As I listen to conversations taking place across the church, I am not hearing much about the Devil. Please don’t misunderstand what I am about to write. I don’t want to spend each waking hour pondering his presence, but I don’t want to ignore his reality either.
As the church in Western culture tries to rediscover what it means to serve its community and develop a credible presence in culture, something hasn’t gone away while we conduct our search. That something is evil. The ills of society are not generic in nature. They are orchestrated by a master plan of darkness whose architect is the Devil.
40 years ago, when I was a young 20-something and the Jesus Movement was in its fullness, some people thought the Devil and his minions were under every rock and behind every bush. We heard people speak words of balance like, “Don’t chase the Devil”. That admonition was as true then as it is now, but like hitting the pause button on a stereo, the play button must at some point be reengaged if we are going to move on and hear the rest of the song.
When the Rolling Stones performed the song, Sympathy For The Devil, they painted an interesting portrait of the Devil. The song has the Devil functioning as the narrator of his own dark life in the lyrics of the song. The song describes the experience of Jesus’ suffering, the Nazis, the murders of the Kennedys and more, all orchestrated by the Dark One.
The first line of the song has the Devil-narrator singing, “Please allow me to introduce myself.” I am thinking this introduction might be something that needs to be heard again by the church. We don’t need the Devil to sing us a song of introduction, but maybe those of us who teach the Word might reconsider why we have not heard much about whom the Word describes as our enemy.
In our search for balance in all things evil, we might have tripped over ourselves and gotten out of balance. Hell, demons, the Devil and evil are real and around us everyday. They are as real here in the cushy West as they are in the darkest corners of Africa.
Keith Richards, the Stones guitarist, said this about the song, ‘“It's just a matter of looking the Devil in the face. He's there all the time. I've had very close contact with Lucifer - I've met him several times. Evil - people tend to bury it and hope it sorts itself out and doesn't rear its ugly head. You might as well accept the fact that evil is there and deal with it any way you can. Sympathy for the Devil is a song that says, don't forget him. If you confront him, then he's out of a job.”
I don’t know how Keith deals with darkness, but the Word of God instructs us that our battle is not natural, but spiritual. The Word talks freely about evil throughout its pages and those who followed Jesus dealt with evil up front and personal. Hell was identified and confronted allowing their ministry to miraculously move forward through these opposing forces. Dark frontiers were crossed when the disciples dealt with the evil spirits who guarded these cultural gateways.
At the end of “Sympathy For The Devil,” Satan says, “Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess my name, oh yeah. But what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game.” The nature of the Devil’s game is not just evil, but getting that one group of people on earth – the Church - who possess the power and authority to confront his plan, to ignore his presence and the nature of his game.