In many wars there have been significant bridges or breaches which turn the tide of the battle and sometimes even the war. But what of spiritual warfare? What is dangerous and what is not? There seems to be a lot of confusion about where the danger lies, and where the enemy is attempting to get a foothold. Well, what does the Bible say about it?
Anger and self control
Ephesians 4:26-27 reads: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,and do not give the devil a foothold.” First point: not all anger is sin (sorry star wars fans, it’s just not that simple). If we do not get angry at (for example) massive injustice, as Jesus did when he cleared out the temple, there is something wrong! But, we must not “sin” in our anger, so for example, if it does “lead to hate” (as the mighty Yoda says) we have clearly overstepped the mark (see 1 John 3:15). And if we remain in a state of anger overnight, we have overdone it! It affects our judgement and breaks up relationships. It is OK (for example) to be angry with the actions of a misbehaving child, but not to act irrationally on that anger, nor to feed that into a seething hatred that lasts for days! Final point: this is the kind of thing that gives the enemy a foothold. Strategically this is a disaster. We do not want the enemy within our walls (in our head or having influence over our soul), and as the Bible also warns us in Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” This also hints that it is unwise to lose self-control or restraint in other areas of our life, whether it is how we spend our time (a tricky one for me in particular), or our money, or if we eat or drink too much….
Much has been said on physical activities that are dangerous, for example any dabbling with the occult. This is certainly true! But I think the important distinction that must be made is that it is not the material objects that are the source of the danger: it is us. Contrary to popular films and TV in the west, there is nothing in the Bible about evil spirits being trapped in physical objects that lack life: in one instance they go into pigs, but generally they are working through or against people. That is not to say that we should not get rid of e.g. occult trappings or statues of idols, since it is confusing for others, and may cause them to stumble (see what is taught about food sacrificed to idols, and why we should avoid this according to 1 Corinthians 8). The food sacrificed to idols mentioned is (I think) a useful parallel. In 1 Corinthians 10:23-31 we find we should not raise questions of conscience about food from the “meat market”, i.e. you bought it in ignorance, not wanting idol food, and yes, someone might have mumbled some words over it but this has not changed the meat in any way, but that when we become aware of definite idol-meat, and someone else may be affected by our actions, we abstain. This is a bit like the fact that much as I do not believe Buddha statues have any real power, I would not put one in my garden as it may cause questions from other Christians and non-believers: if I am a Christian why do I have a Buddha statue? Who do I follow? And their consciences would judge me, as that Corinthians passage warns! Note again, that owning the stuff is not a good idea, but the source of the problem is us spiritual beings. Further generalising, we would not keep a lock-pick if we had been a thief before we became a Christian, not because the lock-pick will induce us to steal, but it might tempt us and it will certainly cause questions on its discovery!
1 Corinthians 8:1 warns us “[n]ow about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” Just knowing things is not enough. It’s not even very useful. The most evil people in history knew things. But they did not love. The most sure-fire way to win the spiritual battles is to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” Doing that is something that pleases God, and the enemy can not use real love (though like everything he will try to twist it).