I was talking with a roommate last week and he was telling me about his night at Cesar Chavez park in downtown Sacramento. He went there with friends to talk with individuals from the homeless population about Jesus, as well as give them sandwiches. When i asked him how it went, he responded with the classic phrase: 'It was spiritual warfare.'
I don't like this phrase.
I don't think i've ever used it.
The reason i never use it is how inexact it is. I had to ask him to clarify what he meant by 'spiritual warfare' because i had no clue what he meant.
I knew what he meant in the very broad sense. But i asked for a picture of his evening and he painted one with rollers. I got the mood of the night through his colors, but i had no idea what picture he was drawing.
He meant that they ran into some difficulty they knew to be from, or attributed to, Satan. But i still didn't know, until he explained, what his night was like.
Maybe 10 people signed up to talk to the homeless, but only 2 show up. It's spiritual warfare within the church that people don't act.
Maybe nobody was around. It's spiritual warfare not fulfilling the intent of the evening.
Maybe the conversations with the homeless were disheartening. It's spiritual warfare to run into discouragement.
Maybe they had people throw fruit at them. It's spiritual warfare to be physically attacked.
Maybe a person or two got sick while walking the park. It's spiritual warfare to be distracted from your mission.
What does 'spiritual warfare' describe? It should be a descriptor of a war between two sides, heaven and hell, with humanity caught in the middle. Instead, it describes any action that's working against you. It turns out, there was a woman they weren't even talking to that attempted to pull the conversation away from them and redirect it toward a tangential topic during a good conversation with a couple of guys.
I'm not saying that the woman wasn't directed to break into their conversation by some evil force. I don't know. That's another reason i don't use the term often; i am not adept at discerning when something is just broken people reacting in a broken world and when something is deliberately attempting to sabotage the working of good.
The reason i bring this up is that we, the Church, use this term too flippantly. If there is uncertainty about the source of the discouragement to the work, don't automatically attribute it to Satan and his minions. We are broken people all by ourselves. We can mess things up without his help.
When we do use the term 'spiritual warfare,' we need to ensure we back it up with specifics. 'Spiritual warfare' does not describe what happened. It may be accurate, but it's not precise. If my roommate asks me what i'm watching, and i say 'The television,' i get smacked on my head. It's accurate, but not precise. We need to not only mean what we say, but say what we mean.