Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
If you are reading this from anywhere on planet Earth, this spring of 2020, you have most likely been inundated, like the rest of us, with news from every medium and angle on what is being called a global, “invisible enemy”: the COVID-19 pandemic.
First and foremost: I hope you and yours are well and staying safe.
But as a metaphorist, and to my purpose in writing today, I can’t help but think of another global, invisible enemy, but one not restricted to any particular season or time frame: the pandemonic, so to speak, called evil, represented by the Devil of a thousand faces, descriptions, and iterations who, like the COVID-19, infects every culture, creed, and corner of the world working what destruction it can.
Although there is perhaps greater concern over COVID-19, just now, the pandemic we can see, humanity has been and will continue to be at greater risk from the pandemonic we can’t see because it is not limited by time, place, or people group and, worse, it spreads into eternity as well.
This evil plagues the mind and the spirit, but it also affects the physical realm if allowed to proliferate unchecked. It requires an antidote of an entirely different kind (more on this below).
Whereas pandemics eventually either fulfill their life expectancy or mankind comes up with a cure to sustain immunity, pandemonics require far more potent “weapons of…warfare” wielded not by scientists but by believers who use not medical but “divine” power to “demolish (spiritual) strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). And by so doing, not only spiritual but also physical evil can be overcome, for pandemonics are respecters of neither the intangible nor the tangible.
Indeed, one infects the other.
Those who do battle on the spiritual plain don’t use medical protocols but the aforementioned “divine power” through the Holy Spirit abiding in yielded believers (more on this below) that conquers the corrupting influence of “lofty arguments and opinions…the result of pride and evil and vain imaginations” which is where it all starts.
A Very Wise Person once told me that everything is attitudinal; the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly, all of which issue from the heart, filter through the mind, and influence action. An applicable scripture puts it this way: “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)–or, conversely, destruction.
But the battle against the pandemonic is not really so hard to understand. It is an old one that even a child, having reached the age of reason, knows very well.
It is the timeless struggle of good versus evil, obedience versus rebellion, greater versus lesser angels, and every other expression that underscores the universal theme of wickedness that proceeds from hearts attuned to darkness, to minds, and lastly to arms, figuratively and literally, that destroy.
The spark that leads to the pandemonic isn’t the first quantum division of some radical, opportunistic virus but the division of the created (you and me) from the Creator by some radical, opportunistic choice (more on free will here).
Fortunately, there are protocols to manage and/or eradicate both pandemics and pandemonics.
In both cases, however, diligence is the order of the day.
“First, Do No Harm”
In the world of medicine, whether during ordinary or extraordinary practice such as dealing with new pandemics, there is a code of ethics called the Hippocratic Oath, from which the title of this section comes, which specifies attitudes to govern actions in that realm.
Of course, not all of the ethics are necessarily followed, for one reason or another*.
From there proceed the practical protocols based on improved standards and procedures.
In the world of pandemonics, however, which causes damage everywhere and (in) every time, the first order of the day is spiritual salvation, i.e., as put in Paul’s letter to the Romans,
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (10:9-10)
John 3:16 puts it more succinctly:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)**
And in this battle, the oldest, “spiritual protocols” proceeding from there, remain the most effective.
St. Paul describes them like this in his letter to the Ephesians:
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (6:11-18)
And one more thing in this battle against the pandemonic: if you think about it, good always, at length, through this battle or that, this era or that, wins–else, considering the power of evil, the first act of rebellion would have been the last (one of my own, common, favorite, encouraging, and humbling–themes).
In the meantime, in whatever battle we are engaged, tangible or intangible, temporal or eternal–or both at once which is usually the case–one is called to prepare–and proceed.
And today, in particular, when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic to protect oneself!
And don’t forget to pray, too.
*Like all man-crafted ideals, medical ethics can be nullified by other codes of “ethics,” or should I say “anti-ethics,” for example “political/ideological ethics”. Consider, for example, how such ideologies have endangered the following section of the Oath when it comes to the slippery slopes of abortion and “physician-assisted suicide”:
“I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion.”
**For one of myriad commentaries on the meaning of this famous Scripture that can be found via online searches and/or scholarly sources, read here.
Image of surgical glove and face mask from Wikimedia Commons
Image of cross from Wikimedia Commons