A Cosmic Struggle
We’re all involved and we all must decide.
By Douglas Matacio
When my wife recently returned home from visiting her parents, she had one of Uncle Ed’s weapons, a Ranger Arm to Arm Knuckle Knife. I examined it carefully. Fourteen and a quarter inches long, the blade was nine and a half inches by two inches at its widest. The handle was wound tightly with cord for a better grip, and—get this: it featured seven brass knuckles, designed to kill with one blow. Carved into the leather scabbard were these words: Denzil Don 1942. What a story that knife could tell!
But Uncle Ed himself, a congenial sort, never had much to say about the war. He didn’t want to talk about it. And I don’t like to talk about war either. I don’t even like to think about young men and women going off to war.
We go forth in God's armor, accompanied by the Spirit, on our knees, praying and watching on behalf of one another.
So how did I get into doing this piece? A man from Adventist World asked me to be a war correspondent of sorts. Not Afghanistan or Iraq, but the mother of all wars: THE GREAT CONTROVERSY BETWEEN CHRIST AND SATAN.
Here’s how John the revel-ator describes it: “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Rev. 12:7-9).*
I remember my mother getting involved when I was a little kid watching Chicago Cubs baseball games on channel 9. When she heard the Hamm’s beer jingle starting up between innings, “From the land of sky blue wa-ah-ters, wa-ah-ters, from the land of pines, lofty balsams … ,” she would race into the room, turn down the sound, and stand in front of the TV holding her dress out so that I could not see the Hamm’s bears cavorting on the screen. You may laugh, but it worked. To this day I have never tasted a drop of beer!
Playing a Role
But what is our part in the great controversy? I avoided playground scuffles as a kid until one boy followed me around wanting to wrestle. I managed to put him off for a few days, but he persisted. Finally, I said, “OK,” and down we went. I just lay there on my back and let him sit on my chest. Less than a minute later he got tired of that, jumped up, and ran away. It was the last time he came around wanting to wrestle.
On a grander scale Lucifer picked a fight with God because he was jealous of the Son’s power and authority. He slandered God’s character of love by claiming that God’s laws were unfair. Christ proved by His death on the cross and sinless life that God’s law was unchangeable and could be kept. When Christ’s death and resurrection made eternal life possible, demonstrating that God really did love everyone, God kicked Satan out of heaven for good. But He still did not destroy the rebel because it would have resulted in people serving Him from fear rather than from love nourished in freedom. And so we wait for Satan’s charges “to be seen in their true light.” And we wait for God’s character of love to be appreciated and His government of justice to be vindicated. (See Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 492-504.)
But is waiting and watching all we can do? I once became so disenchanted with a church employee that I opposed him at every opportunity. A management disagreement had turned into a flame that was destroying not only my relationship with my brother but my own Christian experience. Desperate, I searched the Bible for a solution. I found it in Psalm 37.
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.… Wait for the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it” (Ps. 37:7, 8, 34).
Knowing the Enemy
Is it possible that the great controversy really is between Christ and Satan and not between Brother Jones and Brother Smith? Neither is it between genuine Christians and atheists, world religionists, and apostates. Are we participants or spectators? In effect Psalm 37 says, “Wait and see what God will do.” But the apostle Paul says, “If … possible … , live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:18, 19).
So, we may participate by living at peace with friend and foe, “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), demonstrating God’s character of love through kindness and forgiveness and, when possible, turning foes into brothers and sisters in the family of God.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12, KJV). We are not to fight with human beings, but with Satan and his demons, Paul says. We are to love our fellows, treating all with kindness and respect. We go forth in God’s armor, accompanied by the Spirit, on our knees, praying and watching on behalf of one another (Eph. 6:13-19). Jesus has proven He is stronger than His spiritual adversaries, and He will fight them for us.
But when we encounter evil within human beings, how can we avoid fighting them? We can learn from the SULADS brotherhood from Mountain View College, in the Philippines. These student missionaries reach out to the Monobo and Talaandig peoples and help them with health, agriculture, and literacy needs.
But tribal warriors and others threaten their welfare, and by extension the SULADS who are working with them. On one occasion some SULADS met one of these “pirates” floundering in the sea after his boat had sunk. He couldn’t believe it when they rescued him instead of letting him die. This incident opened the door to establishing a school in his area. During the summer of 2007 one of the SULADS was tragically shot and killed; but now, according to the SULADS’ Web site, word has gotten out that the killer has been forgiven.
Unbelievable but true! The SULADS do not fight with Ranger Arm to Arm Knuckle Knives, but practice kindness and love. In their own way they are wrestling with the powers of evil through their daily dependence upon God for strength—and by demonstrating through acts of mercy and forgiveness that the essence of God’s character is love.
*Unless otherwise indicated all scriptures quoted in this article are from the New International Version.
Douglas Matacio is chair and associate professor of religious studies at Canadian University College in LaCombe, Alberta, Canada.