By Cindy Koch –
All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them.” – C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.
Set in the turbulent time of World War II, this fictional conversation between demons enlightens the continually crafty work of the modern Satan. Demon Uncle Screwtape writes advice to his devilish nephew, Wormwood, regarding the fate of a person on earth. This man struggles with the most common of things: his friends, his mother, his faith, and what’s for lunch. But it is the task of the demon team to keep him at a far distance from their great Enemy, God.
Weekly, a small group of wide-eyed teenagers read this book together, wondering at the present-day work of Satan and his demons. Each chapter, they are shocked to at the subtle tactics that Satan may use to deceive a person. Each conversation, they are surprised at the various tools of distraction he could use against them.
But after reading this passage today, they were particularly passionate. Why, I asked, might an extremist view be good for the work of the devil? Distraction, they answered. It takes your mind off of what is really important. If one is fighting for a cause, whatever that cause may be, it will surely take the place of the centrality of a Savior. Whatever is good for the cause, especially when faith is a means to that end, will distract a person from dying and rising in Christ alone.
But then I asked one more thing: what kind of age do you think we are living in? Clearly, at the time this book was written by C. S. Lewis, Britain was on the brink of war, men were being drafted, pacifism and patriotism were regular discussions. But right now, are we dealing with a culture unbalanced and prone to faction? Or are we in a lukewarm, complacent world? The teens responded with a moment of reflective silence.
Her little voice quivered. “I don’t usually like to share my opinions. Because I will be shamed into being quiet. You can’t talk about things that you think are true, or things that might make someone mad, or something controversial. People just won’t do it. They want me to just be complacent. That’s the way to keep friends. So, that’s why I don’t talk a lot.”
Another voice spoke up. “I just became a Christian last year. I told my unbelieving friends, expecting them to say, “No Way! Why did you do that?” But they didn’t. They shrugged it off like no big deal. “Does it make you happy?” They asked me. It made me so mad, because this has been such a big deal to me. But they don’t care one way or another.”
More heads nodded. I saw a few misty eyes that couldn’t find the words to agree. Pressed into silence, forced to play lukewarm. This is where these teenagers struggle against the forces of Satan today. Hiding in the middle, not speaking about anything that’s of real value. As we talked more and more around our protected little table, it sounded like conversations about faith were only one of the many off-limit topics. These kids are usually bubbling with opinions and controversy, and I was shocked by the fear in their eyes that I saw today.
“Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep.” To fall asleep is to no longer expect the coming of Christ. To fall asleep is to be content with the comfortable middle, the immediate gratification of today. To fall asleep is to no longer burn with impatient revelation of the truth of all things. Although these kids fight in a world that wants them to be tepid, they realize this also is a dirty trick of the evil one to distract them from what is singly important. Today, a believing teenager’s angst against their lukewarm age is cause for all the faithful to rejoice.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Rev 3:15-19)