The invisible enemy
“This crisis is so difficult because the enemy is invisible and the answer is to remove the cloak of invisibility.” Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, 19 March 2020
We find ourselves in a very strange and unusual world at the moment. Almost every aspect of our day to day lives has changed, in some cases beyond recognition. For many of us this is unprecedented, but not for all, since the closest comparison seems to be to life in wartime. The analogy is not perfect, of course, but it feels as if we are at war. But the strange thing now is that our enemy is invisible.
The Prime Minister in the UK, Boris Johnson, said as much in a recent press conference. “This crisis is so difficult because the enemy is invisible,” were his comments as he rolled out a series of measures to try and contain the coronavirus outbreak. An invisible enemy is a tricky one to fight. Not only is it impossible to see how and where the enemy is present, the lack of visibility lures us into a false sense of not being at war at all.
This is not a new experience for Christians. As followers of Jesus, we find ourselves in continual combat with an invisible enemy in the devil. Many people have described the Christian life as warfare, including the apostle Paul who encouraged the Ephesians to ‘put on the full armour of God’ to take their stand against the devil’s schemes. Warfare is not perhaps the complete experience of Christian living, but it is certainly part of it.
So how do we combat an enemy who is invisible? Boris Johnson’s answer is actually very profound. In that same press conference he said, “the answer is to remove the cloak of invisibility.” The government in the UK are trying to do that with the outbreak of coronavirus. As Christians, we are to do the same with the devil’s schemes.
Paul tells the Corinthian church something similar in his second letter:
“in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:11)
As Christians we have an invisible enemy in the devil, and we must be alert to that. But our enemy need not outwit us, because we are aware of his schemes. The way to combat an invisible enemy is to bring him out into the light.
One of the ways that the devil likes to fight is through fear. Fear is also a very present invisible enemy in these days. As we make the invisible visible, we need to be aware that the devil fights with fear. We need to bring the fear out into the light and expose it under the light of God’s word.
Again and again the Bible tells us “Do not be afraid.” Jesus’ first words to his disciples after his resurrection are “Do not be afraid.” Yet we are afraid and fearful in these days. But the Bible’s injunction to not be afraid is not just a bland command. It is a reassurance: we have nothing to be afraid of. Even when there are dangers of health, job losses and isolation, which are very real today, we need never be afraid of losing God, his love and his eternal promises.
We need to act sensibly and with caution during this pandemic. We need to heed advice and protect ourselves and others. But we need not give the devil a foothold to outwit us with his schemes. We need not be afraid for the God who says “Do not be afraid” is with us and will be with us always.