“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Does it feel like it is more and more of a battle to be a follower of Jesus in the U.S. these days? Welcome to life for most of the rest of your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world and throughout history. Jesus followers have always tended to be more of a persecuted group than not. This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise either. Jesus Himself guaranteed it would happen.
Still, though, this isn’t what makes us different from everyone else in this regard. There have been many other religious groups who have been the subjects of fierce persecution. Consider the Rohingya Muslims today. What makes us different is our response. Christians, when we have been at our best, have always responded to this persecution with love.
What Paul writes here is a bit part of why. We understand that our real opponents are not the people we see standing before us pointing the guns (rhetorical or actual). We know that our real opponents are the ideas and spiritual powers behind them. With ideas, then, we are absolutely ruthless. We cast them down as evil and wrong all the while loving the people advancing them as unique beings created in the image of God.
If you think about it, this is an incredibly freeing thing. We don’t have to worry about how to get back at or respond to the person who is persecuting us. That’s a big weight off of our shoulders. Instead, we can focus all our attention on showing them the transformational love of Christ. How much better is that?!? If we are not bearing this weight, we don’t have to worry about going too far and creating a secondary problem. We don’t have to worry about defaming the name of Christ by responding beyond what He would do. We don’t have to fear failing in upholding God’s vengeance. We only need to love and let things fall where they may, all the while holding tenaciously to what is true. We do this knowing that they cannot ultimately stop us from doing this. No power is enough to overcome us.