For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully. Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good. – Psalm 38:17-20
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
It’s because I’m too cynical, but, when I read something like that, my first thought is, Sure. People do attack us and accuse us unjustly and unfairly. I think it happens more in literature, on television, and in the movies than in everyday life. It happens more in politics than in the real world. Most people have better things to do and nothing to gain from playing stupid games and coming against those who have done nothing to harm them.
There are exceptions. These are the psalms of David who was both king and prophet. He was, as a monarch, most certainly the object of intrigue and hostility. Before he ascended to the throne he had been hunted and harried by Saul for simply being one chosen by God to rule His people. In this, Saul is a type of Satan, one who accuses and seeks to destroy the elect.
I don’t know that this is Devil Week in the Jungle, but it is possible that I often fail to deal with the reality of an adversary. I have seen too many people blame the devil for too many things. The good Christian who is five-by-five, lives on steak and cake, and considers walking around the buffet table exercise lambasts the devil for causing his heart problems. The devil may have encouraged him to have another piece of pie, but the fork was in his own hand.
Certainly there is a demonic presence behind gluttony, just as there is behind some kinds of fear, behind envy and jealousy, lust and greed, pride, rage, and other sins. The truth is I don’t need a lot of encouragement to please myself or to do wrong.
Still, Jesus – and I consider Him the Authority – dealt with the devil and demons, not as mere influences but as entities with intelligence and wills. As Lewis said (and I frequently quote) in the preface to Screwtape: There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel and excessive and unhealthy interest in them. Lewis never met, I don’t suppose, Flip Wilson or any of the “pigs in the parlor” Christians I have known. I would add a third category for those who find the devil and demons a convenient excuse for their bad situations.
I have to wonder, though, if my reluctance to blame anyone or anything other than myself does not contain just a touch of pride. I am a practical, cause-and-effect person. There’s a reason for everything. “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see,” was drilled into me in childhood, though I think the hard heads of my Scots ancestors inclined me that way in any case.
Yet, there are times, especially over the last fifteen years or so, when I have felt I was targeted for opposition by a malevolent personality. Feelings are more easily moved than reason and less trustworthy, but they are not always, therefore, wrong. I have encountered evil that all but took a black, hooded form like Tolkien’s Nazgûl, and I have talked to otherwise trustworthy people who claim to have seen and been threatened by such things – long before they were so depicted in the movies.
There are angels. When they appear, their first words are usually, “Fear not”, because their stature and presence is, apparently, innately terrifying. Paul says that Satan himself may appear as an angel of light, a disguise designed to deceive and lead astray the unwary.
When we do get off the path of righteousness, it is an opportunity for the accuser to come in and make matters worse. We will feel that we ought to deny or excuse or hide. David, though, had the right idea: I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. Let’s get that out of the way. Now, about these who are attacking me, Lord, I could use a little help. They are too much for me.
There are fallen angels. There are demons. Demons are parasitic, and they feed themselves on human fear, anguish, regret and similar emotional energies. We cultivate the ground and sow seed to raise our tomatoes, corn, and beans. Demons cultivate the minds of men and sow seeds of fear, hatred, and confusion to raise their favorite dark energies. If we let them, they will lead us to commit wickedness so they might grow fat on our desperation, shame, and guilt.
We don’t have to put up with it.