A grave deficiency of modern times is the loss of the sense that our lives are caught up in a tremendous, epic battle. Yet here we are living in the midst of a great drama — in the greatest story ever told.
Behind the scenes is a deadly enemy, one of whom many rarely speak: Satan. Yet, he is active and involved, manipulating both the world and the flesh — our sinful nature. We are on the front lines of a fierce spiritual war, a war that is to blame for most of the casualties you see around you. Yes, fellow Christians, there is a dragon, a roaring lion — Satan — who seeks to devour our souls.
Ah! But there is also a Son, a Savior, who is born to us and whom we call Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. (Is 9:6) He shall reign forever. His hand is outstretched, first on the cross, but now outstretched to you to save you and to draw you up out of the raging waters, to deliver you from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.
Will you take hold of His hand, or not? This decision — your decision — is the great drama of your life and of every life; it is your chapter in the greatest story ever told.
Yes, the battle rages all around us, and we are swept up in it. It’s happening in our world, our culture, our families and in our hearts. The sequence hymn from Easter says dramatically of it, “Mors et vita duello; Conflixere Mirando;” “Death and life at battle in a stupendous conflict.”
Text after text in the Bible describes the awesome drama and the great decision we must make, a decision on which hinges our very destiny. Here are just a few:
“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you.” (Deut 30:19-20)
“Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own heart also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.’” (Lk 2:34-36)
Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I have told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am.” (John 8:23-24)
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Matt 26:41)
“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk 16:15)
“For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph 6:12-14) (…)
So here we are in the Valley of Decision — in Hebrew, the Valley of Armageddon. Here is the drama of our life: Multitudes in the Valley of Decision. All of us have a decision to make, an army to join, a direction to choose. “Tertium non datur,” “No third way is given.” There are only two armies on the field of battle; there are no demilitarized zones, no sidelines. Choose an army. What will it be, light or darkness, grace or sin, Jesus or Beelzebub?
Yes, here is the immense drama in the greatest story ever told; it is our drama and our story.
Yet this drama is rarely discussed today. In the very times in which the contrast between the two ways has never been clearer or starker, there is near silence. If anything, our times are marked by boredom and a lack of awareness of the battle that is raging around us. We have spiritual ADHD: endlessly fidgeting but never focusing on what matters. There is also a kind of spiritual myopia in which the two armies are lost in the blur of perceived, but not real, pluralism.
Put plainly, if you don’t think that this drama is real and that a choice between the two sides is required, if you think that the biblical texts cited above are histrionic and hysterical, you have been deceived. You have been lulled to sleep by the spirit of this age. You’ve been deceived by Satan, as was Eve long ago when he said to her, “You surely will not die.”
All of us must wake up to the battle raging around us, to the great drama in our life, a drama that is unfolding before our eyes. If you insist on sleeping through the drama or ignoring the summons to wake up, beware. For Scripture says of such dreamers that “there will come upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thess 2:11-13)
Awaken to the drama. Choose the Lord. Be a soldier in His army. Only Jesus can save us from this present evil age. His grace and mercy are there for us in abundance, but His respect for our freedom means that our choices matter; they build in one direction or the other. This is the drama of our life, and it is also our dignity. Scripture pronounces a great blessing on those who choose the Lord.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter – St. Cyprian Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.
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