Have you ever noticed that times when God is working in your life, when He is using you, are the times most likely for relational conflict and tension to crop up? I think it’s one of the Enemy’s favorite—and ugliest—methods of attacking God’s children: to divide them against each other. I’ve seen it in my family, in various ministries we’ve been involved with, and in His wider church.
My friend and critique partner Sandra Barnes pointed this angle out in her comment on my recent post, “Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy: Racial Reconciliation and Our Sinful Hearts.” I asked her permission to quote from her comment here:
“I believe becoming one in Christ involves spiritual warfare. A spiritual battle cannot be fought with carnal weapons of the flesh like emotional polemic. I’m not sure if the incident in Ferguson was triggered by racism. But, I’m convinced that the emotional response to the shooting of a young, unarmed black male has served to highlight the polarized views in this nation. Where are the united-as-one-Christians? Seems to me, it’s like a typical Sunday morning at 10:00 am.
If we aren’t blatantly aware of prejudices and racism in this country, it’s simply because we’ve chosen to wear blinders. Racial division is obvious in churches and communities. This Sunday, look around and count the number of attendees who don’t share your skin color. When diverse lives don’t touch each other because of these boundaries, there are stereotypes and misunderstandings that result in racial bias. Jesus already died on the cross one time to overcome and resolve this separation (Jew/Gentile) issue. It’s not going to happen again. It’s up to us to be the change that we want to see.
It’s an intentional, conscious choice to be inclusive—not only through fictitious characters in our writing, but also in real life through our own personal character. No matter how uncomfortable we are at first. God’s grace is sufficient for any level of discomfort, especially if it means uniting the church.”
Lately, I’ve been studying the history of the Abolitionist movement in 19th century America, as the next novel I’m starting begins in that setting. And while peering closer at the horrors of slavery through sources like Frederick Douglass’s Narrative has weighed my heart, I’ve been so encouraged to learn more how it was God’s people, black and white, working together who led the fight to end slavery.
Secular sources, whether scholarly books or PBS’s helpful docudrama The Abolitionists, freely acknowledge it was largely evangelical Christians who spearheaded the abolition movement, because they believed with all their hearts that the system of American slavery was abhorrent in the eyes of God and contrary to the teachings of Christ. And while instances of prejudice existed, I have been amazed and exhilarated to learn how much of an equal and interracial collaboration it was, with white and black abolitionists strategizing together, working together, meeting together, eating together, even worshiping together. And by God’s grace, this little motley group of grassroots men and women eventually won, though sadly not without much bloodshed. But institutionalized slavery was abolished in the United States, a feat which seemed impossible to many only a few years before.
Perhaps their success partly came because they realized theirs was not merely a human battle.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
I think we need to remember this today too—in our continuing struggles for racial understanding and reconciliation, and in other daily life relationships and challenges. However we might clash with other human beings, our real struggle is not against flesh and blood, though it might sometimes feel like it.
I find that reminder actually encouraging, remembering that other people are not my real enemy. And thanks be to God, greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.
Do you think spiritual warfare sometimes manifests in relational division? Please comment and share!
Sandra also shared this beautiful video with me, “A Heart that Forgives” by artist Kevin LeVar. I hope it blesses you too.