As believers we need to be able to name/know our opponents. We need to know who/what we are resisting/standing against. The Bible tells us our enemies are not flesh and blood. Well, who are they? Paul says they are the spiritual forces of darkness. That’s a hard one for me to punch. I can rant and rave all day and never make a dent in the spiritual forces of darkness. The Bible tells us to draw near to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. If you are like me, you need a face to resist. Paul isn’t saying he’s worried about Corinth as a husband worries about his wife (or vice versa). This church belongs to God, not Him. They are Jesus’ bride, not his. He’s worried about them being deceived and not being able to stand pure before Jesus. At this point Paul is in the ear of the bride saying “That’s not a good idea! Don’t do that! Don’t listen to them! You’ll regret that decision!” We need to be able to recognize the opponents in our lives. Otherwise, are are doomed to fall to their devices.
Now, let’s define opponents before we go any further. I’m not talking about people and things you don’t like OR people and things that don’t like or agree with you. We are talking about opponents to the Gospel here; opponents to the Kingdom of God. When you stand with God, who stands against you? Who or what is keeping you from obeying Him? Like I said, there are thousands of ways the enemy pulls or tugs at us to get us to leave the narrow path. I don’t have any desire to try and unpack all the nitty gritty ways he does this. Neither does the Word. The goal is for you to learn to discern the voice of God in the moment and walk away from the temptation rather than giving in to it.
We read a passage like this and we are immediately tempted to think of all those who oppose us. We listen to the embattled culture around us and can easily conjure up images of people and ideas and trends that are out to get us. Surely each one of us can quickly think of at least one person we strongly disagree with, who, without too much encouragement, could make life miserable for us. We call them bullies, enemies, ex-spouses, or un-friends. If we spend enough time in this space, we can reorient our lives to opposing them with all our efforts. Our thoughts are consumed by how they ‘ruined’ our lives and if we don’t stop them they will ruin the lives of our children. We can pick up the bloody cause of “those who oppose me” in a minute and not set it down for a lifetime.
The problem with this approach is we never accomplish anything. The war is never won. We may take out one opponent, but five more will appear. As long as we are motivated by past hurt and present thoughts of takeover, we will never be able to be the Christ follower we’ve been designed and called to be. What must change? We must begin to see ourselves as enemy number one. Not the culture, the ex-friend or the Facebook space that can demoralize so many. Video games aren’t the enemy. The media isn’t the enemy. Just like one passionately pure Christian can be a force that can change the world, so one passionately embattled Christian can stain the world.
It's only when we embrace Christ and His Gospel as passionately as we embrace ourselves will we really begin to be able to say we have the ability and the right to defend the Gospel against its threats. Until we can fully lay ourselves down, the only defenses we can offer are born out of our best ideas. We are allowing our own passions to inform our opponents, instead of allowing God’s Word to do the job. Let me say this another way, the world is quite well informed on the issues the Church is against. It is as confused as soggy cereal on the basics of the Gospel. Which is more important? The fact that we cannot abide the agenda of gay America or the fact that God, through Jesus, created a path for the world to come back to Him? The Muslim in Iraq can pretty clearly articulate our stance on the first and is confused at best and most likely silent on the second part. Paul spends 2 chapters in this letter on the first and 10 chapters on the last. I humbly suggest that we’ve flipped the script.
It's time for the selfless Church to emerge. This is the pure virgin Bride who was originally presented to Jesus. Not the Americanized version or the let-me-tell-you-who-we’re-against version, or the mad version…just the only version Jesus ever said He died to create. We have this image of a super dad running on the scene to stop the bus and save the child. But as any dad who’s ever sat with his child in a hospital room knows, we are really helpless when it comes down to it. If the Church is ever going to be a Light in this thick darkness, we must come to the place where we lay down our arms and pick up the only weapons we were ever intended to handle: the Word of God and prayer.