Years ago, I worked as an instructor in a drug and alcohol rehab center. All of my students were adults who were going through various stages of recovery. Many of them had “bottomed out”. Others were in denial, and still others could see their lives and feel regret and various other forms of pain as if everything was happening on that day.
Some of these people had been abused as children. They were hurt by parents, boyfriends of their mom, other relatives, and sometimes, strangers. In order to cope with the suffering that they were not able to defend themselves from, they turned to drugs and alcohol to alleviate some of the pain and replace their current reality. The stories are painful to hear, but even more painful to relive as they sober up.
All of this pain was inflicted on them by other people. Adults, whom children should be able to trust had destroyed their innocence and stolen their childhoods. An unfortunate consequence of their abuse is that they became clear targets for other children who, in their own sinful wickedness, “piled on” the suffering they went through. These people became doormats for others.
What is the root of this suffering? Who is the cause of this? If God is good, why didn’t He protect them? What is the purpose of such wicked evil destroying the lives of the vulnerable at the hands of others? Why does this happen?
The first part of the answer lies in creation. God created man in His own image. When Satan fell, he took with him all of the vicious hatred of God and applied it to man who was made in God’s image. He began a war with God. In every theater of action, he set out to destroy individuals and groups of people. And one of the ways he accomplishes this goal is by using … other people.
Verbal attacks, like minimization, patronizing, abuse, manipulation, etc. are all weapons he uses to assault the mind of individuals. He chooses humiliation as a means of injuring and psychologically destroying people. He does this because he hates people. And man hates man too. Look at the 20th century. The humiliation, minimization and elimination of whole sections of humanity were the strategies of the Devil.
Individuals, full of pride or afraid of their own social standing also partake in the Devil’s work. They minimize, humiliate, and destroy others without conscience.
We can agree that these people are evil. We tell ourselves that we would intervene. But, in truth, we partake in these behaviours, too. Minimizing others to get ahead. Talking about a spouse or child in a way that doesn’t put them in the best light. Gossiping about our neighbors as a way to socialize. We become weapons in a human civil war. And our general is the Devil.
But, this is not the end of the matter. God has struck back. And like a hammer from heaven, the Son of God struck the earth with a righteous judgment of the devil and His works. He humbled himself to become a man. He confronted the wicked. He put the devil in his place. He reversed sin and cared for those rejected by society. And He did this while being opposed Himself, in His life on this earth. At the end, the Devil spoke in the ears of those saying “crucify, crucify”. To the disciples and all around them, it looked like the Devil had won. Jesus had been humiliated, minimized and slain on a cross outside of Jerusalem.
Only problem was, the weapon of God’s warfare was the perfect sacrifice made for all sin. It didn’t look like a weapon. It wasn’t loud, abusive and destructive in that way. Instead Christ became the utter destruction of the Devil and all his servants by justifying the ungodly. God poured out His wrath on Him for all of humanities sin, disarming the Devil and establishing a kingdom which will never fail.
And, it’s here now. At the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan, Jesus was anointed King over all creation. He rules at the right hand of God the Father. In His death and resurrection, He takes humiliation, minimization, slander and gossip and turns them into encouragement, forgiveness, support, words of peace, and love. He heals others through the work of social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers, foster parents, pastors, and even you and me.
We have been called by this gospel into reversing the Devil’ works by intervening in the lives of children and adults who are being mistreated. God has charged us with the responsibility of loving our neighbors, and has given us His Holy Spirit to make that happen. The weapon of our warfare is the Good News that Christ died for the ungodly.
He has also called us to love our enemies. He does this because while we are in this world, in this life, there is always hope for repentance (Paul’s conversion, for example). This Good News is for everyone. But once Christ comes back, there will be hell to pay.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,