Spotting the Enemy
“And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil” (Luke 4:33a – King James Version).
Some of the most wonderful people I ever met in my life were the people of South Korea. For over a year I roomed with a Korean soldier in our post barracks. Also, my day to day assistant was a Korean soldier. Both were fine young men who I am privileged to have known and served with. Cpl. Jo worked along side me each day and I had a running joke with him. Often we rode together on daily missions and I used to look over at Cpl. Jo and say, “You know Jo, if war breaks out with North Korea you are going to be the first one I shoot.” Trust me, it was a joke and Jo knew that. The joke stemmed from a conversation Jo and I had once in which I asked him how I would tell the North Koreans from the South Koreans if war broke out. Jo couldn’t give me an answer. Hearing Jo and I joking about this one day, the executive officer of our battalion said, “Don’t worry boys…the 6/37 Field Artillery (that was our unit) is the number one target of the entire North Korean Air Force. If war does break out, you boys will probably be annihilated so fast, you will not have time to worry about whose side someone is on.” I knew Maj. Fernandez was kidding, but only to a degree.
Today’s verse shows us that evil lurks everywhere, even (or especially!) in the church. Jesus was in Capernaum, teaching in the synagogue, when a man with an unclean spirit cried out. One might think that places of worship would be the safest place to avoid the powers of evil, but I contend that Satan and his minions are never more present than in the times Christians gather together.
In Matthew 13:24-30, our Lord teaches us that Satan sows his weeds amongst God’s wheat. In that same passage Jesus says, “Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds and burn them and to put the wheat in the barn” (13:30 – NLT). Well, if we aren’t supposed to pull the weeds from amongst the wheat, what are we supposed to do? I think that answer is found in the instructions of the apostle Paul to Titus: “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9 – NKJV). Simply put, we are to work alongside God in seeing them changed! Certainly, if Christ can transform water into wine, He can transform weeds into wheat! Our job is to be salt and light, show Jesus, and share the truth of the word.
Sadly, I don’t think many of us care that evil is in the church. All too often we stand idly by and hope that we don’t have to get involved. That unclean spirit got mighty uncomfortable when Jesus came to the synagogue that day. In our churches, those unclean spirits sometimes never get uncomfortable because Jesus hasn’t shown up! What I mean to say…and I want to be perfectly understood here…is that we aren’t showing people Jesus! Believers are the vessel of His presence and if we are not letting Him be Lord of our lives from second to second, then often evil is not confronted by His holy presence. We are good at being nice and signing petitions, but we often fail when it comes down to actually being Christ-like.
When Jesus spoke in that synagogue that unclean spirit became afraid! He said, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!” (4:34 – NKJV). Realizing this, we should also realize that when we are truly letting Christ live in and through us some folks are going to be uncomfortable around us. We are not to Lord it over them as if we have cornered the market on Jesus; rather, we should be ministers of reconciliation desiring freedom from bondage and forgiveness of sins for those caught by evil.
Yes, dear friends, call them weeds; call them tares; call them unclean spirits; whatever we call it evil is in the midst of the saints. Like my experience in South Korea, we may not be able to tell the difference between the enemy and the ally until it is too late. Jesus may come back to harvest the church before some are identified. Know this though, be Christ-like and they will cry out in holy terror.
I never wanted to kill a potential ally. I wanted to identify who was on my side. I wanted to win over those who were not. In my service to God through the church today, I take much the same attitude. Not only do I want to identify my adversary, but I want to win them over to my side too. That day, in the synagogue, Christ did just that. Today, in our churches, we can do the same. Jesus did not participate with the enemy, but He did not tolerate him either. Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and freed the man who was the vessel of it. Personally, I am not willing to wait until it is too late to see who is what. I am resolved to be Christ-like. If that makes people uncomfortable, so be it! At the end of the day, I hope I will be used of God to bring some over to His side. How about you?