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Fighting the Right Enemy

• Greg Boyd

Is there really a spiritual war? Do we believe that there is such a thing as a spiritual reality? If we don’t, we will engage the wrong enemy. Instead of fighting the powers of Satan, we will target other humans, often with hatred and violence. Spiritual warfare practiced through love and prayer is central to the Christian walk, but we need constant reminders in our Western culture that there really is a spiritual war going on.

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This week’s message addresses some of the questions that arose out of the preaching from last week, where the concept of the spiritual war that Jesus fought was introduced. The focal point of this sermon addresses how we do spiritual warfare.

As an introduction to this question, Greg first addresses the question how a stance for peace and non-violence can be so closely attached to a warfare motif. While referencing the book War and Peace from Genesis to Revelation by Vern Eller, he explained how humans were created to have “dominion,” that is to guard against an enemy. We are made in the image of God who is a ferocious protector of what is precious. We are designed with a fighter instinct, but instead of fighting against the appropriate enemy, this enemy has convinced humans that other humans are their enemies. As a result, we misdirect our battle instincts.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This requires that we acknowledge the reality of powers that are not made of flesh and blood. Such are our true enemies. If we are not convinced that they are real, our fighter impulse gets turned from these powers to people.

  • Instead of fighting the Powers that fuel violence by loving our enemies, we start hating our enemies and justifying violence against them.
  • Instead of fighting the Powers that fuel legalism by loving Pharisees, we start despising Pharisees.
  • Instead of fighting the Powers that bring about heresy by standing up for truth while loving heretics, we start hating those we think are heretics.
  • Instead of revolting against the Powers that fuel racism by loving people of all races and loving racists, we start hating the racist.

The trouble is we’re blinded in our culture. In most cultures the reality of the spirit world is as obvious as the reality of physical world. But in the West we’ve been culturally conditioned to not see this spirit world or believe in its existence. Until we’re convinced in our gut that it is real, we won’t be motivated to live the radical life of a solider at war, because we don’t really believe there is a war. And we’ll be inclined to direct our warrior instinct against the WRONG ENEMY. We’ll be inclined to fight with violent words, attitudes and behaviors rather than with prayer and love.

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Topics: Love, Non-Violence, Prayer, Spiritual Warfare

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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 11: 14-22

    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 Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

    Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon 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 his plunder.

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