I still don’t know for sure if my eighth grade science teacher was joking or serious, but he would periodically spend small portions of our class time presenting evidence for the flatness of the earth. Looking back, it may have been his tongue-in-cheek way of teaching us that evidence can be manipulated, and “scientific” conclusions can be misleading. But, the thought I had then still remains with me: how could anyone not believe the world is round? (We’ll see how many angry responses I get from Flat Earth Society members)
There are many more who deny the moon landing, the Holocaust, the death of Elvis, and the authenticity of fossils. And then there are our own denials that are more often displayed rather than spoken, like racism and pride, denials of the worth of others and our own humiliating flaws, denials that are the result of not being able to see beyond ourselves.
We rely heavily on our own senses, heritage, and experiences. As much as we like to think that we are objective and unbiased, we tend to only believe what we experience for ourselves. It could be the result of Enlightenment thinking, or it might just be human nature. Whatever the case, we have a hard time overcoming our worldviews, escaping our culture, and believing that which we do not see.
There is a war raging all around you at this very moment–a war you cannot see. There are times of all-out chaos, of enemies engaged in the life or death struggle of hand-to-hand combat. There are times of covert operations, espionage, and sabotage. And there are the occasional earth-shattering nuclear bombs.
But, we have a hard time believing it because we cannot see it. And even those of us who do “believe” in spiritual warfare have tended to treat the idea as more of a metaphor than a description of reality. “When Paul talked about putting on spiritual armor he didn’t mean real armor,” we tell ourselves. But, maybe he does. Because when the Bible talks about angelic and demonic armies, about spiritual beings vying for power and tactical advantage, about cities surrounded by chariots of fire, the Bible is describing real warfare.
All we see, though, are the effects. A father loses his temper with his wife and kids. A preacher destroys a congregation by running away with a younger woman. A Christian man gossips about a co-worker to his friends at the water cooler. A church leader is imprisoned because the house church he leads is not recognized by the nation he lives in. A hurricane strikes the Gulf. A twelve-year-old opens an email with an alluring subject line. A Christian woman gets impatient with her over-worked waitress at lunch. A nation goes to war against another nation. But, behind every effect hides the battle between spiritual forces that the Bible so dramatically describes. “The devil made me do it,” may not be so far off base as we like to think.
This is spiritual warfare, and it is more dangerous than any warfare that we humans can invent. It is a struggle for eternity. It is more real than we can imagine. And it is fought in the big and seemingly insignificant events in our lives.
It is about time we take up our “spiritual” armor and engage in this very real and very physical battle.