Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. - Ephesians 6:11-12 (NIV)
Our country is greatly polarized, and with each news cycle, round and round the divisions drill deeper.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.
Ephesians tells us we are supposed to struggle, to be aware of evil in the world, and to choose God’s values instead. We are supposed to take sides. Easy-peasy—one might think—everybody has already taken a side. Everybody already thinks the other side is evil. Devotion over, achievement unlocked.
Not so fast.
Scripture tells us to pick a side, to struggle against the evil on the other side. But here’s the trick. There is no one on the “other side” of that great divide. Not one person.
The “other side” that God calls us to struggle against is not flesh and blood. It is something…else. Something our grandparents remember and that our grandchildren will come to know.
We cannot treat people like they are the problem—demonize them, hate them, write them off. Because if we do, we will never even face the Adversary, much less struggle against them.
Every single person on the “other side” of our polarized nation is a child of God, made only a little lower than an angel. They have a better nature to appeal to, love that buoys their hearts, shame to goad the conscience. They can choose to do good instead of evil and that makes them a potential ally.
By all means, struggle against evil. Use the full armor of God. Just be sure it’s God’s Adversary you’re struggling against, and not God’s children.
God help me to know the difference between evil and good, people and principalities.
John Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.