"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood." How many times have you been angry with someone to such an extent that your peace of mind was disrupted? Have you ever been at a point where you just know if that certain person says one more thing, or does something else to irritate you, you are going to blow a gasket?
I think we all have. One of the hardest things to do is to keep in mind that our real adversary is not the person we are irritated with, but that our enemy is spiritual. Why is it so hard for us to remember that?
What Does it Mean that 'Our Struggle Is Not Against Flesh and Blood'?
We were created to be emotional beings. This means we experience anger, happiness, joy, sorrow, love, hate, disgust, etc. When Adam and Eve were created, they were perfect (Genesis 1:31). They had no flaws in them. I want my reader to keep this in mind as we proceed since we will come back to this point.
When the serpent went to Eve, his goal was to deceive her, and he was quite successful. It is important to note here that Eve’s having been deceived did not cause the Fall of humanity. She was innocently deceived.
However, when she went to Adam and he made the choice to partake of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he misused his reason and intellect. His abuse of his free will, combined with his misuse of his cogitative faculties in rebellion to God is the cause of the Fall of man.
Whereas humanity had been created in perfection, with our emotions and cogitative faculties perfectly aligned, now they were rendered imperfect (Genesis 3:1-7). One of the effects of this imperfection is that our emotions and cogitative faculties can now mislead us, sometimes to very drastic degrees.
Human memory, which had been perfect, was now less than optimal and would always be susceptible to error. Have you ever shared a childhood memory with a sibling who shared in that particular experience, and that sibling remembered everything quite different from you? Why is that?
It is precisely because the cogitative faculties suffer the effects of the Fall. This applies equally to emotions, which can be misleading and even irrational. Sadly, some experience varying degrees of emotional and psychological disorders. Others suffer more serious psychiatric issues requiring long-term care.
In both cases, often medication is prescribed. The whole point of discussing this is to demonstrate that our minds and emotions are not always completely reliable, and this is the case for all of us when it comes to aligning the faculties at all times.
Another example is appropriate here. Imagine, if you will, a mother at the beach with her child. The child is swimming in the ocean one minute, and the next minute is flailing about in the water and sinks beneath the waves.
The lifeguard springs into action as the mother stands on shore screaming and crying, as many likely would in fear for her baby’s safety. The lifeguard brings her child onshore, checks for vitals, and discovers the child is not breathing.
The mother gets hysterical and tries to drag the lifeless child to her car, which is about a quarter of a mile away from the beach. The lifeguard has to struggle with her so he can give lifesaving care to her child.
With the help of bystanders, who subdue the mother while calling an ambulance, the lifeguard manages to get the child breathing again. Did you notice the effects of the Fall in our story? The mother’s concern for her child is good and appropriate. Her desire for her child to receive medical attention is likewise appropriate.
However, her attempt to take her child to her car and then drive to a hospital, which may be miles from the beach, was not the appropriate thing to do in the situation. It was more appropriate to allow the lifeguard to provide emergency measures that ultimately saved her child’s life since time was of the essence.
Her emotions were not perfectly aligned with her cogitative faculties. Intellectually the mother knows that what the lifeguard did was the right thing, but her emotions kicked in and she forgot what was most important at that moment.
If Our Struggle Is Not Against Flesh and Blood, What Is it Against?
Likewise, when we come up against difficulties in life that we should take to our Lord in prayer, we far too often become upset with the person/people, or the situation, completely forgetting who it is that is actually working against us in those difficulties.
Our emotions take over and we forget what we know to be true intellectually. I know of a man who had constant issues between himself and his brother. His brother was an alcoholic, and anytime he was at family gatherings, or just came by to say hello, his brother was inebriated.
When his brother was inebriated, he was unruly, rude, and often just outright obnoxious. This created disturbances in his family and sometimes even with his neighbors. It got to the point that the man came to blows with his brother at a family gathering, his nerves just having come to their end. Not a good situation at all.
This caused the brothers to stop speaking, and 20 years later they had not spoken one word to each other. Even at funerals, they ignored one another, as if they never existed. Now, I am not taking away some degree of responsibility from the brother with alcoholism, but there is often more at work in someone’s life than meets the eye.
This is more so the case with substance abuse. Often such abuse is a band-aid for some deeply emotional trauma. One of the things those of us in exorcism ministry understand is that such responses to trauma almost always come with diabolic strings attached.
Why Do We Forget that Our Struggle Is Not Against Flesh and Blood?
Often demons engage in diabolic temptation, enticing the person to self-destructive behavior in an effort to numb the pain. Again, the effects of the Fall are clearly evident in both brothers. It is important that as believers we always remind ourselves, especially in trying times, that the real object of our anger is not the other person, but those evil spirits who seek our ruin.
When you experience such difficulties your first refuge is prayer. Pray against the demonic powers behind the situation and deal with the other person with grace, forgiving them their transgressions, understanding that they are just as much a target as you. In this way, you will have victory (1 Corinthians 7:5; James 4:7; Romans 16:20; 1 Peter 5:8).
Satan prowls like a roaring lion. The less we are aware of him, the more he has the ability to attack.
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J. Davila-Ashcraft is an Anglican priest, Theologian, and Apologist, and holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from God’s Bible College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a recognized authority on the topic of exorcism, and in that capacity has contributed to and/or appeared on programming for The National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and CNN. He is the host of Expedition Truth, a one-hour apologetics radio talk show.