Is there a spiritual component to the sharp division America is experiencing?
Karl Payne, an expert on demonology and the author of the highly acclaimed book “Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization, and Deliverance,” cites Jesus acknowledging that, for a time, Satan has been given limited authority on Earth.
“If someone asks if [Satan] would influence the political system, I say, ‘Of course he would. Why wouldn’t he?'”
Payne, a pastor at Antioch Bible Church near Seattle and a former chaplain for the Seattle Seahawks, said it’s in the nature of Satan to divide.
Proverbs 6, he noted, says there are seven things that God hates, and number seven is people who “purposefully sow discord.”
“Chaos is the name of the game, I believe, for Satan and for his minions,” he said. “If Jesus speaks truth, they want to undermine that truth any way that can.”
One way of undermining truth is to flip values on their heads.
“Through the television, through the movies, we’re just inundated with ‘up is down, down is up, black is white, white is black, good is evil, evil is good,’ you can’t get away from it,” he said.
As an example, Payne said he couldn’t imagine 20 or 30 years ago seeing the emergence of a bill such as California’s AB 2943 that would punish the sale or promotion of the idea that God can heal unwanted sexual-attractions.
“I thought to myself, do you really think that there would come a time in this country when people who love Jesus — who live by a credo of love your enemies and pray for those who spitefully use you, who treat others as you want to be treated — would be labeled as xenophobic, homophobic bigots, I would have said, no, I don’t think in my lifetime that could happen,” he said.
“I not only think it’s here, I think we’re going to see more of it.”
Payne is scheduled to speak at a conference Oct. 19-20 in Byron Center, Michigan, near Grand Rapids, titled “Spiritual Warfare: Eyes Wide Open.”.He will be joined by Marcus Warner, the author of several books, including “What Every Believer Should Know About Spiritual Warfare.”
Don’t be surprised
How should Christians live in this time of division?
First, Payne said, believers in Jesus Christ should not be surprised.
He cited John 15 in which Jesus said “if they hate me they will hate you” and the apostle Paul writing that “if you reign with Christ you will also suffer with him.” Peter, in his letters, also refers extensively to Christians suffering unjustly.
“We in this country are the anomaly,” Payne said.
“Our (Christian) brethren in Muslim countries who are suffering on a daily basis are saying, ‘I don’t see how you can say you’ve got it hard when you’re socially ostracized and not invited to parties or something. We literally have to be concerned about being killed on a regular basis.'”
Matthew 4:8 and Ephesians chapters 1 and 2 speak of a “world at war against God,” he noted.
Secondly, though, Christians certainly should not invite persecution and, like Paul, avoid it when possible.
The book of Acts recounts Paul appealing to his Roman captors who were about to beat him by citing his Roman citizenship. The apostle argued it was unlawful in that circumstance to beat a Roman citizen. And he later, as a citizen, appealed to Caesar, arguing for the right to a fair trial.
Jesus, Payne noted, sent out his disciples as “sheep among wolves,” to be “harmless as doves” but also “shrewd as serpents.”
“Just because I’m religious doesn’t mean I don’t have rights,” he said.
Where is America headed?
Already, bakers and florists have faced punishment for exercising their faith in the public square.
And Payne believes that churches losing tax exempt status is not an “if” but a “when.”
“The day is gone when people assume that because you’re a Christian, you must be a moral, sincere and compassionate person,” he said.
Christians are considered pariahs in many quarters.
“My state of Washington, my city of Seattle, it’s a lot like New York or San Francisco. They’re proud of the fact that they are pagan,” he said.
Payne points to specific Bible passages that instruct Christians in times such as this.
They must, among other things, (Colossians 4:5,6) make the most of every opportunity, (Jude 3) contend for the faith and (I Peter 3:15) have a reasonable answer ready for everyone who asks “to give the reason for the hope that you have” and to do it with “gentleness and respect.”
The natural response to opposition is to water down the Christian message, and that certainly is happening, Payne said, describing a “spineless” Christianity with the consistency of “Jello.”
“We need people willing to stand up and say I care more about doing what’s right than making people happy,” he said.
Ironically, Payne argued, compromise not only weakens the witness, it diminishes the respect from people who might otherwise be willing to grant it.
He recalled being at a conference sponsored by evangelical Christians in Colorado Springs on the subject of the proper use of force that included scholars from institutions such as Harvard and Stanford.
A professor from the University of California at Berkeley, Payne said, chastised the evangelicals gathered there for, in his estimation, trying so hard to be moderate.
“You born-agains are the last hope for this country,” Payne paraphrased the professor saying. “I am asking you, why are you trying to be just like Harvard and losing your message?
“The reason I agreed to come to this meeting is because of your message.”