Satan = Enemy
Satan has always been the enemy of anyone God loves. Therefore, he has been and still is the enemy of every human being who has ever lived. All of the battle imagery for Christians is aimed at Satan rather than at his proxies, the people he has deceived into acting against God. They don’t realize that they are acting against their own interests, as well, even as they believe themselves to be independent and in control.
…He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.John 8:44
Every single Christian has been in that same position, and often still is. Remember, by definition a Christian is simply someone who has realized that they are a sinner, and who has accepted Jesus as their Savior reconciling them to God. That doesn’t prevent Christians from being deceived again and losing to one of Satan’s attacks. It just gives them resources in advance, forgiveness when it happens, and the assurance that Jesus has them covered so they can’t be permanently separated from God.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8
True, the battle against evil sometimes crosses over into the physical. This may happen in self-defense, for instance, or in a nation entering into a just war (thoughtfully, reluctantly, and as a last resort). In the Old Testament, there were occasions when Israel went into battle against other nations with God’s blessing 1. Usually, though, the battle is to continue to trust God and stand with Him in the face of temptations; the victory is over Satan.
People NOT = Enemy
In our current polarized, angry culture, it is very easy to see anyone who disagrees with me as “the enemy”. Especially when they are clearly acting contrary to the Bible, and leading others to do so, the temptation is to see them as “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” people who don’t deserve any consideration or sympathy. From political leaders to cultural influencers to friends who agree with those leaders/influencers, it’s easy to think of them as being just plain evil.
It follows that if the “other” person is wrong/bad/evil, then I fight against them, right? That depends on the definition of “fight”! I may try to dissuade them from what they are doing; I may work to have better policies implemented or better politicians elected; I may discuss emphatically 2. But God’s love for them demands that I NOT attack them, hate them, or treat them as anything less than infinitely valuable to Him.
This is true even if the person in question really is wrong. For instance, they may be actively, maliciously, physically harming people. Or they may be completely corrupt, blatantly lying and stealing just for their own personal gain with no thought to anyone else. They may be kicking puppies and taking candy from babies just to watch them cry. Still…They are not the true enemy. That distinction belongs to Satan.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:12
When a person acts in a way that is pleasing to Satan instead of to God, they are demonstrating that they are still deceived and lost. They still think that Satan’s way is better for them than God’s way. (They probably don’t see the world or their actions in such stark terms, of course. That is a favorite deception of Satan: that humans can be independent of God without therefore being on Satan’s side.) Although that does not prevent them from being individually responsible for the choices that they are making, it does mean that God wants me to react to them with love. I am a sinner just as they are; Jesus died for them just as He did for me.
Note, though, that true love is not necessarily soft or sappy. Going along with someone’s wrong to keep from confronting them is not love. In fact, it is the opposite, leaving them in a bad situation rather than helping them move to something better. Love can include presenting someone with facts that they don’t want to face, for instance. It can include enforcing consequences for behavior rather than ignoring it or bailing them out. But it always aims for their good, not vindictive revenge. 3
The Battle Progresses
So what kind of battle are “Christian Soldiers” fighting? Let’s look at Paul’s definitive description of how to be prepared.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. …Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.Ephesians 6:10-11,13-17
I am to stand against Satan’s schemes using weapons like Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Faith, Salvation, and God’s Word. How that plays out in any given situation may vary. But in each case, Satan wants to separate me from God, and I am to resist and not let him do so. That can be as simple as NOT snapping back when someone is nasty to me, or as major as forming a worldwide mission organization.
Notice, also, that most of these are defensive weapons. Only the sword, the word of God, is used for offense. Satan doesn’t stand a chance against that one!
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.2 Corinthians 10:3-4
Footnotes and Scripture References
- As well as times they went into battle WITHOUT God, with sad results
- A friend once gave me a coffee mug that says “I’m not arguing. I’m just explaining why I’m right!” :)
- I must be careful with “tough love”, though. It requires humility to acknowledge that I may not have all the information or the best answer, and a willingness to defer to God’s methods and timing.