“Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world.” Ephesians 6:12 NIRV
With the COVID-19 vaccination, people are divided into two groups – the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. The primary objective is to prevent the spread of the corona virus infection. Unfortunately, such division may lead to the discrimination of those who are not vaccinated. The COVID 19 pandemic is but a grim reminder of how interdependent we are on one another in sickness and in health. But even more lethal than a viral infection is the sin infection that is not only lethal to our body and soul but to the community as well. As with the COVID 19 virus, we need to be ever vigilant of sin which is infectious and cancerous.
Sin is not only contagious, it contaminates and corrupts everyone. God’s judgment is not to punish us – it is to eradicate sin. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle for our hearts and minds. God is seeking to rescue and redeem humankind from evil. We need to see the stories in the bible as our warning markers:
“These are all warning markers – danger! – in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 MSG
Before the Israelites captured Jericho, they were given strict instructions of what they are to do when they succeed:
“But be careful when you are setting apart the riches for the Lord . If you take any of it, you will make the Israelite camp subject to annihilation and cause a disaster. All the silver and gold, as well as bronze and iron items, belong to the Lord. They must go into the Lord ’s treasury.” Joshua 6:18-19 NET
However, Achan from the tribe of Judah was tempted by greed and took a beautiful Babylonian robe, two hundred silver pieces and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels for himself. Achan’s greed and disobedience led to the humiliating defeat of the Israelites by the army of Ai. Subsequently, he and his whole family were stoned to death for his theft. (Joshua 7:1-26)
Such stories in the bible are to invoke in us a horror for sin and to increase our awareness of the reality of evil that is in our hearts. In order for God to heal our deceitful hearts, we need to see the shadow side of our lives as Rob Bell reminds us:
“We all have a shadow side, the part of us in which our fears and insecurities and greed and terror and worst suspicions about ourselves reside. It’s a churning, restless, dark place, often containing truths that can cripple us with just a fleeting thought.”
When the followers of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit, they were of one heart and mind – they sold and shared their possessions. However, a couple, Ananias and Sapphira were tempted to keep a part of the money they received from the sale of their land for themselves. Both of them dropped dead when Peter confronted them with their lie:
“Peter then told her, “Why have you agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?” Look! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out!” At once she collapsed at his feet and died. So when the young men came in, they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.” Acts 5:9-10
There is a Achan, Ananias and Sapphira in each of us that leads us to be tempted by evil which is personified as Satan who seeks to deceive and discourage, to distort and destroy the truths about God. Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us out of temptation and deliver us from evil” to teach us the importance of drawing close to God every day. There is a war on evil but the battle belongs to God and Christ has already won the victory for us. All we need to do is to put on our spiritual PPE – our personal protection equipment – the belt of truth, “gown” of righteousness, the “masks” of peace, the “gloves” of faith, the “cap” of salvation and be equipped with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.
Learning to live with the COVID 19 virus requires us to change our mindsets – to think and care for others rather than only thinking and caring for ourselves. It is not just trying to avoid being infected by others but to stay healthy and not to infect others by isolating ourselves when we are not well. Likewise, we have to learn to live with sin but not to live in sin – to be aware that there is a war on evil raging around us.
It is important to remember that the enemy is not our fellow human beings but the battle is against the spiritual forces of evil. All of us face desires that wage war against our souls. The best way to overcome such desires is take them captive to Christ so that the Holy Spirit can use them to advance Christ’s kingdom. “Your kingdom come” is a prayer that God is patiently waiting to answer through us. This brings to mind the object of the Boys’ Brigade that I had learned in my younger days:
“The advancement of Christ’s kingdom among boys and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-respect and all that tends towards a true Christian manliness.”
Cultivating habits of faith are not to seek God’s approval but to train us to run from evil and to hold on to Christ, in the midst of the war on evil. Just as the corona virus has taught us the importance of hygienic habits, we need to see the critical importance of spiritual habits to overcome evil. One important spiritual habit is meditating on God’s Word. The objective is not to master the bible but to be mastered by the Holy Spirit through the bible and to live out spiritual truths such as:
“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” (Romans:12:9-10, MSG)