Pastor’s June message – Enmity!
The Lord walks into the garden of life to see the man and woman in sin. Eve quickly explains, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
So the Lord turned his face to the serpent. He pronounces curse. But the Lord’s curse to the serpent is at the same time a promise and blessing to the sinner:
[And the Lord God said to the serpent,] I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall strike your head,
and you shall strike his heel.”
[GENESIS 3:15, OF THE OLD TESTAMENT TEXT OF PENTECOST 3]
By our sin, we were at enmity with God. But then the Lord sets the enmity between us and Satan, between our families and the demons. This is no secret. We know the demons are a problem. But our Lord shows us why. Because, we are not naturally at enmity with Satan and the demons. As a matter of fact, naturally—according to our sinful nature—we are in league with them.
That, after all, is what original sin is about. We, who were created as the Image of God on Earth—we listened to the voice of Satan and joined in league. That placed us at enmity with God. We set ourselves at enmity with him, lifting ourselves up as our own gods, thinking to make ourselves his equal.
So God, searching for us, walked into the Garden. He came down and made himself visible on Earth in order to pursue us in the Garden. But he was pursuing us not as our enemy, but as the One who wanted to save us from ourselves and from our colleagues, the demons.
So he walked into the Garden to give sinners the promise of a Savior. The promise was that the Lord would bring forth a Savior from Eve’s offspring. That promise set us at enmity with the unholy angels—our enemies tempting us, tormenting us, acting as our friends but only to deceive, our enemies covering us in shame.
But it is better to have the demons as enemy than as friend. It is better to have the demons afflicting you with guilt and shame, than to not have them afflicting you. For when you are afflicted with guilt and shame, that is precisely when the Lord brings to you deliverance from all uncleanness. The Lord who spoke kindness to Adam and Eve now speaks to you the kindness of his Gospel. By this Gospel, all sin is forgiven, all guilt released, all shame covered. We don’t ever want to be impoverished of our Lord’s grace. So to be at enmity with the demons because we belong to the Lord, this is good.
Enmity in Our World
We will continue to see this enmity going on around. We see it in the deceit and violence of our world, in the conflicts in our own families, and in the discord among brothers and sisters in the church. Finally, we see it in the affliction of our own consciences.
The Large Catechism, in teaching of the petition of the Lord’s Prayer that says, Deliver us from Evil, describes for us the work of the demons.
This petition, is speaking of the devil as the sum of all evil in order that the entire substance of our prayer may be directed against our arch-enemy. It is [the devil] who obstructs everything that we pray for: God’s name or glory, God’s kingdom and will, our daily bread, a good and cheerful conscience, etc.
Therefore we sum it all up by saying, “Dear Father, help us to get rid of all this misfortune.” Nevertheless, this petition includes all the evil that may befall us under the devil’s kingdom: poverty, shame, death, and, in short, all the tragic misery and heartache of which there is so incalculably much on Earth. Since the devil is not only a liar but also a murderer, he incessantly seeks our life and vents his anger by causing accidents and injury to our bodies. He breaks many a man’s neck and drives others to insanity; some he drowns, and many he hounds to suicide or other dreadful catastrophes. Therefore there is nothing for us to do on Earth but to pray constantly against this arch-enemy. For if God did not support us, we would not be safe from him for a single hour.
Seeing violence and malice in our world, we think of the guilt of those doing it. But behind it all are the demons. They are about the business of drowning sinners in guilt, of covering the victims with shame, of bringing enmity between neighbors.
There is blame to be assigned. We are all sinful. But behind the conflict are the demons. They temp people to tear at each other and ultimately to judge each other, holding on to accusation.
Even in the Lord’s Church, it can be easy to look for blame, to announce guilt, to cover in shame. It’s found in the secret conversation, where someone is being torn down. This is the work of the demons. One Christian only needs to charge another with being unloving, and there, in that charge, guilt has been assigned, and a person is covered in shame. This is some of the most effective work of the demons because, first, it is being done in the Church, using Christian against Christian, and, second, it is usually done not in the light. How could the demons better tempt us to be unloving than to tempt us hold a charge against someone rather than to forgive?
The devil is, as the Large Catechism says, our arch-enemy. The demons are doing their work in our world, in our families, and in the Church. As long as we’re of sinful flesh, we will be stung by their temptations. And then, in our consciences, they will sting us with the accusation of our sin. They bring not the conversation of forgiveness and mercy, to our consciences, but of guilt and shame. And we are tormented.
Friendship with Jesus
So, our Lord gives us to pray, O Lord, lead us away from temptation. O Lord, and deliver us from the evil one.
The prayer is answered by the gift of Jesus. He Eve’s promised offspring. When he announced to Adam and Eve that we would be at enmity with the devil, he was announcing that we would, by his grace, be in friendship with him.
In his incarnation he came as the offspring of Eve, the friend of sinners. So of course we have as our enemies the unclean spirits.
He sends forth his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit keeps us in Jesus’ word and cleanses us with his gift of baptism. He sanctifies us with his blood. Where Jesus sends forth his Holy Spirit in the Word of Gospel, the accusation of the demons is ruled inadmissible. They still do their evil work of tempting, of tormenting, of retaining sins, of causing conversations of blame, but where the Gospel is forgiving sins, where the blood of Jesus is sanctifying the sinner, what sin remains to be held? What guilt remains for one Christian to retain against another?
Where the Gospel is forgiving sins, the conscience is cleansed and the demons are robbed of their voice. The voice of the Holy Spirit is heard in the Word, and the sinner is made friend of Jesus—for Jesus is friend of sinners.
In the Name of Jesus,
A Prayer by Martin Luther
Dear Lord God, heavenly Father, I consider myself a dear child of Yours, and You my beloved Father, not because I deserve it, nor could ever merit it, but because my dear Lord, Your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, would be my brother and of His own accord gives and makes this blessing known to me. Since I may consider myself His brother [sister], and since He regards me as His own brother [sister], You will permit me to become and remain a child of Yours forever. For this gift I rejoice and give thanks in eternity. Amen.
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