"Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness." - Ephesians 6:11-12a
In middle school, my youth group stopped at a small country church for worship one Sunday on our way back from a mission trip.
Years later, two things stick out for me about that service:
- An elderly woman insisted on hand-feeding me my first green olive at coffee hour
- During the children's sermon the pastor took out a devil mask and proceeded to jump on it while shouting, "Stomp on Satan! Stomp on Satan!"
I'm not the kind of person that believes in the devil. Even at age 12 I laughed at the red-horned figure whose image was being obliterated on the church stairs. I knew that Satan was just a character for cartoons.
But now I'm not so sure.
Not about that pitchfork-wielding villain, I still don't believe in him. But evil? That feels pretty real. The "cosmic powers of this present darkness" don't sound as melodramatic as they did before. And their representatives are no longer laughable.
I wonder now about the evil that pastor had seen. Had she been counseling a survivor of abuse that week? Had she been finding housing for a trans teen kicked out of her house? Or fighting for an immigrant neighbor detained by the authorities?
Whatever it was, it made her stomp with fury. And I want to join her.
God of Goodness, give me eyes to see evil and feet to stamp it out.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.