How frequently human wisdom differs from the wisdom God teaches. Yet, so pervasive is the received wisdom of the world that frequently even the people of God find themselves practicing and teaching the lessons of the world rather than the lessons of God.
Take, for instance, the rather innocuous children’s hymn, “Roll the Gospel Chariot Along.” Roll the Gospel chariot along, goes the song, and we won’t be left behind. If a brother, or a sister, or a sinner is in the way, continues the lyrics in the proceeding stanzas, we will stop and pick them up. Which is a commendable and loving attitude, entirely appropriate and in harmony with the Gospel of Christ. And then we get to the final rousing stanza: If the devil is in the way, we will roll right over him! And everyone laughs and cheers at the thought of rolling the chariot vigorously over the devil.
Yet, this idea of rolling right over your enemies, is it the wisdom of the world, or the wisdom of God? Metaphorically, it is true that we want to achieve a victory in Christ, and we rejoice to see Satan defeated. Yet how is his defeat supposed to be achieved, and what is the attitude we are supposed to be having while achieving victory in Christ?
Consider a couple of scriptures, starting with a reminder from the Epistle of Jude.
“But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’ (Jude verse 9; ESV)”
Michael didn’t “roll right over” his spiritual enemy, but rather left the matter in God’s hands.
The wisdom of God towards one’s enemies is markedly different than the received wisdom of the world. Crush them, pulverize them and roll right over them is how the world teaches men to deal with enemies. But what does God say?
“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you (Proverbs 25:21-22; ESV).”
Paul reminds his readers of this proverb in his epistle to the Romans, stating, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord,’” and adding the admonition, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19, 21; ESV).”
To be properly scriptural, the children’s song could teach, “If the devil’s in the way, see if he is thirsty and give him some water to drink,” which in its own way is a kind of “rolling right over” the devil, but is likely not the manner of victory that most people envision as they sing the song. But is it our job to put the devil in his place? When God says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” He seems to be trying to teach us that this is His job. Our job is to show the love of Christ to all and sundry, even our worst enemies. Especially to our worst enemies, of which the devil most certainly is one.
It is worth considering the question of whether you would be willing to give the devil a square meal if he showed up at your door hungry. Instinctively we want to say, no, of course we wouldn’t feed the devil. We would never give comfort to an enemy! And yet that does seem to be what God is telling us to do. The true believer, in faith and loving kindness, should consider the possibility that God might actually mean what He says. And of course, if we would go so far as to be kind to
the devil himself, then why not to the neighbor who is suing us, the friend who betrayed us, or the guy down the street who is constantly grumpy? Why plan on ways to “run over” such noisome individuals when what God is wanting is for you to feed and clothe them and speak words of loving kindness to them.
Truth be told, you are likely not going to have a chance to ever literally run the devil down with your chariot, or even with your car, but chances are good that you are going to have an opportunity to be kind to someone you don’t like today, and that is just as good a spiritual victory. No, it’s an even better victory because it is exactly the kind of victory that God wants you to achieve for Him.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.