Have you ever tried to teach your child something and then had them speak into your life instead? This keeps happening to me lately as my kids are growing up, and I’m pretty sure they’re both smarter than me!
I was having another spiritual discussion with my 13 year old son who is maturing in his faith at a very rapid rate. I was encouraging him to pray for people who behave badly as they are probably being led along the wrong path by some kind of spiritual influence.
He had been studying the dark ages at school and has been very fascinated with knights and kings. (He says that heaven will be like middle earth, after Frodo destroys the ring.) He has proclaimed our current period in history as easy and boring and has been wishing he were born 1500 years earlier! We can not deter him with talk about the black plague, the holy wars, or any other horror during that time period.
Still, I thought his response was both true and profound. He said that when a person is caught in the trap of sin, we are no more fighting them than the knights of old were fighting the prisoners in the dungeon. Of course we don’t fight against the prisoners. They’re on our side!
Along this same train of thought, I suppose we are as wrong and confused as the knights were who fought in the holy wars. They forgot that the battle was not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6) and raised their swords against people. These wars still tarnish the Christian faith.
As I was re-reading Frank Peretti’s first novel, “This Present Darkness”, I found a perfect example of this metaphor:
“Susan Jacobson tried to work the shackles loose, but they were clamped on tightly enough to cut into her even if she didn’t struggle. The guards only laughed at her.
“Dear God”, she prayed, “if You are truly the ruler of this universe, please have mercy on one who dared to stand for Your sake against a terrible evil…”
And then-as if she were no longer in that room, as if she were slowly waking up from a nightmare- the agonizing, heart-twisting fear began to ebb from her mind like a fading thought, like the slow, steady, calming of a storm. Her heart was at rest. The room seemed strangely quiet. All she could do was look around with very curious eyes. What had happened? Had she died already? Was she asleep, or dreaming?
“Are you here to help me?” she asked in her heart, and the faintest little spark of hope came to life again somewhere deep inside her.
Clink! Her feet were suddenly released and could swing unbound from the chair. The shackles lay on the floor, opened. She felt something break loose from around her wrists, and she pulled her arms free. The manacles clinked to the floor, just like the shackles that had bound her feet.
She looked at the two guards, but they were just standing there looking at her, still smirking, then looking elsewhere as if nothing had happened.
Then she heard a click, and looked just in time to see the window latch twist loose and the big bedroom window swing open all by itself. The cool night air began to waft into the room.” (p. 264)
I feel like Susan Jacobson sometimes. As I was reading this section of the story, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a time when criticism came too easily for me. I would feel an overwhelming urge to put somebody else down, and it was almost painful to refrain. (See “a very personal story”) This critical spirit has not been able to antagonize me for a long time and neither has anger. But as I look back into my own history as a new person, I can pray for others without feeling any kind of judgement of false piety. It is sometimes good to look back.
For more thoughts on spiritual warfare see “more on spiritual warfare”.