Knowing the Enemy
There are, no matter what may be happening around the globe, at least three wars going on at the same time. There is from the garden of Eden to the consummation of the kingdom of God the battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
God has divided all the world into two great armies, and all of history is the story of this great battle. In the end, though he succeeds in bruising the heel of the seed of the woman, the serpent’s head will be crushed. This is the primordial battle, the paradigmatic conflict, the mother of all wars.
Both the second and third are intimately related to the first. The seed of the woman, we would do well to remember, joined this brightly arrayed army having been drafted from the army of the enemy. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we were all by nature children of wrath. But the Gospel promise is that He would put enmity between us and our natural father. He has regenerated us, given us new hearts such that we now love Him whom we once hated, and hate him whom we once loved. Trouble is, we still struggle with what we once were. The old man is both dead and being put to death. It wars with our members. Thus the battlefield where this second great conflict takes place is within the very souls of the children of God. Once again, the promise of the Gospel is victory. He has promised that if we confess our sins, not only will He forgive us of our sins, but will cleanse us of all unrighteousness. When we pass beyond the veil, we enter into peace, for this war will be over. All that is displeasing in the sight of God will be driven as far from us as the east is from the west.
The third battle is the mirror image of the second. The seed of the serpent not only wages war with the seed of the woman, but they too have an internal battle. Here the battle is not between an old man and a new man, but between his created nature and his fallen nature, between the remnants of the image of God and the brokenness of the fall. This battle works itself out in this peculiar tension. The unregenerate man, because he yet carries the image of God in him, desires peace, order, joy, purpose and integrity. But because he is a sinner, a rebel, a pretender to the throne of God, he desires in turn that there be no God to whom he must one day answer.
It is a fool’s quest to seek both of these ends, for they are mutually exclusive. There can be no peace if there is no law, and there can be no law without a lawgiver. There can be no order if there is none to give the world order. There can be no joy, if there is no ultimate good who transcends us. There can be no purpose if all our lives are lived under the sun. We cannot be whole, unless or until we are remade into the image of God. God is our peace, our order, our joy, our purpose, our integrity. Lose one and you must lose the other. Keep God, and all your life is lived under the known threat of His coming judgment.
It is not difficult to measure how this battle is going, in the lives of individuals, or in the context of a given culture. The strung-out, self-loathing, skid-row bum is seeing the battle go toward the denial of God’s existence. The respectable, prosperous, loving father and husband bum is inching toward integrity. The same is true of a society. A nice, clean, safe society is one wherein the battle is currently favoring the remains of the image of God. A bloodthirsty, epicurean, baby-murdering culture is one that is more willing to give up the blessings of the image of God in order to escape God.
It is good and appropriate that we should seek, in the larger battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, to push our friends, neighbors and cultures in the direction of integrity. This is what it means, by and large, to pray for the peace of Babylon. It is, on the other hand, most important that we not confuse those enemies of the kingdom of God who yet have a better handle on the image of God, with our real friends. It is critical to the grand battle that we remember that upstanding, “moral,” citizens of the world are in fact citizens of the kingdom of darkness.
Jesus is not only our king, He is our husband. We, the bride of Christ, are only whole when we more clearly reflect our husband. He is our glory, our calling. When we love the world, whether it is the world of vile depravity, or the world of vile middle-class morality, we are still playing the harlot. Integrity begins with fidelity to our husband. As we practice this, as we exhibit a loyalty to Him and Him alone, He in turn blesses us. As we put aside our love of the world, no matter how clean it may be, our husband showers us with grace. Or, to put it another way, as we seek first the kingdom of God, all these things will be added unto us.