To a casual observer, this Biblical excerpt might seem contradictory to basic Christian doctrine. The Bible commands us to love. Surely fighting is the antithesis of love. Jesus said:
” You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matt. 22: 37-40
Actually, the first part of this Divine directive is the hardest. In order to sincerely express our love for God, humans must engage in an almost continual battle, not by fighting in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. We must fight temptation.
Tradition tells us that temptation comes from three sources: the world, the flesh and the devil. Let’s examine each and explore the temptations they present.
* The world. In modern society, temptation is everywhere. There is constant pressure to get ahead, to amass more wealth, more worldly goods, to earn a promotion, to buy a better house or car. Why worry about starving children on the other side of the world? Satan tries to instill a “me first” attitude in all of us.
If I’m having a bad day, illegal drugs are available for a price, to help me feel better. Or, I could opt for a few stiff drinks with my friends at the bar. I work hard. I deserve it. The wife and kids? They can wait.
I’ll never pass the college-entrance exam. I don’t have time to study and the donkeys make them too hard anyway. I’ll just write the answers on this tissue and I may have to blow my nose a few times during the exam.
I need new duds for the party. I’ll try to “pick up” something at the store. It’s not my fault if they don’t pay me what I’m worth at work. The boss is a real Scrooge anyway; he steals from me. It’s his fault I have to steal. Those store clerks are dumb as daisies. They’ll never catch me.
* The flesh. There is no need to list the sexual aberrations that abound. They are available in sickening detail in every newspaper. The most tragic accounts involve the innocence of children being violated. The devil is shameless when he tempts weak individuals.
It’s Sunday, but I will skip church. I’m too tired to get up, I think I’m getting a cold, my spouse won’t go with me, it’s too hot, I don’t like the preacher, etc., etc., etc. If pastors were giving away a free ticket to the big game, you can bet he’d be up.
Obesity is an epidemic. The devil provides handy excuses for gluttony. The servings are too big, they put in too much salt, I have a sweet tooth, slow metabolism runs in my family, etc., etc., etc. Satan excels at providing rationalizations for bad choices.
Half of all marriages end in divorce. Let’s just live together for a while. Every body’s doing it…
* The devil. The devil tempts humans to do evil. He hasn’t changed his tactics since the days of Adam and Eve. He disguises evil as good and minimises the seriousness of the consequences. He then uses one human to tempt another. How many of us have been tested by the words, “If you really love me, you’ll do this.” Sadly, all too often, we succumb to Satan’s trickery.
Fighting the good fight, then, involves putting up a good defense against the temptations to evil that surround us daily. The enemy’s goal is not primarily our physical death, but our spiritual ruin. We contend with forces originating outside the material world.
“For our struggle is not against human opponents, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm.”
These enemies cannot be fought with guns and bombs, but with prayers, sacrifice, and acts of penance. We can be encouraged by the knowledge that we do not fight alone.
Ready and anxious to help with His grace is Almighty God, together with Michael and the other angels who have already defeated Satan and his legions once. Praying for us and cheering us on are our family and friends who have already attained heaven.
All that is needed is for us to exercise self-discipline and to ignore the temptations which beset us from all sides many times each day. With our spiritual comrades contending against the foe at our side, how can we possibly lose?