My wife says I grew up in a rough neighborhood. Fifth grade was my hardest year. I was in my awkward stage and still considered fair game by the bigger bullies on the playground. By the time I hit high school that would all change as I shot past 6 feet and 230 lbs. Fifth grade recess was the worst. Soon after scattering on the playground, I would see the boys gathering over by the window where Mrs. Barnes’ class met. All at once, they would turn and head my way, and in seconds have me surrounded. My cousin, Darren, would take his place beside me and the jeering would begin. We would be looking one way and someone would hit us in the back of the head. We would spin around, everyone laughing, trying to find our attacker. No sooner had we spun around, then we’d get sucker punched by another unknown attacker. The worst part was not knowing who hit you.
This past week, our fellow human beings in Boston were sucker punched. We still don’t know who did it. Will the answer to that question make it easier to recover? In some ways, knowing the identity of the individual who perpetrates this kind of evil makes it manageable. We get to look at the person, trying to find differences that account for the evil. Do things like “crazy eyes” and “wild hair” somehow explain it? For some, it does. Even when it is a group that claims responsibility for terrorist actions, it at least identifies the “bad guys.” Knowing our enemy gives us a target for retribution. Like battlefield commanders, we raise our swords, point to the enemy and shout, “Charge!”
The Enemy is a coward, a liar, an accuser, and an expert in hiding. Like a fifth grade boy on a playground, we are trying to find the enemy, believing that somehow the weight of justice or even retribution will rectify the past and preserve the future. The Enemy strikes when we are not looking, when we are least expecting it. The Accuser questions everything, chips away at eternal Truth, right and wrong. We know that life often is colored with varying shades of gray, but the expert in camouflage paints a swath of darkness and calls it light. The Enemy whispers in our ear that our spouse is the problem and if we get rid of her or him, everything will be right with our world. The Enemy suggests that our leaders are bereft of integrity and can’t be trusted. Soon, without leaders, our ranks weaken and we spin around after each sucker punch looking for someone to strike out against. Soon, we start fighting among ourselves.
After several weeks, Darren and I learned that the best protection was standing back to back. Suddenly, the dynamic had changed. Our schoolyard bullies were cowards. They wouldn’t strike us when we were looking. When we had each other’s back, the playground enemies, cowards to the core, could only taunt. As months went by, Darren and I realized that laughing at them robbed them of their goal. They wanted us to fear them. They wanted us paralyzed by confusion.
Sometimes the Enemy hides in the one place we rarely look: our own hearts. Joy, unity, and faith are feared by the Enemy. The Word of God, the One who speaks peace, forgiveness, forbearance, disarms the Enemy. We know the Enemy. We know where the Enemy hides. We know that the Enemy will…no…HAS already lost. This is Easter. The power of the Resurrection declares final victory over sin and death. Laugh, celebrate that the Lord of lords has already vanquished the Enemy. Let the light of Christ shine in your hearts. With your life filled in the Light, the Enemy will flee, trying in vain to find shadows that are already being filled with the victory of heaven.