Our country is going through a really rough time right now. So much angst in our Nation’s Capitol: The House of Representatives’ attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act by refusing to pass a budget, resulting in an historically destructive shutting down of the federal government, the looming debt ceiling battle, which portends more of the same, and the mayhem caused by people with mental illnesses–the woman who tried to drive her car onto the White House grounds because she lost her job and the man who used legally obtained weapons of mass destruction to kill innocent people in the Navy Yard.
I’m convinced that all of this is nothing less than an epic battle in the war between angels and demons. What? Did I really say that in such a public space??? Yes. I did. We are witnesses to a battle over the soul of our country. Isn’t that what heavenly battles are always about, saving souls?
And the thing is, most of the humans who are being used to wage this battle think they are the good guys–believing they’re on the side of the angels, knowing that they’re fighting against the demons. (I say most of them, because I know there are some folks, at the highest levels and most secretive places, who know that they are not angels.) But most folks caught up In fights like this think that their side is right, and that makes them think they’re the good guys. So we need to figure out who really are the good guys. Are we on the side of the angels or the demons?
One way to figure this out is to examine our behavior in the battle. When we find ourselves doing things that good guys don’t do, we can’t really be the good guys anymore, can we? Like when we find ourselves feeling it’s okay to cheat in order to get our way or thinking it’s okay to take away somebody else’s right to vote to keep our positions of power. Another thing to examine is how we feel about the other side in this battle, like when we find ourselves being driven by hate rather than logic (did you see all those people who ‘chose’ the Affordable Care Act over Obamacare?) or when when we find ourselves thinking that all those people must be evil, even when we don’t know them.
Another way to determine who’s side we’re really on is to examine our priorities. Have we chosen the side we’re on because we want our lives to be more comfortable, regardless of what it means to the rest of the people? According to my reading of the bible, when our side takes the position that is most harmful to the poor, we are not the good guys. This is the most important point for me.
In Luke’s version of the sermon on the mount, Jesus pours out blessings on the poor (not just the poor in spirit, like in Matthew’s version). As theologian R. Alan Culpepper tells us, Luke was doing just what he intended to do, to make clear that Jesus came to “overturn every conventional expectation of this world” by pronouncing blessings on those who were the outcasts of society.” Jesus made radical statements about altering the ways of the world, and when we pay close attention to God’s preference for the poor, we find it all throughout the bible. How many times do we see God protecting the weaker from the stronger, the poor from the rich and powerful, using the lowly and not the one the world favored? LIke when God saved the Hebrew children who had been enslaved by mighty Pharoah. Or when God helped little David defeat the Giant Goliath. We hear Hannah singing that the Lord raises up the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap to sit them with princes. We hear Mary sing that God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty. Over and over again, we see God helping out those who are at the mercy of the rich and powerful.
Yes, when our side is the side of the rich and powerful, taking positions that will be harmful to the poor, we better watch out, because that’s not the side of the angels. And God’s angels are always the good guys– and always more powerful than demons.
Angels? When you stop to think about it, in todays world angels are most often depicted as either sweet, little babies or gentle looking women with beautiful wings and harps. And demons….whew! They’re always depicted as powerfully frightening. I don’t know how angels got to be so sweet and innocent looking in our minds, but we need to know that angels are way more powerful than demons. Our bible tells us that over and over again. It was the demons who sent the giant Goliath to intimidate and kill the Hebrew children, but it was God’s angels who directed the rock from David’s slingshot so that it landed precisely where it needed to land. In the story of Esther, it was demons who used King Xerxes’ assistant Haman to get the king to sign an edict to kill all the Hebrews, but it was the angels who made Esther look particularly charming when she put her life on the line to go to the king, who couldn’t help but agree with whatever she asked him to do. And it was the demons working through people who put Jesus up on that cross–you know the outcome of that battle!
God’s angels are way more powerful than demons. The angels always win. Always. So we must make sure that when the angels and demons are fighting for a soul–including the soul of a nation– that we’re on the right side of the battle. Jesus didn’t come just to turn the world’s priorities upside down, he came to turn them right-side up, back to where God always intended them to be.
May God’s will be done.