Galactic war is trending now, courtesy of the Star Wars Empire. Fictional as it may sound, there is an actual cosmic war happening around us. Good and evil, God and Satan are battling it out as they wage war for our souls. This battle is raging on my campus, a place that I love.
Occasionally we catch glimpses of various battles. When a friend loses her life in a struggle with addiction, you witness a battle victory for evil. When your mentor’s cancer disappears, you triumph in God’s win. As Christians, we have the assurance that although battles victories go to either side, the war has been and will be won by God. Everyone innately knows it to be true. No one ever cheers for Darth Vader.
In Luke, Jesus points out that followers of Jesus have the authority over evil. He sends out a group of people to practice this and they return shocked by the power they’ve been given. Chapter 10 says, “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven’” (ESV).
Jesus’ vision is the confidence of God’s ultimate victory. While debriefing the disciples’ experience, he rearticulates the authority his followers have been given over demons, but he also makes sure to remind them of where their celebration should bloom. We should not set our hearts on transitory joy, but we should glory in eternity.
However, Jesus’ disciples experienced a radical glimpse of the cosmic war that surprised them. I confess my mind isn’t always tuned to the cosmic war going on to claim my soul or my campus. Our campuses aren’t neutral ground.
I’ve been in love with Bryn Mawr College since 2004 when I was a sparkly-eyed prospective student, but my time there as a student and as an InterVarsity staff worker is salted by spiritual warfare unmatched in all of my other life contexts. Bryn Mawr has a long history of pagan traditions, which visitors can identify immediately. Students regularly make offerings to a statue of Athena situated prominently on campus. We celebrate May Day, the pagan festival of Spring. Our school cheer asks Athena to descend upon us and Athena’s Circle is a well-known Pagan and Wiccan group on campus. These might seem innocuous, but as followers of Jesus, we know there’s power in these things when someone practices the occult. Most students, including Christians, have participated in these rituals because they are tradition, and many don’t believe it will affect their souls, but these ‘innocent or naïve dabblings’ could quite possibly have eternal ramifications.
You may be breathing a sigh of relief because paganism isn’t as lauded in your context, but I challenge you to keep an eye out for how spiritual warfare is a key part of your ministry to your campus. Your campus isn’t neutral ground. Because it’s been such an affront to me, literally seeping out of my school’s pores, I am quick to identify opportunities to pray into God’s victories and pray against the work of the Enemy. Do you have eyes to see where the Enemy is influencing your campus? Ministry isn’t just vision casting, building strategic structures, and developing leaders, but it’s also going to battle in prayer for your campus. It is claiming Jesus’ victory for your community and using the authority you have over evil.
There are concrete ways you can become more attune to the battle between good and evil on your campus. Research the history of your school, especially focusing on the spiritual history of the campus. Take a few friends on a prayer walk around campus and ask God to reveal more to you about the spiritual climate. During the prayer walk, make sure to look at bulletin boards to identify the spiritual strongholds and idols. Maybe your school doesn’t worship Athena, but rather money, power, or perfectionism (to name a few potentials).
I don’t always have a good attitude when I think about the spiritual gunk that makes ministry at Bryn Mawr difficult. The residue has lasted for generations and it often crops up at the most inconvenient times (and, frankly, it’s weird). Despite my frustration, I can now quickly identify when the Enemy is at work, take authority in the name of Jesus, and continue to celebrate the eternal life that He has given to so many of my sisters here.
May the power of Jesus be with you.