identifying the enemy

I always assume my enemy will be readily recognizable. If he is, I can be prepared to defend myself or to run away to safety, whichever seems the best course of action at the time. But if I don’t recognize my enemy, I am in danger and don’t even know that I am vulnerable and unprotected until it is too late. Kind of like the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. Why was the wolf in sheep’s clothing? Because he was the enemy of the sheep. He was pretending to be one of them so that he could be among the sheep unnoticed until he could get close enough to make his move and carry out his mission. The wolf’s mission was to kill and destroy. To the wolf, the sheep are his next meal. The wolf is not looking to make friends when he joins the flock. He only wants to fill his belly at the expense of the sheep. But by the time the sheep figure out that the wolf is an impostor, it is too late to make an escape. The wolf is not fighting fair when he uses a disguise to allow him to get close to his prey. But then evil never does fight fair.

The wolf should be more like the Redcoats. Remember them? The British military during the Revolutionary War were called Redcoats because of their uniforms, part of which was a bright red jacket. I have to say, I like that – an enemy who stands out and clearly identifies himself. The patriots knew who they were fighting against. They knew without a doubt who their enemy was and they could recognize their enemy by the color of his uniform. This is not always the case. In the early 1900’s, camouflage came into use for uniforms and tanks and such. The idea was to blend in, not to stand out. The intent of the enemy is to hide or to appear to be something or someone other than who they really are – which is the enemy coming to cause harm. I want to know who my enemy is. I want my enemy to have the decency to clearly identify himself, perhaps by making a bold fashion statement like the Redcoats did. 1 Peter 5:8 tells me something about my enemy,

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

So now I know who my enemy is (the devil) and what his intent is. (to devour me) And I know something about him, he is like a roaring lion. Which means he is dangerous and desires to harm me. Unfortunately, my enemy has taken a page out of the wolf’s playbook. He pretends to be something other than he actually is. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 tells me,

” . . . for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”

So unlike the Redcoats, my enemy does not identify himself but disguises himself as the opposite of what he really is. (I say opposite because the devil is actually the prince of darkness and he is imitating who he seeks to destroy, Jesus, who is the light of the world) It is difficult to fight against an enemy I cannot recognize because he is pretending to be other than he actually is. If I can’t tell who is my friend and who is my foe, I will make the mistake of treating my friends as foes and my foes as friends.

This issue becomes more complicated still, because I am told to love and to pray for my enemies. I have to say, this defies all logic and every natural inclination I have. Nevertheless, there it is in Matthew 5:44-45, Jesus’s clear instruction to me,

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

This seems an impossible task but there is something else I need to know – the true identity of my enemy. Who is my enemy? Who is the enemy of my soul? Are they one and the same? I find this revealed in Ephesians 6:12 which tells me,

“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.”

I also find this good advice in Matthew 10:28 –

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

So although I have flesh and blood enemies, my struggle is really against evil. My enemy is the evil one and the evil that runs rampant through this world destroying everything in its path. Evil uses flesh and blood human beings to accomplish its purposes, but we don’t have to cooperate. We each have a choice. I have a choice. The opponents of evil – love, goodness, truth, faith, freedom, hope, kindness, courage, selflessness, are not to be found in places where evil has prevailed, stamping out all attributes which oppose it – attributes which cannot long survive in evil’s presence. Interestingly enough, these very attributes are the weapons with which I am to fight evil. Ephesians 6:14-18 lists these weapons with which I am to fight evil, saying,

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

Truth, righteousness, a gospel of peace, a shield of faith, a message of salvation (which is hope) and a sword of truth (which is God’s word) – these are my weapons – weapons with which I am able to fight against my enemy. Unlikely weapons? maybe, but powerful, nonetheless. The last weapon mentioned in Ephesians 6 is perhaps the most powerful of all – prayer. In these current days, I feel and see the enemy’s influence everywhere I look – the influence of evil. In my own community and in the events unfolding around the world, I am witnessing my enemy at work in acts of evil being carried out right before my eyes every day. The suffering of so many people, which is the result of our enemy, evil, running unchecked, is unbearably painful and heartbreaking for all who are the enemy’s victims.

This enemy is so dangerous to us all, precisely because he masquerades as something or someone else – something harmless or someone who has our best interests at heart. We find out too late that it was all a lie or that they were not who they said they were. That’s why truth is such a necessary weapon if the enemy is to be exposed and defeated. Our enemy will conquer and enslave us. The Truth will set us free. On a day like today, when evil seems to have the upper hand, I recall these words from a favorite hymn, “that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet. This is my Father’s world.”

We have been given the weapons with which to fight our enemy. (truth, faith, prayer etc.) We just have to correctly identify our enemy. And that seems to be a problem today. Our enemy is so well disguised that we don’t recognize him for the danger that he is to us. We have welcomed our enemy into our midst. Or is it that we simply refuse to recognize our enemy and call him out for who he really is? People in the past have done the same thing with disastrous results. (that’s how the Holocaust happened) Isaiah understood the importance of correctly identifying our enemy. The people in his day had the very same problem. Isaiah had this to say to them,

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)

I have to correctly identify my enemy. I can’t fight the wolf as long as I believe him to be a sheep. So I don’t fight against him. In fact, I even welcome him in and then I am surprised when I am devoured by the very thing I failed to recognize as evil, failed to recognize as my enemy. Evil does not wear a red coat. Evil does not announce itself. Evil wears a mask to hide its true identity. Still I can put on the full armor of God so that I can take my stand against the devil’s schemes, as Ephesians 6:11 tells me to do. I can identify my enemy but I do not need to be afraid. David said as much in Psalm 27 –

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. . . . For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:1-5)

sincerely, Grace Day

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