Last Thursday, the following was published in the Osun Defender (Osun is one of nine states established in 1991 by the military government of Nigeria):
“The Nigerian state and Christians are our enemies and we will be launching attacks on the Nigerian state and its security apparatus as well as churches until we achieve our goal of establishing an Islamic state in place of the secular state.”
This was a portion of a statement made by the Islamist group Boko Haram. You can read the original article here: http://www.osundefender.org/?p=32210
The activities of Boko Haram has been a subject of several of our blog posts recently. According to an article published on June 15, 2012 by Christian Today, they are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Christians. But this is only a symptom of the real issue and not the subject that I would like to address today.
Let me start by saying this: There is a real battle going on today. It’s the same battle that has been waged since the deception in the Garden of Eden. We call it “real” because it is. It’s not a metaphor. It’s true that we can’t see the aggressors with our eyes because as Ephesians 6:12 says:
“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.”
These “spiritual forces” are not to be taken lightly. In Matthew 6 and Luke 4, we read about the temptation of Jesus. Following His baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He was met by Satan who tried to tempt Him. In Luke 4: 5-7, it says this:
“The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
This speaks of an authority that was granted to Satan over the kingdoms of the world. If we understand scripture, we will understand that he obtained this authority at the fall in the Garden of Eden, and that there will come a time when Jesus takes that authority away from the enemy. That time is unknown to us. As Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7 portion).
Events like those in Nigeria, which are happening with increasing frequency all over the World, are symptomatic of the authority that has been given to the enemy for this time in history. The enemy uses this authority to wage war, real war – not metaphorical war, on mankind.
As Christians, we have been called out of the World, to be different from the World. We should be those who are being transformed, as the scripture says:
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2”
This results in people who think, act, and live in ways distinctly different than the culture around us – than the World, and people who are able to recognize and understand what God’s will is.
At this point, I’m going down a bit of a rabbit trail, but it’s an extremely important one: Christians are different, or should be, but that difference does not imply superiority. Rather it results from a profound humility that is based in the knowledge that we are sinners, saved by grace and not by anything that we can ever do to earn God’s approval. And remember, Romans 12:2 doesn’t say we have been transformed, it says that we are being transformed, meaning in a lifelong state of transformation. This is where we often alienate the people around us because we project an attitude, which is in itself a deception from the enemy, that we are better than other people. We are not, we are all broken people who need to be fixed by the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
OK, back from the rabbit trail. Jesus warned His disciples about the results of being called out – being different than the world. In Mark 13:13, He says,
“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Again in Matthew 24:9, Jesus says,
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”
What do we do
How does the world respond to threats and attacks? It demonizes, it labels the a attacker an enemy. It retaliates in kind. How should the people of God respond? With love, with the mind of Christ. Our enemy is not terrorists, extremists, a government or coalition of governments. It is not an economic system, or a social ideology or even, in the context of our upcoming national elections, Democrats or Republicans. Our enemy is the enemy, Satan, the devil. And he is not a metaphor, he is real and prowls around like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour.
So, let us pray for the people of Nigeria. Let us pray for Christians, and all peoples who suffer persecution. But let us also pray for the persecutors as those who have fallen under the deception of the enemy who has a level of authority in this world…for now.