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Battleground mentality

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Luke 11:14-23

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, "By Satan, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons."

Jesus knew their thoughts. He said, "Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.

"If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.

"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters."

Jesus' language is the language of war. In America most of us felt this tension after 9/11, and for a time unquestioning patriotism became a virtual requirement of US citizenship. If we were not for America, we were against it.

Jesus knows Satan is in control of the world. He is the prince, the king, the one in charge. He is very strong and "fully armed." There is nothing I can do about that.

Until Jesus shows up. Then Satan is in trouble. Jesus overpowers him, removes his armor and offers to share the spoils with me.

It is not easy for me to recognize Satan's presence, and I certainly don't relish admitting to his control of the world. Denial provides many comforting moments of pseudo-peace. Reframing reality according to Enlightenment-inspired "reductionism" makes spiritual reality suspect and the existence of Satan a joke. Jesus' contemporaries didn't have the philosophical confusion, but they were unwilling to relinquish control of their lives. Especially to someone as nasty as the devil.

But Jesus makes his offer very seriously. He says everything hinges on being "for him." If I'm not actively following Jesus, then I'm following the devil.

So it's clear that I have a choice to make. If I see things the way Jesus sees them, then there is a war and I can't pretend there isn't. I must put on the "armor of God," and follow Jesus into the battle. Jesus promises to share the spoils of his victory, and his vision draws me in.

But it's hard to change my way of thinking, and it's harder still to admit my weakness in the context of Satan's strength. How much helplessness can I admit? Jesus recognizes my hopeless situation and offers strength and healing. But I must say yes to his offer.

When the bullets are flying around my head, Lord, I know there's a war. Please open my mind to yours, Lord. If that means more bullets ... It is you alone that makes me dwell in safety.

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