“…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but… against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
We are undoubtedly “flesh and blood” creations. Incarnate, carne, “meat” — made up of the same elements, amino acids, and inner material as every other physical being on Earth. We know this intimately. Each and every day, our bodies of flesh feel the stretch and limits of our muscle, tissue, and bone as we interact with the other tangibles around us.
Through these bodies we also observe reality, quantify it, and grasp an incredible amount about how it all works. This natural world is truly a masterpiece. Yet the physical reality of flesh and blood is only half of the picture. Science can only explain some of it and is currently unable to account for the “spark” of life, thought, consciousness — the soul. All of humanity has felt that inner spark, and in some way sought to make sense of the unseen struggle — the “forces” in the “heavenly realms” — playing out around us.
Over the past nine months, we have become increasingly aware of our biological limits and vulnerabilities because of a different unseen reality – a virus. We have been able to unlock much of what makes the disease spread and thrive, but we have yet to come to a place where we can control it or remove it from our lives. COVID has caused incredible amounts of pain and loss around the world — humbling many of us in physical, financial, mental, and spiritual ways. With those significant losses comes a longing to understand. To find answers to the unknown and unseen — the why of life?
This great-seeking is happening all over the world, among all creeds, classes, and circumstances. Along the Amazon River Basin of Brazil, where an RI worker named Al serves, the battle waging in the heavenly realms is very apparent. The people in these isolated villages — accessible only by boat — are seeking answers wherever they can find them, and the “powers of this dark world” are actively fighting for their attention. During the pandemic shutdown, passage to these villages halted. SEARA, the riverboat ministry that Al serves with, was unable to send any medical or evangelism teams into the area until very recently. After months of being away, they encountered two very different scenarios — one of hope and one of darkness. Both clear examples of the struggle going on around us.
On the Apoquitaua River, they discovered a mass movement of people to faith in Jesus. In two villages, almost everyone converted and started actively following Christ during the shutdown. A family that Al had originally shared his faith with and helped to disciple just a few years ago were instrumental in these conversions. God used this little family as a catalyst to address the spiritual longings of their community and ended up transforming the whole area.
On the Paraconi River, some 30 miles away as the crow flies, they encountered something much different. On this river, there is a Macumba witchdoctor, who practices a voodoo spiritist religion called Candomblé. During the pandemic, many people in this area went to him for answers and to be “cured” from COVID-19. Al and his teammates noticed a radical change in the people of this area. They witnessed an increase in violence, drug and substance abuse, and demonic possession.
Two rivers. Two heavenly battles. Two very different outcomes — for the moment at least.
As followers of Christ living in a developed country, the unseen battle is often not at the forefront of our faith or day-to-day existence. We focus on the flesh and blood, the here and now, our finances, wants, and desires. The unseen seems, well, unimportant. Yet, we know from the scripture above that there is a struggle going on for every soul living and breathing around us. Are we living our lives accordingly? Do we take the scriptures seriously? Are we pointing those who have questions to the Author and Creator of life, or are we satisfied letting them battle in the dark?
As the missions agency of CMC, we invite you all to examine the unseen battle in your state, town, neighborhood, and family. How can you fight against the darkness with the light of Christ? We have faith that the ultimate battle on Earth and in the heavenly realms has already been won by Jesus’s death and resurrection. Let’s live like that. Let’s pray for ways to share our hope and peace beyond our flesh and bones. Let’s be on the frontlines of the struggle, battling.