On May 25, Memorial Day, an unarmed black man died while being restrained by a white police officer in Minneapolis. Protests against police brutality and systemic racism, while initially peaceful, have degenerated into violence and chaos. The most fleeting glance at social media highlights more of the same us-versus-them mentality that has divided our nation for the past several years. What neither “side” seems to realize is that we all have the same enemy.
The same power behind racism and hatred and oppression is behind rage and murder and theft. The thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy, and he doesn’t care with which race, religion, nationality, gender, or political party we identify. Who is this being to whom Jesus referred as “the thief”, “the devil”, and “a liar and the father of lies”? Lucifer was created by God full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. Then he became so enamored with himself that he sought to place himself above God and usurp the honor that is due to God alone. Cast out of heaven, confined for a time to Earth, he roams seeking someone to devour. Humankind is God’s ultimate creation. God made man – not angels – in His own image and gave man – not angels – dominion over the earth. Satan has no power here except through people. As in the Garden of Eden, to accomplish his purpose of harming God’s people and separating them from God, he simply needs to convince them of his lies. Then they will destroy themselves and each other. Satan perpetuates evil on the earth by inciting the very sin that was his own downfall: pride.
Only by pride comes contention, says Proverbs 13:10. Pride, in a Biblical sense, means placing more value on oneself than on others; valuing one’s self, accomplishments, or possessions more than God does. Contention is defined as opposition; strife; rivalry; competition; dispute; controversy. These terms describe much of our lives. God says that ONLY by pride comes contention. When we believe our view or opinion is the only “right” view, we are operating in pride… and serving the purposes of the devil! Human reasoning can (and usually does) lead to faulty conclusions. Truth is not something we can obtain by striving against others or even by doing lots of research. Truth is a person, and we can only know the truth by pursuing the Truth; that is, Jesus. His vantage point is infinitely better than ours.
If we are putting someone else down, if our tone or manner implies that we know better than they do, we are operating in pride. Before I express an opinion, I need to talk it over with Jesus and see what he says. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. We can only fight the father of lies by cultivating a close relationship with the Truth through his Word and his Spirit.
Of course, the trap of pride reaches far beyond social media. It is a matter of our hearts: our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs concerning ourselves and others. As I stated earlier, the devil doesn’t care who we are as long as he can convince us to be selfish. It is human nature to be selfish; the great paradox is that the more we seek to serve ourselves, the worse our ultimate end result. All humans struggle with pride and self-centeredness, but pride goes before a fall. James 4:6 says God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Grace is what we need to receive, and what we need to give. Thank God he does not give us what we deserve, but rather what Jesus deserves; that’s grace. The very next verse says: Submit to God; resist the devil and he will flee from you. It should be a no-brainer for me to acknowledge that God is God and I am not, but all day every day I go about thinking my own thoughts my own way without consulting or acknowledging him. I can’t change myself through willpower. I can’t know Truth by listening to people’s opinions or watching the news. Instead, when I spend time with God, listening to him speak, bringing my concerns to him, he shows me his heart. He gives me peace that is impossible to obtain any other way.
Watching George Floyd die is heartbreaking. Knowing that people suffer from racism, bigotry, and persecution is heartbreaking. Watching Minneapolis burn is heartbreaking. Seeing the effects of COVID on people’s health and lives and livelihoods is heartbreaking. If I looked only to the world, I could easily collapse in a puddle of heartbreak. But God is faithful. He is still on his throne and he has not given up on us. In his kingdom is neither male nor female, black nor white nor brown nor yellow nor red. There are only his children, whom he loves beyond all human understanding. As I turn my eyes on him, as I focus on his goodness, my heart begins to beat with his, and I can allow his love to flow through me to ALL his people.