I had no idea I was getting involved in something so violent.
My aim was to improve my fitness, so I had begun going to exercise classes. At first it was mainly dance-based classes, but then I decided to take it to the next level and try Body Combat. I knew it was based on martial arts, but I was not prepared for the graphic narrative the instructor provided as she went through the class.
“Punch, punch, punch, punch, HARDER! ”
“Under the chin and right on the nose….and kick between the legs!”
“Grab his head and slam it on the ground!”
This went on for a whole hour. It was completely non-contact, but she encouraged everyone to imagine an enemy- maybe an ex or someone who had angered them- and to do the whole class pretending they were fighting against that person.
At first I struggled. I’m really not a violent person. I’m not the sort of person to hold a grudge, and even when someone has deeply hurt me I can’t imagine getting any pleasure from inflicting painful revenge.
But then I thought of an enemy.
“We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
I thought about the anorexia which was holding my friend captive and destroying her life. I thought about the abuse I experienced and the impact on my life- the years of silence and shame and hiding. I thought about the brokenness I saw in the world and in so many people’s lives- grief, heartache, stress, illness, anxiety, depression… the list goes on.
I thought about the enemy behind them- the one whose purpose is “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10)- and my inner warrior was released.
Suddenly my punches became stronger, my kicks more vigorous, and I felt like I was actually fighting. Every blow proclaimed Jesus’ victory over all these things, declaring that the outcome of this battle has already been decided and the enemy will be defeated.
I certainly got a good workout that day- and who would have thought an exercise class could become a spiritual experience?
Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, “I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadow-boxing.” (1 Corinthians 9:26) It is important to recognise that we are in a real fight with a real enemy, and the choices we make matter.
The final outcome is fixed- Jesus wins- but the devil is not going down without a fight.
In the Body Combat class, we were constantly reminded, “Keep up your guard,” and that is crucial in our spiritual lives too.
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Fortunately God gives us armour to enable us to resist the devil, but we need to take it and use it.
“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:14-17)
We need to fill our hearts and minds with God’s truth so that we can stand against the devil’s lies. We need to hold to the righteousness we have in Christ so we are not drawn back into guilt and shame by Satan’s accusations. We need to be ready to step out in obedience to God, and to live by faith and not by sight. We need to know God’s Word and use it as Jesus did in fighting back against the enemy.
And we need each other. Someone once pointed out to me that there is no armour for the back of the body. We are not meant to turn and run away. We are meant to stand and face the enemy, but we also need to be watching each other’s backs and standing together and encouraging one another to keep going when it is hard.
Remember the outcome has already been decided…
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20)
…and we know how the story ends.
“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. he will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All of these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:3-4)