“What’s Satan like?”
That question—asked in a room of middle-schoolers at my church—met an array of answers like “bad,” “evil” and “scary.” Just a few answers deep, one girl said, “Red with horns.”
These characterizations of Satan stick around even for us who have left middle school far, far behind. We assume Satan attacks only through direct oppression, demonic possession, or all manner of temptations. We take the “flaming arrows” of Ephesians 6:16 literally, imagining Satan as some sort of spiritual goblin charging us from the head of a demonic army, armed with flaming swords and bows and arrows like a scene from an epic Tolkien fantasy.
Yes, Satan can sometimes attack us head-on with arrows of temptation so revolting we cringe at even the thought. Or he can lob a “lie grenade” so far-fetched we kick it back across enemy lines before it has a chance to explode. Or he may swing a club of doubt at our heads or lunge a sword of despair into our hearts so painful we instantly turn to the Father for heavenly air support. Get the picture? If Satan engages in a frontal assault, we see him coming.
If Satan engages in a frontal assault, we see him coming.
This’s why Satan engages in spiritual espionage—at least in Western culture. Think Cold War spying, when agents disguised themselves as normal citizens of enemy nations, cozied up to government officials, and even worked their way into trusted positions of leadership—only to turn on their “friends” and “countrymen” when they least suspected.
Satan’s great at approximate truth and almost Christianity. He doesn’t get us to embrace lies but to flex our principles. Little milk-white concessions lead to cocoa-colored compromises, resulting in fudging the facts. That’s the kind of path Satan mans like a greeter offering sample cake pops outside a bakery. He presents himself not as a peddler of poisons but as a giver of gifts.
Satan’s great at approximate truth and almost Christianity. He doesn’t get us to embrace lies but to flex our principles.
Think about it. When Satan deceived Eve, he pretended to have her best interests in mind—acquiring divine knowledge (Gen. 3:4-5). When the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he appealed to his human appetites (Matt. 4:3), to his uniqueness relationship with God (4:6), and to his natural desire to experience his full potential (4:8). In short, Satan cozied up to his targets as if he were looking out for their best interests as a friend.
Ever notice that, in our current political climate, our political heroes always seem to tell more truth (or at least tell fewer obvious lies) than our political adversaries? If we catch ourselves bending over backwards to defend a candidate’s dirty deeds of the flesh rather than maintaining high standards of the fruit of the Spirit, chances are we’ve slipped into a ditch of self-deception…or worse, we’ve been duped by a fiend masquerading as a friend.
What’s true in politics can be true in personal relationships, religious leaders, and churches too. So, keep your guard up. Satanic deception is most effective when you think it’s coming from a friend when it’s actually coming from a fiend.