“Would you walk in another person’s shoes for one month?”

The challenge was given by producer Morgan Spurlock to a wide range of people, resulting in the hit FX series 30 Days. In each episode, participants agreed to place themselves in situations that challenged their perspective. Episodes included an atheist schoolteacher living with a conservative Christian family, a Christian attending a Muslim mosque, a person committed to deporting illegal immigrants picking oranges side by side with undocumented workers, a physically able person navigating a wheelchair in public places, a middle-class couple living on minimum wage, and so on. Thirty days spent seeing life through the eyes of another.

Long before Spurlock’s hit show, Christian author C. S. Lewis created the ultimate perspective-taking project. Lewis sought to see the world not through the eyes of another person but through those of a demon. How does a demon seek to disrupt Christians? What tricks would he use to weaken people of faith?

Lewis imaginatively submersed himself in their world not for merely thirty days but six months. The result was one of his most read books, The Screwtape Letters.—

Satan’s Tactic: Distraction

As couples seeking to cultivate Christ-honoring marriages, what can we learn from Screwtape’s astute observations of us and the areas he seeks to exploit?

“Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a little boy,” writes Screwtape to his young protégé, “to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head.”

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Specifically, Screwtape is talking about the uneasy relationship many within the church have with the idea of Satan. Dancing about in our heads simultaneously is, on one hand, a belief that the Bible regularly speaks about spiritual warfare. Yet we also carry a belief that focusing on the devil is not worth our time. How can we believe Jesus took Satan seriously, yet as his followers fail to follow in his lead? Screwtape explains that judging our beliefs as right or wrong is replaced by asking if they are practical, outworn, or contemporary. The reality is that many of us find the thought of taking spiritual battle seriously as outdated and, if honest, embarrassing. 

Does spiritual warfare make you uncomfortable?

We are not alone. The upcoming generation of Christians is also leery of taking spiritual warfare seriously. When I ask my students to explain their hesitancy, I get responses like the following:

  • I think talking about “Satan” and the “devil” are sort of buzzwords for a crazy person.
  • Spiritual battle may not be talked about much because we don’t want to recognize it as a reality.
  • I think I avoid the topic because talking about it would make it real. And if it’s real, then I have so many questions.
  • Oddly, spiritual warfare has been normalized in culture through horror movies while being denied in the church. I know I’ve never heard my pastor preach on it.
  • My pastor says that if I have God in my heart I don’t need to worry about demons and spiritual attack. Is that true?
  • I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a conversation about spiritual warfare with my friends.

Notice that no argument has been offered by Screwtape as to why it is outdated or ignorant to believe in a personalized devil as described by the Scriptures. Screwtape closes his letter with a chilling insight into the tactics of demons: “Jargon, not argument, is your best ally.” Rather than arguing that belief in the devil is false or lacking evidence, simply label it as outdated. Screwtape’s observation leaves us with a probing question: As couples, do we take our cues from Scripture or current cultural fads?

Satan wants us to focus on the fantasy of love.

Demons are desperate to keep one pivotal truth hidden from us. Screwtape notes, “In every department of life,” a difficult transition occurs, going from “dreaming aspirations to laborious doing.” Screwtape specifically mentions how this difficult transition applies to marriage. A key tactic of Screwtape is to get Christian couples to expect all the thrills and passion of phase one of marriage to equally carry over to other phases. Through poets and novelists, demons have successfully persuaded “humans that a curious, and usually short-lived, experience which they call ‘being in love’ is the only respectable grounds for marriage and that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent.”

A couple wanting to be examples of kingdom living must also have means such as reading books about marriage, associating with like-minded couples, incorporating regular times of spiritual devotion, and practice, practice, practice. Screwtape’s goal is for couples to have an overly romantic vision of love and marriage, and then to be deeply disillusioned by the unromantic laborious work it takes to flourish as a couple in the long term.

How can this help your marriage?

  1. Recognize the spiritual dimension of your marriage.  Satan does not want to see marriages succeed and will make you focus on the unmet expectations of marriage instead of the bigger picture.
  2. A strong marriage depends on intentional action. Start with the vision of what you want your marriage to look like, set your will to it, and find the means to accomplish it.
  3. Set your mind to fight for your marriage on every front–emotional, physical, and spiritual. Don’t let our lack of emphasis on spiritual warfare distract you from the battle.

Adapted from Defending Your Marriage by Tim Muehlhoff. Copyright (c) 2018 by Tim Muehlhoff. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

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