…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
2 Corinthians 2:11
If you were an evil enemy of God, what would be your go-to scheme? How would you best achieve division and defeat among the people of God?
The most effective method is simply to keep Christians from loving each other; to cause bitter division among families and communities of believers all over the world - husband from wife, parent from child, brother from brother, friend from friend. Most of us fall for it every time, like a fish that gets hooked and thrown back over and over again by the same fisherman. Our enemy wants to highlight differences and offenses, and to keep those things ever in our minds and spirits.
People everywhere want to feel loved, accepted, and included. When Christians dwell together in unity and truly love each other, those around us can see a clear picture of how good God is and how welcoming, kind, and inclusive He is. There is nothing like the love of God! It changes everything it touches - it renews and beautifies, and gives hope, life and purpose.
To best reflect this great love of God, we must love one another as the family of God first. This is easy to say, but not so easy to do - we are all so different and have such varied ways of communicating and looking at things. If we are not careful, we can take offense easily.
We must remember that real love is not a feeling - it is a choice for the highest good of God and His Kingdom. Our ability and willingness to truly love each other is the thing that makes or breaks our witness as a community. When we do not love each other, it is painfully obvious to a watching world, and it is utterly repellent. Conversely, when we dwell together in unity, it is like oil (Psalm 133) which covers all and which everything sticks to. We become like a magnet, with a pull and draw that no person can resist.
So, our wicked enemy seeks to keep us from loving one another at all costs. This scheme becomes effective when any of us feel hurt or excluded or put down in some way and choose to dwell on that - offense is a choice, too. Something deep and dark within our sinful nature wants to demand not just our equality, but our superiority over others through attitudes of “me first” and “I am better than you.” This way of thinking leaves real love in the ditch and renders our witness ineffective.
How do we resist this tactic?
We must forgive.
The full passage of 2 Corinthians 2: 7-11 says, "Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes."
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful weapons that God has given us. Real forgiveness can break bondages that have endured for generations. It can turn a brittle heart into a soft heart, and can turn a broken family into a happy, thriving family. God has extended forgiveness to us, and asks us to return the grace and favor to others. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that we can take God's gifts only for our own benefit, and refuse to extend love to others. Jesus tells us plainly, "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6: 14-15)
Extending forgiveness to others is not optional. We must forgive as we have been forgiven - it cannot remain just theory, but must become our practice. As sinful people who have been forgiven by God, we can never say, "Yes, but you do not understand what they have done to me..." We have been forgiven of so much, and must also forgive others. The beauty of it is that when we let hurts and offenses go, they can no longer hurt us or cause a division among us. When we forgive one another, the enemy's scheme to defeat us falls flat.
We must choose to believe the best about one another.
This has two facets. First, we must choose to believe the best about others when we hear a bad word or report about them. It is falling right into the enemy’s trap to ingest or repeat the bad things we hear about a brother or a sister. What good does that do? None! It helps nothing to become a part of a bad report, and oftentimes there is much more to the story than we know.
Second, believing the best means that we must have real hope for people; we must keep on bumping them towards Jesus, and towards the dream that God has for their life. We must learn to truly honor one another. We can all plainly can see the things that are wrong with one other, but Christians need to be people who look for and see what is good and right in each one. We are all created in the image of God and have something of Him in us. We must choose to see what is best and call that out in one another rather than holding each other back.
We must keep no record of wrongs.
How do we like it when our spouse or parent or brother or friend or teacher brings up that old, terrible thing we did again and again? We are so frustrated by it, and recognize that we have grown and changed. We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, and tend to make excuses for our feelings and behavior - maybe we had a headache or had heard bad news that day when we were so rude to our friend.
At the same time, we might keep records of wrong for other people in our lives that stretch back for years, and with remarkable detail. Then, in a moment of hurt, we are likely to throw something back at our spouse that happened 15 years ago, leaving no room for growth and change. If we could have a moment of clear thinking, we would realize how horrible and creepy this is. It would be so offensive if someone kept and used that kind record of wrongs against us.
God actually does have every right to keep a record of wrongs on each of us, but chooses to forgive and forget when we come to Him in repentance. He loves to cover the shame that we heap upon ourselves. He loves to help us find a great trajectory towards godliness and cheers us on our way. He does not stand, arms crossed and face twisted in anger, reminding us of every wicked and selfish thing we have ever done, refusing to let us change and grow in godliness.
We ought to follow God in this way. We must forgive one another and cheer one another on in spiritual growth and development. We must treat others as we would like to be treated. Sure, people say and do some pretty thoughtless, hurtful things - sometimes on accident and sometimes on purpose. We all do this at one time or another. But with the same grace we extend to ourselves, we must be gracious with one another. Perhaps they are stressed out, perhaps they are hurting. Instead of feeling offended, what if we offered care and concern and friendship instead? Our families, churches, and communities could be radically changed for the better if Christians would stop falling for the enemy's schemes, and would start practicing the law of love...
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
-1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
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Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)