to things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:18)
May our minds be renewed and the grand meta-narrative of the Gospel begin to overtake us. We are “caught up in the crossfire” of a battle that is raging between the Christ and the antichrist, the Church and the anti-church, the Gospel and the anti-Gospel, and it is a battle for the eternal destination of souls. So through prayer, intercession, Scripture, loving conversations, endurance, fasting, the sacraments, community life and all other weapons at our disposal,
“Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:9)