Last night at The Open Door, BJ preached about Ephesians 6:10-20 and the topic of spiritual warfare. It’s a topic that obviously doesn’t get covered much in mainline churches, but I know it’s been coming up a lot in the lives of other people whom I know and whose blogs I read (see Jan’s posts here and here). And I believe it’s real, even if we don’t quite know how to describe it.
BJ did a great job last night of pointing out the connections between evil spiritual forces and tangible human institutions of injustice. I know that among recent scholars, Walter Wink has been one to make these connections in his work. At the same time, Greg Boyd in his book “God at War” has written about the ways in which spiritual forces work apart from tangible institutions. For Boyd, the world is a battleground of spiritual forces and the Church is called to participate in the battle on behalf of Christ’s kingdom.
So what does that battle look like? First, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh” (2 Cor 10:4). Followers of Jesus do not engage in battle the way the world does. We are right to be uncomfortable when we think of God going to war precisely because Jesus taught us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek. To wage a spiritual war against the tangible human institutions of injustice, then, is to fight with the weapons of peace, love, and radical grace, overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:14-21). In fact, as BJ pointed out, prayer is the only offensive command in the passage – all others are simply to stand firm, defensively holding one’s ground. This means that it is a battle of prayer.
A couple years ago, while sitting in a class where I could sense a lot of tension between the professor and the students, I started praying silently “Jesus, invade. Jesus, invade.” It was as though the situation needed Jesus to break in and rescue us from whatever forces were seeking to sabotage that class. Since then, that little two-word breath prayer, “Jesus, invade”, has become a regular part of my prayer life. I pray it when I think of the trouble in our neighborhood. I pray it when there is tension between our housemates, and I pray it even when there’s tension between Eileen and me. But it’s about more than just these personal encounters. I pray that Jesus will invade our broken world and continue the work of building His Kingdom, destroying all the forces of evil in both the spiritual and the earthly realms, destroying the spiritual stronghold around the drug-dealer on our street, as well as freeing people in our neighborhood from addiction.
Jesus, invade this world, rescue us from evil, and build your Kingdom over the powers and authorities of this world. Amen.