Since I became a Christian, the subject of spiritual warfare has come up quite often over the years. Until recently, I had a skewed view of what exactly spiritual warfare entails, and would immediately envision the spiritual aspect of folks praying continuously for long periods of time, perhaps loudly in tongues; the louder, the better it was heard. That is not to say that praying loudly for long periods of time is ineffective. On the contrary, we are to pray without ceasing, and to pray fervently. However, one important aspect of spiritual warfare that is often completely overlooked is on a much more practical level.
Romans 12:19-21 says, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In this example, by showing compassion to those who do evil to us, the evil is overcome by the good. Perhaps we have someone in our life who mistreats us, someone who is close to us or who we work with, or someone such as that cashier at the local grocery store. Maybe we have felt justified in our defensive reactions in response to those who have threatened our sense of security. However, I submit to you that returning kindness to those who mistreat us wields a powerful and fatal blow to the enemy’s plan to destroy both us and them.
In proverbs we read the famed verse, “A soft word turns away wrath.” Have you ever seen this in action? I am one prone to putting up my defenses and losing my temper, especially if the person is criticizing me or losing their temper with me. When I have put this verse into practice, or have been the subject of someone else putting this into practice toward me when I’ve been the offender, I have witnessed the enemy’s plan to destroy relationships completely thwarted. Hearts soften in response to kind words or deeds, and there breaks through the powerful sword of the love of God, conquering all that the one who hates us meant for our destruction.
In the movie version of Victor Hugo’s, Les Miserables, the character Jean Valjean is released from prison after serving out his sentence of nearly twenty years for stealing a loaf of bread. He is required to carry a document that brands him as a thief, and as a result cannot find a place to lodge. Bishop Myriel lets him stay for a night, and Valjean ends up sneaking off with the silver, fulfilling the curse, “Once a thief, always a thief,” placed on his head by society. Myriel does not accuse him when he is caught and brought before him. Before the accusers, he tells Valjean that he forgot the candle holders that he had given him, which were far more valuable, and Muriel gives them to him. In essence, he covers the man’s sin against him with an act of extreme kindness, generosity, and love, rather than with an act of vengeance and acusation. This act changes Valjean’s life forever, and he dedicates his life to educating himself and helping others. Great darkness was broken with a humble and selfless act of love. In the same way, Jesus, who was and is of far greater worth than silver candleholders, stood before our accuser and gave Himself in exchange for our sinfulness, an act which covered our sins forever and made it possible for us to be called God’s very own dear children.
Because of the Great Love who dwells in us, we do not need to argue for our defense. Jesus has already done that. Instead, we can safely and confidently surrender our place of being right to that of forgiving offences against us. We must not underestimate the power of that Sword of Love that has been given to us. It is a love that enables us to break through the deepest pit of darkness and render powerless any scheme the enemy tries to use to divide, devour, or keep us and those around us enslaved and imprisoned by hatred, resentment, unforgiveness, addiction, fear, anger, and so on. May God help each one of us to pour out His relentless and pursuing love to a broken, lost, and hurting world, beginning with those closest to us, in the same manner that it was poured out upon us.
September 15, 2007