Summary: We are not fighting other humans...
The famous autobiography of Corrie Ten Boom, called "The Hiding Place," tells how the Ten Booms, a Christian family living during the Nazi occupation in World War 2 risked life and limb in order to save Jews and others from certain death in concentration camps.
Eventually, Corrie and her family were caught and sent to live in a concentration camp called Ravensbruck.
Corrie was the only member of her family who survived to tell the story.
And Corrie became a much sought after speaker and writer.
In the book she recounts an amazing experience which occurred after the war.
“It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck…”, Corrie writes…
“…And suddenly it was all there—the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing…” her sister Betsie’s “pain-blanched face."
"He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing.
‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulin.’ He said.
‘To think that, as you say, He [Jesus] has washed my sins away!’”
Corrie continues to write: “His hand was thrust out to shake mine.
And I, who had preached so often to the people…the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them.
Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?
Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand.
I could not.
I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity.
And so again I breathed a silent prayer.
Jesus, I cannot forgive him.
Give me Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened.
From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on [God's].
When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”
The community of Christians called "Ephesians" lived in a city called Ephesus.
It was an important city in Western Asia Minor which is now modern day Turkey.
These folks were religious minorities.
And after-all, Christianity was illegal up until 313 AD.
So these very early Christians, who were mainly non-Jewish folks--Gentiles by birth--faced daily harassment and discrimination and suppression by the government.
Ephesus was a cultic center for worship of the goddess Artemis.
And at one time, these Christians in Ephesus worshiped this goddess as well.
And Paul reminds them of this.
They lived in a pagan world which was under the authority of the Roman government.
And the Roman government ruled with an iron fist.
Rome was built on military conquests.
They were fighters.
They were cruel.
They were brutal.
They showed no mercy.
They killed their enemies, and as we see with what they did to Jesus Christ-they not only killed--they tortured and violently, savagely destroyed those who might threaten their authority, their power, their way of life.
And this militaristic way of thinking and living was how the folks who eventually converted to Christ and became the Church at Ephesus had formerly been trained to live their lives--it's how they had lived their lives.
Many of the Church members were former soldiers and military leaders.
And Paul was speaking to them about the Christian life in a language they could understand.
"Put on God's armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil."
But then he adds "We aren't fighting against human enemies..."
Wait a minute.
That is something totally new!!!
We aren't fighting other people of other nations and languages, colors and religions?...
...not even our oppressors?...
...Not even the neighbor down the street who won't give me the time of day and whose dog uses my lawn as a toilet?
Not even the bully in the hallway who knocks the books out of my hands?
I'm not fighting against him?
What about the soldier who aims a gun at me?
How about the terrorists in our country and across the sea?
"No," says Paul.
"We aren't fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers in the heavens."
This was really new thinking for these early Christians.
Throughout all of history the powerful took people and things by force.
If someone was in the way of their plans, they mowed them down or hung them from a Cross.