C.S. Lewis, of course, treated the subject of the presence of evil in the world masterfully in the Screwtape Letters, written during the ravages of the second world war. It’s a book that has not lost its punch seven decades after its publication. Going back centuries further, you can read Thomas Brook’s Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices—an astonishingly insightful book (HT to Tim Keller for the reference).
The key to overcoming the activity and influence of evil in your life and your world, of course, is to recognize it. When you expose it to the light of Christ, evil loses its power.
So, in the hopes of shedding some light on evil’s activity, here are some of the strategies I see presently at work in the lives of leaders and churches.
If there’s one strategy Satan comes back to again and again, it’s creating division in the church. And why wouldn’t he? It works.
Strangely, in our culture, some Christians wear their divisiveness as a badge of honor. It’s not. It’s actually a badge of evil.
How do we know division is a sign of the activity and presence of evil?
Paul actually defines which human behavior is motivated by God and which is motivated by the enemy in Galatians 5.
He begins by listing the characteristics of people whose lives are under the influence of evil.
Ready for the list? Here it is:
Impurity and debauchery
Fits of rage
Sadly, too much of that sounds like church.
Even if you remove the sexual sins (which, tragically, are often present too), the list sounds like a job description for self-righteous Christians. But, actually, it’s Satan’s job description.
Contrast that with what the Holy Spirit generates in people’s lives. When the Holy Spirit gets hold of a person and a church, he produces:
The contrast could hardly be sharper.
But wait, you say, what if my conviction is from God?
Sure, occasionally we need a Martin Luther to nail 95 theses to the door. But most of us are not Martin Luther.
And even if you need to ‘take a stand,’ it’s probably not a stand for Jesus if it ultimately produces more division and bitterness than it does unity and love. Sometimes love is tough, but love never ends tough.
Regardless, if your definition of Christianity has anything to do with hate and division, it’s not Christianity.