Monday, January 26, 2009

Divide and Conquer

I used to think that the biggest lie told by the devil, the one that convinced the most people, was that there was plenty of time. Plenty of time to change, plenty of time to convert, plenty of time to amend ways, plenty of time. He would whisper to unsuspecting victims this lie and they would continually put off doing what was written in their heart until it was too late.

I say that I used to believe that was the biggest lie because I no longer believe it to be. The new lie, since the one mentioned has already been embraced, is that there is no battle going on for your soul. If there's no battle, then nothing is either right or wrong. If there's no battle, you have your truth and I have mine. If there's no battle, we're all basically good people and that is all that matters. The effect of this lie is painfully obvious in the world around us, a world that says, "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry." Those who should be fighting have been effectively removed from the battle. The enemy exchanges the "spoils" for the soul and no shots are fired, no skirmish fought. The white flag is seen as a badge of honor.

What makes this scenario so difficult to swallow is the fact that the devil has one game plan and one plan only: divide and conquer. Sounds too simple right? Look back through history. The battle began when Satan sought to separate himself from God, division. Satan separated Adam and Eve from God and each other, division. He separated Cain and Abel from each other and Abel from God, division. Satan enticed Moses to anger and he disobeyed God's command to "speak to the rock" and he was thus kept from the Promised Land, division. The Devil brought about lust in David's heart which resulted in adultery and murder, division. The battle plan is always the same, divide us from each other and from God and thus conquer.

Why can't we see this plan? Why can't we overcome it? We love ourselves too much. The way in which Satan introduces division is not complicated. It is simple and subtle. He simply gets us to focus on our self. He gets a creature, created in the image and likeness of God, to stop focusing on the Creator and start focusing on itself and division is a natural result. He gets creatures, who are meant to reflect the image of God in their communion with one another, to begin focusing on themselves and division is there in a heartbeat. Satan's introduction of division is always the same though it takes different forms. The basic form however is, "you will be like God." You, self, you, it's all about you...

How, then, do we fight such a master of tactics? How do we fight an enemy that we cannot see but one that is so close he is constantly probing the perimeter of our heart looking for weakness? The answer is two-fold but very simple. First, love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, soul, and strength. Second, it's like the first, love your neighbor as yourself. I know, it sounds simplistic but let's remember Naaman (2 Kings 5). Naaman, who has leprosy, is told to wash in a river seven times by the prophet Elisha for a cure. Naaman is outraged that he would be asked to do a simple, silly thing for a cure. This is his servant's response, "My father, if the prophet had commanded you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much rather, then when he says to you , 'wash and be clean?'" The two great commandments sound like a simplistic answer in the face of such a capable foe, but did you notice that both of these tactics have the goal of taking the focus off you? To fight this battle we must lose ourselves and focus on loving God and others. Easier said than done, I know. Also notice, these are commands. Jesus is just a subtly leading His army!

In today's Gospel, our Commander, points out the flaw in the thinking of the Pharisees. If the devil were divided in his goal, in his mission, he would surely fall. It is his unity of purpose that makes him such a formidable opponent. He is not divided in purpose, rather he is unified. Oh, if only we were all so unified as well. "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one..." John 17:20-21a. Jesus is praying for us so let us therefore seek to love God and neighbor. Let us work on repairing the divisions caused by our common enemy, Diablo - "The Divider".

2 comments:

scmom (Barbara) said...

Thanks, James. I am feeling that one.

James M. Hahn said...

Thanks Barbara, he truly is a prowling lion!

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