A Tale of Two Princes: The Dark Side of Peacemaking
by Rick Love
During a formal lecture on peacemaking, someone raised their hand and said, “Rick, thank you for your excellent presentation. But where does the Devil fit in all this?” I gave a brief response, but here’s what I wish I had said …
We have all been wounded by words. Conflict is painful. Unresolved conflict poisons relationships and multiplies alienation. Conflict is a natural part of daily life.
But we should not understand conflict as purely natural. There is a supernatural dimension. A dark side. Peacemaking involves “spiritual warfare.” The Devil is not only the great deceiver, he is also the great “divider” - instigating and exacerbating conflict. (Just in case this spiritual warfare stuff isn’t part of your Christian background, let me remind you that Jesus resisted the Devil and cast out demons. So you are in good company when you engage in spiritual warfare.)
Check out the explicit connection between the Devil and conflict in these verses:
"This is how we know who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous" (1 John 3:10-12).
"But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice" (James 3:14-16).
These verses highlight the radical contrast between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. We could summarize the profound distinctions in these two kingdoms as simply light vs darkness, love vs. hatred, righteousness vs. evil, truth vs falsehood, or peace vs. conflict.
We have an enemy who has his own “rules of engagement” when it comes to human discord. The Devil pours gasoline on the fires of conflict, seeking to deepen the divide and heighten the alienation. He also exploits certain patterns of negative behavior typical of peace-breakers:
"In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
"But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also.… I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11, NASB).
Paul exclaims, “we are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes!” What schemes? Paul addresses a conflict at Corinth where some people were not forgiving. So he reminds them that when we do not forgive, Satan can take advantage of us. The unforgiving heart provides fertile ground for the dark side. Paul also points out to the Ephesians that unchecked anger can result in giving the devil a foothold in our lives. The angry believer opens his heart to the demonic. Not good.
Like Paul, we should warn people about this sinister work of Satan. We should also assume demonic influence in deeply rooted conflicts. Think about it. If Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the Devil is the Prince of Conflict.
The nature of this conflict is made clear in the great spiritual warfare passage in Ephesians 6. Paul says our battle is NOT against people, but a spiritual enemy (Ephesians 6:12). In a bold paradox, Paul speaks about peace in the midst of war. He commands us to put on the whole armor of God which includes gospel boots: “As shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15 ESV).
These “gospel-of-peace boots” refer to both offensive marches and defensive resistance. This metaphor speaks of both experiencing the peace of the gospel and proclaiming the gospel of peace! The gospel of peace enables us to stand firm against Satanic attacks , and it empowers us to stamp out the divisive work of the powers of darkness by sharing the gospel.
Finally, Paul makes an important connection between conflict, the devil, and prayer in his letter to the Romans:
"I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.… Keep away from them… By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people… I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Romans 16:17-20).
Paul discerned Satan behind the false teaching and divisions in the church at Rome. So he exhorts them to beware of these divisive leaders and he prays that the God of peace will crush Satan under their feet! The God of peace uses obedient, prayerful peacemakers to crush Satan’s divisive work.
So what does all this mean practically? Let’s recognize the divisive “schemes of the devil” and wage peace in three ways:
1) By obeying Jesus’s eight peacemaking practices. We counter conflict by obeying Christ.
2) By living and sharing the gospel of peace.
3) By resisting the Devil through prayer. Jesus resisted the Devil by quoting Scripture: “it is written...” He resisted Satan’s lies with God’s truth. Jesus’s little brother says, “Submit therefore to God, resist the Devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7; see also 1 Peter 5:8-11). Every time we pray, “thy kingdom come” we are praying that God will overthrow Satan’s kingdom and establish His kingdom of peace!
The Prince of Peace came to defeat the Prince of conflict – through us!