The Nature of the Battle
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
For those who work for life (and here I speak not only of those who do so formally in particular callings or ministries, but for all who defend the fatherless and plead for the widow and care for the vulnerable, in whatever ways they do so), Paul’s words that we wrestle not against flesh and blood are both sobering and hopeful.
First, the sobering. There is a battle, and there are real forces of evil that target the image of God, particularly the vulnerable. Jesus was clear—Satan is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44-45). So are the powers and principalities that serve his desires. We don’t just deal with bad ideas or materialist philosophies, but with real personal evil that exercises real power.
Secondly, the hopeful. If we wrestled against flesh and blood, it would be easy to despair. We live in a society where law, money, certain influential segments of our culture (e.g. universities), and the power of government are aligned against the protection of life, particularly the life of the vulnerable. How can we who are concerned with life match that? We can’t. And we don’t have to. As impressive as such an alliance is, it is nevertheless flesh and blood. In the end, the question is not about the strength of flesh and blood, but the strength of the powers and principalities of the present darkness and the forces of heavenly evil. When this is understood, in light of the Lord who created the heavens and the earth, and rules over them all, then everything changes. We don’t fight in our own strength—we dare not—but rather in the Lord’s strength (6:10). And how do we fight? By seeking to live truthfully and righteously, ready to share in word and deed the gospel of peace, assured of our salvation in Christ, believing in the Lord and His word, and, last but certainly not least, we pray.