Saturday, October 27, 2012

And Having Done Everything, To Stand

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

                In Stephen King’s novel The Stand, forces of good and evil are pitted against one another in the wake of a “superflu” that wipes out 99 percent of the world’s population.  The leader of the good side is an ancient, wise black woman named Abigail Freemantle (aka Mother Abigail). Mother Abigail speaks to her God as though He is right there in the same room. She seeks His will in all decisions as one by one, led by their dreams, those who would choose good over evil come to her. Meanwhile, Randall Flagg, aka The Dark Man, is gathering his own forces together in preparation for the ultimate showdown.  Mother’s prayer is, “Lord, help us to stand.”

                I’m not sure what Stephen King’s religious beliefs are, although I think I recall reading somewhere that he refers to himself as “a fallen-away Methodist”. Whatever the case, like most people, he has an innate sense of the struggle that has existed since the beginning of Time, and even before that, when Lucifer fell and took a third of the angels with him. It has not ended and we continue every day to fight against the “powers of this dark world.” For someone who hates confrontation as much as I do, this is a daunting thought. One thing I have learned, though, is to recognize the attacks for what they are. I know that the enemy is wily and deceitful. I don’t freak out about Halloween or Harry Potter; I am far more concerned with people. While the real struggle is not against flesh and blood, Satan uses our relationships with others to cause division and strife. His goal is to divide humanity and ultimately conquer. Of course, he was defeated already, two thousand years ago when Love paid the price for our sins. However, like anyone else who suffers from insanity, The Old Deluder won’t acknowledge the truth. He continues to steal, kill, and destroy, and he uses human beings to help him accomplish his evil schemes.

                Those who are used of the enemy are, more often than not, used unwittingly. Despite the decline in my idealism over the past ten years, despite all that I have been through, I still do believe that very few people are truly evil. A lot of people are confused and deceived, often because of their own hurt, but utter depravity is a rare thing. Mental illness, a sad result of our sinful, fallen world, accounts for many things that occur, and I am not sure that this aspect of our society is dealt with as well as it should be. But what is certainly not addressed most of the time is the multitudes who live in utter despair because they have been rejected and feel they have nowhere to turn. These are the souls who slip in and out of our lives virtually unnoticed until the headlines shriek of some new horror, and we are dumbfounded. I have heard stories of people whose primary emotional wounds were received, not at home, not at school, but guess where? Believe it or not, in church. Trying to convince these people that it was human beings who hurt them, not God, is a difficult task. The really horrible part is that the wounding was often done with the best of intentions. Of course, we all know where “good intentions” often lead.

                A person who is overweight does not need a pastor to tell him so, nor a fellow parishioner to outline exactly what formula to follow to eliminate the sin of overeating and thus set the person free from bad things happening, ever again. A woman who has had seven miscarriages is not helped by her church family telling her that this agony is because of some unconfessed sin in her life. People who don’t regard little kids going door to door yelling “Trick or Treat” as an evil thing do not need to be handed the tract about a child who goes out on Halloween night and is hit by a car and goes to Hell. And I doubt very much that anyone has been saved as a result of being screamed at by people in a van with REPENT OR BURN IN HELL painted on the side. I hate these things  with a perfect hatred, because these people are calling themselves Christians while driving others AWAY from the Kingdom. They are not standing where they should be. They are,albeit completely unaware for the most part, standing WITH the enemy, helping him spread the lie that no one is worthy anyway, no one can possibly measure up to God’s standard, so why try?

                I don’t mean to sound like I am being judgmental, but perhaps I am. I know a lot of Christians who mishandle situations and have deep regret. I have done it myself. I am not talking about that. I am talking about people who hurt our cause by hurting other human beings on a regular basis. I am talking about the ones who have put God into a little box, gotten in there with him, and have a smug sense of their own righteousness. They are in the God Box and they are nice and safe in there, safe enough to judge everyone on the outside. For those of us who are willing to step outside the box and stand for what is truly right, there is swift and severe retribution. I have warned my daughter about this, because twice this past week she has stood up for herself and for others. The first time she found her gym bag on the locker room floor with its contents spilled everywhere-and no one did it. Who knows what the next move will be in the little game of middle school power play?  She has a choice to make. She will be making it every day for the rest of her life. Sit by and do nothing, or make a stand and face the consequences.

                Right now I am facing the possibility of a confrontation with someone, and it is making me sick. I am afraid of what the consequences may be. I am worried about saying the wrong thing and creating a situation that will lead to more damage and not to the restoration for which I am praying. The truth sets us free, but only when spoken in love. Even then, it can be hard to deal with, and people don’t always accept it gracefully. When a situation has existed for a long time and you have just allowed it to continue in the interest of keeping the peace even though people are being hurt by it, you are guilty of wrongdoing. Fear kills truth, and then restoration doesn’t happen. At least if you do what is right, there is a chance for a good result. Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird understood that. It is better to stand that to sit passively. People can be really mean and nasty and say horrible things to you and about you. The Bible reminds us, though, that really, what can man do to us if we are walking with God? 

                As I write this I am trying to talk myself either into or out of what I know must be done. I keep getting affirmation from God, through events and through other people, that it MUST be done. Yet still I am afraid. It’s okay. Fear is not the opposite of courage. Because Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine, He must have felt fear as He prayed in the garden, as He stood before Pilate, as He walked to the Cross. William Wilberforce, William Wallace, George Washington, Martin Luther, Rosa Parks, Moses, Daniel, David, Esther- all of them must have experienced fear. They just didn’t let it stop them. Frodo and Sam were afraid, but the quest had to be completed for the good of all. They had to stand. I have to stand. Crucial things are at stake. Maybe not as crucial as, say, saving the world, but we never know how one small event will affect everything else. It’s called the butterfly effect-if someone kills a butterfly, according to Ray Bradbury, it could change everything. Everything. And so…it’s time to stand. Please pray for me.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

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