Monday, June 13, 2016

Are You Mad Yet?

A few years back, I heard a powerful sermon from my friend, Pastor Keith Gray. The sermon was entitled, Are You Mad Yet? Keith talked about the problems that we face in this world, bringing them up one by one, and with each one, he would ask, Are you mad yet? As he preached, he reminded us that the reason for all of the things that hurt us in this world come from one place - an enemy, whose goal is to create as much hurt and pain as he possibly can. Keith suggested that if we're going to get mad about the things we see in the world around us, we should be getting mad at the one who causes it - the enemy.

In one of my college classes that I taught at Kettering College, we used as a text the book, The Shack, by William P. Young. The book is a story that seeks to address the question, If God is good, why is there evil in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? The book is well written, and led to many great conversations in class. The problem I have with the book, however, is that while trying to explain the existence of evil in this world, Young never once mentions the enemy, the one responsible for the evil.

Now contrast this with the accounts of the life of Jesus as written by the gospel writers. In those accounts, there is no way to miss the existence and the work of the enemy. Jesus faces him head on. We see their battle in the wilderness, after Jesus' baptism. We see Jesus casting demons out of those possessed. We see the battle as it leads to Calvary. We see Jesus rising victorious on the third day. One cannot read scripture without seeing that there is an enemy - he is real, and he hates God with all his passion.

Peter, writing about him in his epistle, says, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." Satan is real, and he is working to destroy as many as he can.

He has one goal, and that is to make God look as bad as he can. He knows he has already lost the battle, but he continues to fight until the end. If he can't take God down, he'll take down as many people as he can, the objects of God's deepest love.

Now, if he were just to destroy people, it would be bad enough. But if he can get people to destroy each other, and do it in the name of God, then it's a double victory for him. He doesn't care if those people claim the name of Christians, Muslims - whatever it might be - destroying in the name of religion suits him just fine. The world looks on, and says, If that's what God is all about, I want nothing to do with Him.

With the events of the weekend in Orlando, social media is filled with conversation, seeking someone to blame. There are plenty of fingers being pointed - at Muslims, at gays, at politicians, at gun control advocates, at gun control opposers. The game can go on forever. I would suggest we need to look at this event, and the altogether too many like it that happen around the world, through different eyes. To me, I can only begin to understand what's happening when I look at it through the paradigm of this great battle between Jesus and Satan. Satan knows that his time is short. He will continue to attack as often as possible. He wants to take as many down with him as he can.

We need to recognize that there is an enemy. That enemy is not human - not Muslims, not gays, not Christians, not any of the people around us. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, said, "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." There, my friends, is the enemy.

So what does that mean for us? I believe that for those who are followers of God, it means that we start by loving each other, treating all people as brothers and sisters, rather than enemies. I believe that it calls us to proclaim a different message about our God than the one the enemy wants us to believe. We need to proclaim and show His love, so the world will see the enemy for who he really is, as they see God for who He really is. I suggest we follow the example of Chick-Fil-A, as they served sandwiches on Sunday to those giving blood to help the survivors. I suggest we follow the example of the Forest Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church, who have offered their service to families of the victims, offering a place and resources for funerals and grieving at no charge. I suggest we ask ourselves, How can we show love to those the enemy wants to destroy?

I believe there is a God, and that He is love. I believe there is an enemy, and he is out to destroy. So my friend, Are you mad yet?

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