I recently spent two days in a gathering of passionate people working hard to combat evil. We were meeting to share effective ways to help victims of family violence, address the unconscionable pressures threatening our teenagers, and learn to fight the sexualization of girls and women in our culture. That’s quite an agenda, wouldn’t you say?
Pages of sobering statistics were reported by experts in the field. Innovative strategies were proposed. Attendees brainstormed about getting more people in our communities involved in the several battles. We talked a lot about having conversations about the problems and educating people.
Over and over I kept thinking that the solutions being considered were just scratching the surface of the situation. They weren’t addressing the true trouble. They did not go deep enough.
Below the thorny brambles of domestic violence and sexual assault and every other evil choking our country, a deep taproot of spiritual depravity is clearly visible to those who are looking. No matter how we hack back the branches with education, training, intervention, awareness, peer counseling, government programs and policies, the problems will not be truly solved except as heart after heart is given to God.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t hack. We should hack with all our might against the spiritual forces of wickedness. Whatever skirmish God plunks us down in, we should wield our weapons for righteousness. It strikes me that many at the conference were not equipped with our weapons. Secular soldiers attempt to fight spiritual evil with worldly tools woefully inadequate for the task. They do win some skirmishes. A stronger law is passed here, a particularly vile practice is exposed there. People are helped, others are made aware and invited to join the cause. I applaud all such efforts. They reflect the best instincts of human nature.
But I believe that much of the work is hampered by a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the enemy. And that’s where the children of God must step into the gap. We know who the enemy is. We know what his goals are, and that his final destiny is failure and destruction. We are properly equipped with spiritual armor and training. We have access to the Creator God of the universe, who is our strength and shield and a Champion of the weak and defenseless everywhere.
Here is my question, church: Are we full participants in the fight? Is every member of the Body of Christ on the front lines in the battles against domestic violence, child abuse, human trafficking, hunger, abortion, pollution, corruption in government and business, and the deterioration of our culture? Raise your hand if just reading that last sentence doesn’t leave you feeling a mite overwhelmed. And yes, I know that our primary commission is to preach the gospel. But I believe we should be like the Israelites in Nehemiah’s day, building the kingdom with one hand, wielding our swords with the other. As clumsy as this might have been for the Jews building a wall, it’s really not clumsy for us. Because the people being damaged by violence and exploitation need Jesus desperately. He is the source of healing and power and love that can give them hope and transform their lives.
When people are at the end of their own strength, they are often willing to kneel at the foot of the cross and accept a new life, a new start, a pure, strong, undefeatable Love. As we are handing out bags of groceries, sheltering a battered woman, driving a terrified girl to a pregnancy center, lending wholesome videos to a young family, smuggling Bibles, building orphanages, we will be sharing the truth of Jesus with those we are helping. He is the solution to all problems.
If you are overwhelmed in your own life by sickness, grief, trouble or trials, I have a word for you, too. First, I pray that the church is ministering to you. God forgive us if we are not. Second, you can still wield the most powerful weapon there is: prayer. Even surrounded by clamoring children or working three jobs or bedridden and racked with pain, you can cry out to God for your own needs and intercede for others. You may do more good with your brokenhearted pleas than fifty soup kitchen volunteers.
The need is great. It’s overwhelming. We cannot meet it, nor solve the problems. We are not commanded to do so. We are commanded to fight the good fight, to preach the gospel, to minister to the hurting, to be light and salt and the fragrance of Christ in a broken world. Reach out your hand to the problem in front of you and do what you can. Then do it again, and again. Pray with me all the while, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10