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Many years ago, when I was a youth leader, the pastor emeritus—a man suitably ancient, with snowy hair, gravely-voice, wizened skin—spoke to our young people about the devil. I had high hopes for this talk. I wanted deep unto deep. I expected profound insights from a seasoned warrior.

I was hugely disappointed.

What he said, about all he said, was that in over 50 years of pastoral ministry he had come to the conclusion that the devil hates people. That was it. I wanted history. I wanted theology. I wanted Greek terms parsed and Hebrew words explicated and obscure texts exegeted.

And all we got was that the devil hates people.

But after 22 years of pastoral ministry, I've come to the conclusion that the devil hates people. Or, more precisely, the devil hates God, and resorts to what any terrorist with a powerful enemy does: goes after his loved ones, wife and kids. The devil's hatred of people is an act of transference. It's his bitterness toward God aimed at what God loves most. Job's story, in some form or the next, plays out day after day, place after place, world without end.

Really, no surprises there.

But what's been surprising is that the devil's main act of hatred is not to destroy people (at least not at first), but to get them by masquerading as angels of light. The devil's best disguise is piety. From the beginning, he's cloaked damnable wiliness beneath a robe of theological inquiry—"Did God really say?"

For this reason, we should expect that most of the devil's foot soldiers are some-where in the pews, and that they're saboteurs more than warriors.

Paul warns Timothy, the young pastor, that he must not argue with his opponents but "gently instruct" them. Then Paul frankly describes such people: they've fallen into "the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:25-26).

Really? Do you mean Mr. Smith? Mrs. Brown?

He does. Paul is talking about otherwise upstanding church members who spout the right creeds, subscribe to all the correct doctrines, espouse all the proper moral stances. But they've been taken captive to do the devil's will.

This seems overstated—after all, these are people who sit on the deacon board, who work in the nursery, who play the organ on Sundays. Yes, it seems overstated, unless you've seen it a hundred times: the good man or woman, who, in the name of some righteous cause, creates so much division, suspicion, confusion and enmity that only Beelzebub wins.

But it shouldn't surprise us. Think of the apostle Peter. He is the first disciple to declare Jesus' true identity, to which Jesus replies, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give ...

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Mark is an associate professor of Pastoral Theology at Ambrose Seminary in Calgary, AB, and formerly was pastor of New Life Community Baptist Church in Duncan, BC.

From Issue:Spiritual Warfare, Spring 2012 | Posted: May 28, 2012

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A Contested Universe

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In the end, Satan loses. But until then, we're in for a battle.

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Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

Is it I?

June 05, 2012  1:44pm

This is an important subject that we too often, I feel, neglect as we go about our daily lives. Satan hates people. Not just other people; Satan hates me. And everytime I take one step to the left or the right, through sarcasm, jealously, blaming, etc. he loves the little wedge that is created between me and other people. Sometimes I have to admit, it is me. But knowledge is power so I add my appreciation for this fine article.

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Truth is true, even when it hurts

June 03, 2012  2:59pm

I agree with Barry that we need to remember that people are hurt, angry, broken, sick and confused. But we also need to remain aware and vigilant, and not turn a blind eye to the fact that Satan will use even our congregants (or staff) to destroy us from the inside out.

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May 30, 2012  6:14pm

I've seen this very thing happen at our church; elders with an agenda (part financial, mostly prideful) drove our interim pastor, who is a well-known preacher specializing in revival, out on false charges of causing trouble over the new "elder-selected" pastor they wanted to install. One year on, the "merger" of the churches amounted to one church being scattered and the other left scratching it's collective head wondering where everyone went. Satan's most powerful tool is the person trying to take the speck out of your eye while ignoring the plank in their own. Well said!

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Barry Strydom

May 30, 2012  8:50am

This is a hard one to chew and swallow. Sure, it's Biblical, but then again, Jesus was and is perfect in vision, and led by the Holy Spirit to only say and do what the Father was saying and doing at each moment. Even the best amongst church leadership only 'see and know in part', and are led by some measure of selfishness. So I would suggest correction of others is done with complete honor and respect, 'speaking the truth in love'. The world is messed up, people are hurt, angry, broken and sick, and influenced by humanism, the occult and by a host of other anti-Christ spirits. They come to our churches seeking help, and bring with them their sad experiences and confused opinions. One surely cannot continue in the high calling of being a pastor unless you see people in any other light. And if our God is really bigger than our devil, think of the overwhelming majority of people whom God sends to our churches, and who bring His insight and strategies to complement the pastor's vision, and indeed, to even make up for the pastor's frailties, weaknesses and incompleteness. Remember, Jesus was not talking to just another member of the congregation, He was talking to Peter; the 'Rock'. Too often today's church leaders, in their words and actions, resemble more the immaturity of those disciples under 'training', rather than those same disciples who later ministered under the power and leading of the Holy Spirit. Ordinations and theology degrees are all good, but they don't give us perfect vision, nor make us immune from selfishness or from making poor judgments about people. There will always be the odd 'spoiler' in the congregation, but when pastoral frustration goes beyond the odd few, it's time the pastor had a good look at his own heart, agenda and motives.

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