I have written before about the perfect tense, a structure in Greek language that signifies an action happened once and continues forever. Generally, I talk about this in terms of Jesus' nail-pierced hands, but today I kind of want to flip the coin a little. I want to talk about Satan.
I know. Some of you are already shuddering. It's awkward, right? When Christians talk about Satan, I mean. We say things like, "You have a very real enemy who is working against you at every step." Or "Satan doesn't want you to...." or "Satan only wants you to...." We laughingly claim, "The devil made me do it!" Personally, I think we give the devil too much credit.
Here's the problem: the way we talk about Satan makes it seem like he's here every day, and the way we talk about God makes it seem like He's waiting in tomorrow. We talk about Satan like he's an everyday reality, a constant battle, an eternal struggle. We talk about God like He's simply eternal, like He's not bothered with today because He's promised tomorrow. The way we define our spiritual battleground, Satan is an ever-present adversary and God is a never-present help. This bothers me.
Because as much as I believe that Jesus' hands are still pierced, I also believe Satan is still in the garden. Let me explain what I mean by that. I mean that I believe Satan also acted in the perfect tense, that once upon a time in paradise, in Eden itself, our enemy snuck in and deceived us. Thousands of years later, we are still deceived. Satan doesn't have to be here every morning when I wake up for me to be a fallen man. He did that with an apple before I even knew what an apple was. He doesn't have to come and trick me today; he got me yesterday. If today, I am a sinner, it is not because my enemy lurks around every corner; it is because he lingers in my heart, the haunting echo of a once-upon-a-time desire for more that still leaves me questioning in my spirit whether God is enough. Even when I'm not reminded of the question.
We have to think about the reality of the enemy for a minute and the difficulty with the way we perceive him. When we talk the way we talk and say that Satan is here every minute of every day, that he's waiting, that he's watching, that he's working to deter or defeat us...that's got to be one tired Satan. Or else we've made too much of him. We talk like he's omnipresent, like he's everywhere, but who besides God is everywhere? Do you give the enemy as much dominion as you give God? How is that working out for you? When we talk about him like he's constantly deceiving us, we have to realize that there's no precedent for the enemy being omnipresent. There's no indication that he is at all God-like, in character or in form. So if he's always deceiving you, he couldn't be deceiving anyone else at the same time. You must be very important.
What's more likely is that in one bite of juicy fruit, he planted a seed in your heart that grows with just a little water. Just a little adversity renews the life of the adversary that has taken root in your spirit. And adversity is a byproduct of the Fall. It's part of our inherited brokenness.
What's also more likely is that Jesus told the truth. He said, "I am with you always." He's the only one to ever say that, as much as we tell ourselves that the devil is here and God is somewhere else entirely. As much as it seems that every day, we have to battle our adversary and our Advocate is already heaven-bound. As much as it seems we're feasting on apples instead of Bread. As much as the echoes of Eden haunt our hearts and say, "One day, you will need this apple because Knowledge will be far away from you. And today is that day." Today is not that day. Yesterday was not that day. Tomorrow is not that day. Knowledge, and Life, are right here.
We give our enemy way too much credit. We give him way too much power. We give him way too much control over our today when the truth is that for most of us, the last time we saw him was a weak moment in the Garden. He deceived us in the perfect tense, and still today, we are perfectly tense. But we have a Friend who promised to be here. And He is here. Today. Tomorrow. Forever. He's the one we should focus on.