No, the enemy doesn’t wear a red suit. No, he doesn’t have a forked tail. No, he doesn’t look like Alice Cooper. (Am I showing my age?)
If Satan walked into a room with any of the above characteristics, we would immediately recognize who he was, and we’d either fight, or run from the danger. We know he would be up to no good, right?
The tricky thing about the enemy is that deceit is deceitful. Rather than showing us his face, he works undercover, so that we won’t recognize his evil plan which has been stealthily disguised. Why am I telling you this? Because the enemy loves to destroy relationships little by little… mostly by erosion, not explosion. He accomplishes this by using the momentary breakdowns in our communication with others…. you know, the defense mechanisms we all use when fear and anger take over, i.e. arguing, withdrawing, having to be right, yelling, revenge, finger-pointing, ignoring, snarky comments, arrogant attitudes, provoking, and the list goes on. He uses these things as bait to tempt us into “winning”. This is his goal. He wants to deceive us into grabbing the power position because his big lie is that God can’t be trusted to give us what we need. (This goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve were duped by the enemy to believe that God had withheld something from them.)
Sometimes, the enemy does cause explosions, but most of the time the enemy would rather use sneaky maneuvers to accomplish most of his nasty work. He wears no uniform. He’d much prefer to succeed by tempting us to strive for self-protection in our relationships…. convincing us that we have to look out for ourselves because no one else will. We so easily fall into this trap because our flesh naturally wants to be in control, just like the original apple-eaters.
Let me illustrate with a simple example: My husband and I were on a road trip recently in unfamiliar territory. We were attempting to use a GPS on my phone. When the woman’s voice directed us to go left, my husband went right, instead. I insisted (as did the voice) that we needed to make a u- turn, but my husband insisted the voice was wrong, and that he knew better. We ended up going in circles. (I was beginning to feel like an Israelite in the desert.) Finally, we stumbled into an intersection where he had originally made a wrong turn. It was obvious that I had been correct from the start. (Plus, I know the GPS woman was gloating, too.) At that point, what do you think I said to my flustered spouse? “Well,” I said, “I was right from the start. If you had just listened to me (and her), then we wouldn’t have wasted time familiarizing ourselves with backroads and trash cans!” Yikes!!Why didn’t I just say nothing, instead? Or, possibly say something encouraging that would have been filled with grace? It has to do with the fact that I wanted to say something to prove that I won. Power. I love it. It makes me feel safe because I’m in the driver’s seat. But, how helpful is that to my husband? Does it encourage him to hear “I told you so?” I was angry that we had wasted time in the hinterlands of New Jersey. I didn’t feel like being nice!
Believe it or not, that type of event has the potential to slowly erode relationship. On the surface, it would seem to be pretty minor, but it removes a layer of love, through grudge holding and irritation. It cuts into an attitude of grace, and promotes the perceived need to prove ourselves justified and right. It feels good to win.
Paul says, in Ephesians 4, “… do not give the devil a foothold. ” My I-told-you-so comment didn’t build anyone up, but me. I urge you to recognize that type of thing is a foothold for the enemy’s workshop, because erosion starts to happen, and before you know it, your relationship starts to sour. After a while, with this kind of attitude, you’ll experience an explosion, and then you’ll scratch your head in wonder and bewilderment. Where did all this anger come from? What happened? Erosion can be years in the making, so don’t be caught off guard.
We all have an intrinsic desire to be in control. After all, we don’t like to feel vulnerable…that would put us in a position to be taken advantage of by others. So, we fight to take care of ourselves. Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself, as long as you’re careful not to ultimately replace God’s care of you, out of fear that He ultimately can’t or won’t do it. However, 99% of the time, self- protection is about perceived danger, not real harm.
The next time you’re tempted to withhold kindness, gentleness, and patience, in a difficult moment, think about what attitude or words may tear down the other person,versus what kind of grace you can demonstrate. Grace bears witness to the cross. It testifies to the kind of love we were shown when we were following the wrong GPS of life which would have led to our death.
**It’s biblically essential to apologize and ask forgiveness of the person you just shredded. So, let me add a quick note about apologies. Saying, “I’m sorry” suggests that it was unintentional, i.e. “I’m sorry I stepped on your foot. ” It implies an accidental event. Instead, practice saying, “I was wrong to say that/do that…. please forgive me.” It implies intentional ownership of the sin. When I previously said, “I told you so”, I totally meant to say it at the time. It was intentional. I was wrong to say it.
Now, if you set out never again to be selfish, or give up the desire for power, you’ll fail, so don’t even go there. We’re all broken and needy. That’s why we cling to the cross of Christ…. because we will never be worthy enough. (There’s a big difference in being worthy versus worth it. Jesus loves us and He deemed we were worth dying for, but only He is worthy.)
Here’s a radical thought for us: Instead of going for the power, let’s be aware that the Holy Spirit lives in us, as believers, to convict us when we’re out to do war with someone, and to help us turn around and get on the right path. Listen to Him and be reminded of what is true..this is the beauty of the gospel…. that Jesus died for our transgressions, so that we’re free to get up again and be dusted off by Him and press on.
Believer, it’s Turn Around Time! Ask God to help you turn more often and more quickly. He is glorified when He sees that your heart longs to honor Him. Don’t let erosion cause ruts in your relationships…. be mindful of the harmful damage your words and attitude could cause, so that as far as it is up to you, Christ is imitated.