Them’s fightin’ words!

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” – Matthew 16:21-28

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A Seal Shows Off | La Paz, Mexico | August 2019

I recall very few fights when I was in high school. One I do remember occurred when two young men get really testy with one another and the one took a piece of chalk and put it on his shoulder and demanded, “Go ahead, knock it off. I dare you: knock it off!” It was a testy moment. Lots of adrenaline and testosterone: a dangerous combination!

The custom is an old one. The New York newspaper Long Island Telegraph reported on 20 May 1830 “when two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip would be placed on the shoulder of one, and the other demanded to knock it off at his peril” (wikipedia).

There is no chip involved here, but in some circles calling someone “Satan” would certainly provoke a fight. In the vernacular, them’s fighting words! Unless.

If a man is a man of honor he will not immediately react to such an accusation thoughtlessly. Even if he is prone to fits and fights, a man will do well to consider any reprimand carefully. It is not impossible that we are sometimes tools of Satan in spite of ourselves. Against this we must always guard.

The unholy trinity of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh war against God and his proper rule and reign. We may unwittingly thwart Jesus’ rule and reign of grace and truth by well-intentioned ideas, words, and actions. We may even war against the fullness of Jesus’ rule and reign by giving in to sin’s temptation and Satan’s enticements.

We might have to utter such words in our own battles against Satan himself. He is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He’s the thief who comes to steel, kill, and destroy. But one little word will fell him. Jesus has promised it is so. And sometimes he does come calling. Whether in a direct attack on faith and godliness, or in a subtle deception to turn us away from a difficult but vital task for his kingdom, he can be thwarted if we but stand up to him.

Our fighting words, therefore, must always be the same as Jesus’, “Get behind me Satan.” For when we confront him in Jesus’ name he will flee.

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