Stand! (Just Don’t Stand Still)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).

Are we in a war?  Not the guns-and-bombs-and-tanks kind of war, but a war that can accurately be characterized as “spiritual”?  

Paul certainly thought so.  But he wanted the believers in Ephesus to understand the true nature of the conflict into which they have been immersed by becoming followers of King Jesus.  “We are in a battle,” he wrote, “but we are not struggling against flesh and blood …”  People are not our enemies.  Yes, people may be opposed to the Gospel, people may resist, ridicule and even persecute and imprison Christ’s followers, but the people who do these things are not our enemies.  They are prisoners of war in the struggle in which we find ourselves.

Paul identifies our true opponents as “rulers, authorities, powers, and spiritual forces of evil.”  What is he talking about?

All authority ultimately derives from God.  Authority is the right and the power to do what is good, true, just and right, to do what furthers life and peace and flourishing.  All these qualities are expressions of who God is and what the fruits of his kingdom look like.

To be bearers of God’s image means that human authorities – familial, political, legal, judicial, medical, educational, church and so on – are called to be conduits of the justice, truth, and shalom of which God is the author.  

But some of these authorities – all of them some of the time and some of them all of the time—go rogue.  Instead of being servants of and under God, they morph into supposedly “independent operators.”  They become “the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of wickedness.”

So yes, we Christ followers are in a big battle – and we have, each of us and all of us together, what we need to play our role in this struggle.  We’re foot soldiers, not generals, and certainly not the Supreme Commander (a role that is already and eternally filled by King Jesus!).

Foot soldiers are primarily responsible for the area right in front of and around them: home, family, classroom, workplace, church and neighborhood.  As we put on and wear the King’s armor, we thereby carry a measure of his authority for the areas assigned to us.  

So as we go, day by day into our everyday places, we are also to stand, to stand for who our King is and what he stands for.  We should expect opposition from all kinds of gone-rogue authorities, from our own rogue appetites and drives to the “powers” that are degrading and deforming aspects of the everyday places assigned to us.

As Alex and Jaime have been, and will continue to be, careful to make clear, we are not looking to find a “demon” behind any and every bad thing that happens.  Life is a complex mix of the natural, the human and the spiritual.  Our modern world is pretty good about understanding and explaining a lot about the natural world, and the human world.  But not the spiritual.

More than anything, the gone-rogue powers and authorities want to keep it that way.

“Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armor on/Strong in the strength that God supplies, through his Eternal Son!  Strong in the Lord of Hosts/and in His mighty power/Who in the name of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror!”  Google the first line to get the rest of this Wesley hymn, and belt it out to the tune of “Crown Him with Many Crowns!”

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