I was listening to a wife tell me that she was ready to take her children and go as far as possible from her husband. I listened and asked about the beginning of her relationship with her husband. Immediately her face changed and she told me of the way they met and the romance they had on their first date. This was followed by a rapturous courtship and a quick proposal, with a wedding the next day. The first child was born and then more children came. There were times in which unfaithfulness crept in the relationship. There were separations and then promising reunions. I listened and thought of a comment made in the Bible. “The servants look to the fields of wheat and see only tares. The master replies: An enemy has done this.” (Matthew 13)
I have listened to a family tell me that they have done their best to raise their child. They followed this book and that book about parenting. They took their child to Sunday School and they were baptized as a teenager. They provided the best education for their child by sending them to private schools and expensive colleges. During one Christmas vacation, their child came home. Within a couple of days, that child was caught by the police and ended up in jail for a couple of years. They asked me, “Pastor, what have done wrong?” I couldn’t think of anything that they had done to contribute to this. The only thing that comes to my mind was the refrain, “An enemy came by night when you were not watching and has done this to your child.”
I was invited to do a funeral service for a family that I did not know. It was attended by many people, but I did not see a connection to the church. As I listened to the brief eulogies, I did not hear anything about God, church, or eternal life. I wondered why I was called to do the service. When it was time to close the casket, a young lady came up and started weeping, almost wailing, and the funeral directors did not know what to do. Somebody told me that the mother had died suddenly and the daughter had not spoken with her mother for years. She was overcome by guilt and they finally closed the casket. On my way home, I thought about what happened in this relationship between a mother and daughter and the refrain haunted me again: an enemy has done this.
In many quarters of our society, we no longer talk about the Devil. We live in a post-enlightenment, post-modern time and we feel that somehow in our accomplishments, in our education, in our technology, we have eliminated him. We no longer believe in demons, evil spirits, or the Devil. Somehow, I think that the Devil likes the fact that we have declared his non-existence.
The Scriptures tell us that we are wrong. “Your enemy, the Devil, is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) When asked if the Devil has created anything, St. Augustine replied, “The Devil has not created anything: He has taken the good things that God has created and usurped and malformed them.” He has taken that love that the couple had in their first year and brought quarrels, disagreements, infidelity and hate. God put them together, but the enemy wants to take them apart. The child that ended in jail during the Christmas holiday was tempted like the first couple, but with drugs. He was promised that they will not harm him. He was promised that he will see worlds that he has not seen before. He tasted, became addicted, stole from his friends and parents, and landed in jail. His youth was ruined and he found that none of his former friends came to visit him when he was in jail, except his parents and some of the church folk that stood by him.
The young lady stricken by grief and guilt knew at the moment of her mother’s death that she was wrong. That conscience that became active in the funeral parlor had been active before, but she decided to ignore it. She had quieted that inner voice that God has instilled in us to remind us of our need to love and honor our parents. In a conversation that I had with one of my daughters, I told her to stop her relationship with a particular friend immediately. My daughter had told me that this friend said that she should stop telling her parents what they were doing. In fact, the continuation of the friendship hinged on her agreement to not tell us what they were doing anymore. I had to explain to my child that this friend was not a friend but an enemy, because she tried to put a wedge of separation between her and her parents.
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The Bible tells us to watch, for we do not know when the enemy comes to sow the tares in our life that will produce pain, delusion, and devastating destruction.