Fallen World- Between Spiritual Warfare and Self-Responsibility.
"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." ( 1. Peter 5, 8 ff ; NIV translation.)
My dear friends,
we are living in a dark time. That is the truth. The truth is also that the darkness is characterized by an absence of love that is frightening.
A godless world, it is called. A world in which powers, forces and motives other than God have long since taken over. And as if that were not enough, there is also an invisible threat over the whole earth, which calls us to distance ourselves from each other and gives us the queasy feeling that our closeness could be painful or even deadly for the other.
We already have a hard time with closeness to each other - and now - now the confirmation seems to be delivered free house that it is better to go on distance to each other.
Yes, the fallen world is real. We can gloss over it or explain it away. But if we then honestly look outward, it feels like a heavy hurricane that sweeps over the earth and knocks everything short and small that stands in its way.
Do I believe in the accuser, hell, Satan?
I am not an esoteric, I am a Christian. Of course, I believe in both sides of the coin. However, I do not believe that they are equal. I don't believe in Yin Yang and I don't believe that this duality has any real justification anymore. Nevertheless- we see the foretaste of hell in this world as clearly as the foreshadowing of the coming kingdom. Both are clearly before our eyes: suffering, disease, destruction, hatred, contempt. Devaluation. Oppression, bondage, slavery, death. Even worse: ignorance, indifference, emptiness, self-centeredness, lack of purpose and meaning. On the other hand, to those who's eyes are open: God's beauty, love, friendship, closeness, happiness, life, creative, preserving power.
We learn so well. We learn so well-behaved by heart that Jesus won the victory over this darkness on the cross. That his sacrifice ransomed us once and for all from the darkness of sin and death. From the darkness of missing the mark.
Missing the mark?
It is the original Hebrew meaning for sin. Just missing the mark. Missed the way. Losing way. Making the wrong decision. Choosing the wrong priorities. Losing sight of the goal. Getting distracted from the truth. Betting on the wrong horse. Choosing doubt instead of trust. Following the wrong voice.
When I presented this topic to Jesus to write about today, I did so with stomach cramps. In fact, much of what I write is absolutely compatible with the vast majority of established beliefs. However, when it comes to the subject of spiritual warfare, I do a 180 degree about-face internally. What is going on in our communities is so deeply connected with darkness that I want to run for cover.
In an attempt to seize authority, bastions of demons are attacked, angels and the Holy Spirit commanded. Own responsibility is abdicated and blamed on the influence of false spirits and temptation. "I was in warfare, I can't help my misbehavior" "Oh, it wasn't me, Satan twisted my words."
"Noone is to blame me, I'm chosen, not my responsibility."
On the other hand, people with physical-mental illnesses are blamed for their suffering. Their anxiety disorder, their depression, their chronic exhaustion is often attributed to a demon possession or their own culpability. Parents with autistic children are excluded from church services in scurrilous Christian communities because their child is demon-possessed and therefore not "pure". Super-rich Christian leaders fly to their appearances by private jet because they cannot bear the presence of these "demon-possessed ordinary people." Honestly, it is sheer horror that all of these faith approaches trigger in me. Elitist, totalitarian, fascist and deeply magical are the protection rituals that are spoken. Presumptuous is to command the Holy Spirit, God. Loudly the war cry echoes through the communities, frenetic, aggressive, destructive. Within it, Satan takes over. I read a call for help by a woman posted in a support group once. She was frightened, scared to death. Another christian had told her that she'd be under witchcraft attack. She got scared- was safe before. It died down only when I told her that she is safe. That pondering about that supposed attack brought her out of peace and therefore was the attack, actually. The fear of demons and spirits and the constant fight against it robb us the time to rest, to worship, to seek God. And lead to assaulting behaviour without measure.
God says that he is for us. However, spiritual warfare is not for. It is against. It is fighting against an invisible opponent that we cannot assess. And not infrequently people become victims of this struggle. Did Jesus command us to do this?
"Fight fire with fire". Don't the weapons we use have to be different from those of the magical, demonic hordes that assault us? Do elves defeat dwarves with axes? Does Jesus defeat demons with their weapons?
I was in the esoteric scene for a few years. That which seems so cute, so light and love moderate is well disguised darkness. The goal is isolation in self-realization. Godlikeness. Spiritual experience for free. Trade with powers for own manipulative well-being. Man becomes the center of all being, the sun revolving around itself. Forever.
But man and his salvation is not the center of all being. Man is assigned to a much greater, wonderful plan. We Christians are - every single one - cells in the great body of Christ. And if we do not find harmony and love in Him, the whole building collapses. We learn who we are not by self-analysis nor by self-submersion. We recognize ourselves in the reflection of the other. We recognize our destiny, our goal, our true identity through Jesus' eyes alone.
Human beings are relational beings. Just as God seeks relationship.
If the fallenness of the world is determined by anything, it is by division, separation and indifference. A string of lights can shine only as long as it is connected. What Satan does is attack the connections. What Satan wants to destroy are two levels of relationships: The relationship with God, the relationship with each other. Satan purposefully goes against love and purposefully goes against unity in spirit.
The result is disturbed relationships. The more important a connection between people is, the more it is attacked. It is ridiculed and covered with lies. The serpent drips his poison of doubt, of questioning, of claiming power.
The scene of the spiritual battle - it is neither bastions of evil nor portals as in the Elder Scrolls classic "Oblivion".
No, the setting is our heart.
These energies, these spirits exist as Holy Spirit truly does. That is real. But still, they can only make a difference where the seeds of doubt, fear, selfishness or shame have been sown before. And those who impulsively shoot fire arrows at each other are us. Nothing hits the other person as hard as a questioning of one's own motives. Nothing hits so hard as the well-aimed, vengeful blow of a friend. Breach of trust. Lack of loyalty. Withdrawal of love. Overreaching. We suffer the deepest injuries of spiritual warfare where we should be safest: In close relationships.
Yes, Satan also works globally. There are global disasters. Yes, he tries to drag us down in many ways: He plunders and robs. Steals health, steals life. He creates illusions and leaves us dissapointed.
But what ends up unsettling us, making us fall, make us stumble - it is the lack of love and support among ourselves. Deny someone encouragement and recognition for a long time and see how he or she falls. Deny support, closeness, hugs, and you will see him or her freeze. Violence, neglect and insecure attachments are the basic traumas of childhood.
What we forget is that the Bible does not speak of only one form of sin-it speaks of sin and guilt:
Sin, it is misbehavior, deviation from God's plan. Guilt - it is not fulfilling the mission. It is what we do not give, even though we could. And yes: we sin against each other, through devaluation, condemnation, disparaging remarks and contemptuous pride. By withdrawal of support, of love, respect, appreciation and genuine affection. We starve each other. Why?
Because we ourselves are still broken within ourselves. Because we have not recognized love.
So what is the weapon of spiritual warfare?
The truth. The truth of God's love. You do not protect yourself from the raging storm by trying to fight it with a water cannon. You protect against the storm by building a shelter.
You don't fight the spirit of death by sending it out the door, but by speaking life, protection, abundance, and God's presence. We cannot fight fire with fire.
We fight fire with love. Praise. Worship. Trust. We fight fire with living water. With Jesus. And therefore....with love.
So what is it that makes us stable for time? Acknowledging that we live in a fallen world. By acknowledging that there are places in our hearts where we are vulnerable to the promises of the antagonist, to doubt, to godliness and pride. And in believing in restoration and victory on the cross. In those places where we are vulnerable and choose to hurt instead of nurture, we have not yet claimed love for ourselves. I envy where I myself experience lack. I withdraw love where I myself am hit.
What closes the gates is acknowledging that Satan, like an amplifier, like a megaphone, triggers our own roots of doubt and inner lostness to use them for his purposes of destruction. It is the realization that we are responsible for what spirit we give power to in our lives.
The good news is that the more we entrust ourselves to Jesus, surrendering these places to Him for healing, the less these mechanisms will take hold. The more we allow Jesus to touch these wounded places in us with his love, to change and heal them, to take up the space within us, the less susceptible we become to being tools of the other side.
Yes, the darkness is real. Yes, the spiritual battle is real. But our task is not to fight demons. Our task is not to be drawn into the darkness.
Our task is to be salt and light, light in the darkness that surrounds us.
And we become that through personal salvation in Him. By growing in him. By being able to lay everything down to him and ask him to replace it with his truth.
This is a deep path, a path that requires self-responsibility and commitment. A way that puts God first- in a loving relationship, willing to be led. It is his way. The way of sanctification and unity among ourselves.
We can walk it only if we invite him. And trust his reality and power more than the darkness that is so striking.
With love, Sibylle.
Questions this week:
Where do you spend more time thinking about darkness than about God?
"The snake did it!" In what areas do you avoid confrontation with yourself and look for the culprit outside?
In what areas do you tend to be inappropriately dismissive, judgmental, or indifferent? Why? Take this question to Jesus and wait for His answer.
Are you aware of the reality of spiritual warfare? In what areas does it attack your relationships? Pray for those relationships. For love, connection, clarification.
Consciously stand against the attacks and attempts at isolation.
Are you aware that praise, thanksgiving, and asking for protection and joy in Jesus are effective weapons of spiritual warfare?
That Jesus truly heals and clarifies, comes for your hurts and unanswered life questions when you invite him into these areas of your life- do you think this is possible? Invite the Holy Spirit to take one of these areas with His healing, clarifying power. Stay with one question.
Dear Father. Dear Jesus. Dear Holy Spirit.
Often the darkness in our lives is so much more real than your presence. We feel exhausted, discouraged, powerless. Often we feel alone, and then accuse ourselves of not seeking your nearness enough. Show us that this is not the reality to which we are called. Stir up the hope of total restoration in you, in your victory over death and darkness, and turn our gaze to you where it is fixed, as if frozen, on the darkness. Lead us into your truth, your love, Holy Spirit. Lead us into praise and into your beauty. Turn our hearts to all that is honorable, lovely, good. Direct our gaze to the fullness of your glorious beauty. Where we feel distressed, Lord, we ask you to be a wall of fire around us. Our castle, our protection, and to fight for us while we rest in you. Jesus, we ask for your peace and protection, your safety and provision, your healing and your grace. Be with all who read this article, and where they are challenged, meet them with your wisdom, your knowledge, your love. We ask you especially for communion and experientiality this week.
In your name, Jesus.