Life is filled with dangers and demons. Perhaps this has always been true. WE don’t have to go very far to find people struggling with love and hate, trust and doubt, good and evil, anger and goodwill. Our struggles are always with us and “in” us.
I was with a group of people recently and the subject of Satan was raised. The question was: “is there a force outside ourselves that causes us to stumble, or is there an evil spirit in each of us that has to be confronted?” We took the latter position. There are many temptations, choices and voices bombarding us and beckoning us to follow. All of us have our demons, whether it’s worry, unforgiveness, unfaithfulness, greed, jealousy, or you name it. I believe there is an evil force within us that can express itself in many destructive ways. The demonic urge is any natural drive that can take over the whole person, whether it is hunger, lust, anger, greed or other negative action. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle wrote, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” (Ephesians 6:12).
Maybe you’ve seen movies about exorcism. It’s an old art, and can be a legitimate way of helping a person move beyond deep-seated problems. Movies seem to make exorcism feel gross and exaggerated. If a psychiatrist, minister or friend can help us get rid of any of our demons, let us be thankful and receptive. That can be exorcism at its best.
Having said this, please use your imagination and give Satan a voice, listening to what he has to say. Let me hasten to say that I hope it takes a lot of imagination. If Satan, or the “evil spirit” could speak, this is what we may hear:
First, let me say that I do exist in a way that you may not want to admit. There is a little bit of me in each of you. I have lived in every age, fought in every war, sat among kings and stood with the common man. I have been the object of many jokes. In the middle ages, I was portrayed with horns and a pitchfork and lived in the lower regions of the universe. I am much more subtle than that. The truth of the matter is that I live here among you. My real home is in the human heart.
Remember, this is Satan speaking.
You read about me in the Garden of Eden. According to the Book of Genesis, I was called the “serpent”. When Eve was warned not to eat the fruit of good and evil, I whispered, “Don’t be afraid to eat it; it looks good, smells good and tastes good. Don’t let God push you around; do you own thing.” I have helped people do their own thing for a long time, especially when it hurts them or someone else. I’m having a field day.
My main purpose is to build a world where people will gag at the word “spiritual”. Would it surprise you that I am the unseen member of every church? I delight in see a church in turmoil, members fighting with each other over trivial matters, and dividing the congregation. If I can get people to use each other, I have made progress. I want people tied to the past, “the way we used to do it” worship tradition.
When Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and nights, I tried to tempt him and get him on my side. Knowing that he was hungry from fasting, I tempted him to turn the stones into bread, but he told me that humans don’t live by bread alone. I tried to tempt him in other ways, but he told me to get lost.
There was a man who had an unclean spirit (that’s me), and he roamed around the cemetery, tearing his clothes, crying and confused. And then this Jesus comes and spoils it for me again. Why is He coming? Who invited Him? I don’t want your Jesus. Go back to the boat, I say. Leave us alone and let me do my work. The demons can handle this. But Jesus comes and loves and accepts him and helps him to be well. The unclean spirit leaves him. Oh well, I can’t win them all.
That’s enough of the evil spirit. I find it a little too easy to role-play the devil!
Let me end this presentation by stating that the real battle, it seems to me, is not between God and Satan. It’s between those who care and those who don’t care. It’s between those who value life and those who don’t. There have been times when I wish I could have said that “the Devil made me do it”, but I must take personal responsibility for my actions. We reap what we sow. I like the words of the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, especially the third verse:
“And though this world with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us.
We will not fear, for God has willed,
His truth to triumph through us.”