You’re probably thinking: Seriously? A blog post on the devil? I mean come on…I thought this was a blog for thoughtful leaders.
Well, I’m with you. Talking about the work of the enemy is not an easy task.
The challenge, I think, lies at the extremes. There are some Christian leaders who never talk about Satan, and others who talk incessantly about him. You know what I mean. In the case of the latter, every time the toast burns or something doesn’t go their way, Satan is behind it and it’s time for an exorcism. Neither extreme is particularly helpful.
In a similar way, the greatest mistake I believe you can make with evil is to overestimate or underestimate its influence. It doesn’t have ultimate power, but it also isn’t powerless. Evil is active. And in some way, it’s probably influencing your thought life, ministry and family right now. At least that’s what the scriptures claim. And Jesus himself acted as though evil was very real.
Before I entered ministry I believed what the scriptures taught about evil and Satan because, well, I had confidence in the authority of scripture. But reading passages about evil felt like I was reading about some other time or place. I just had no idea how any of that worked nor did I feel I had any experience with it.
My time in ministry has changed my perspective. Suddenly passages that seemed arcane (like for example, the references in Ephesians to evil, or Jesus’ very real struggle to stay faithful to his Father) began to pop off the page. The scripture’s understanding of the battle between good and evil began to explain a good deal of what I was feeling inside of me as a leader, but also around me in relationships, in culture and even, sometimes, in the church.
Again…please don’t hear extremism in what I am saying. But even if you’re skeptical about evil, you might also have noticed that we do live in a strange world, with headlines that depress, good leaders that get derailed, people that struggle against each other and against themselves. It’s like there’s a virus in the system that we just can’t seem to shake. Because, of course, there is.