In the last two weeks or so, I have been re-reading Lord of the Rings. I am now up to Part 2 (The Two Towers). Although Tolkein never meant for the book to be an allegorical account of the biblical battle between good and evil, there are many interesting parallels to it.
As I was going through Part 2 of the story, I came across the moment when Gandalf the White Wizard delivers the King of Rohan, Theodren. This king had once been a friend of Gandalf and all the good folk of Middle Earth, but in more recent times he had been hostile to Gandalf and his friends. The reason for this was that he had come under the influence of the evil wizard Saruman; Saruman, in time, had placed in Theodren’s court a slimy weasel named Wormtongue Grima (see picture above), who had been ‘advising’ the king with evil council, but also stealing all his treasures, lusting after his daughter, and spying out his secrets. When Gandalf finally delivers Theodren from those influences, the king is able to stand up again proud and tall, no longer with shadows on his eyes, and he’s ready to kill Wormtongue for all his evil work. Eventually Wormtongue is expunged from Rohan, and Gandalf was kind enough to explain Saruman’s behaviour:
“He was not always evil. Once I do not doubt that he was the friend of Rohan … but for long now he has plotted your ruin, wearing the mask of friendship, until he was ready … ever Wormtongue’s whispering was in your ears, poisoning your thought, chilling your heart, weakening your limbs, while others watched and could do nothing, for your will was in his keeping … [he] played dangerously, always seeking to delay you, to prevent your full strength being gathered. He was crafty: dulling men’s wariness, or working on their fears, as served the occasion.
Do you not remember how eagerly he urged that no man should be spared on a wildgoose chase northward, when the immediate peril was westward? He persuaded you to forbid [your watchman] Eomer to pursue the raiding Orcs. If Eomer had not defied Wormtongue … those Orcs would have reached [our enemy], bearing a great prize.”
It struck me as I read this how much Christians and the church today are like this. I have seen evangelical teachers and preachers, whom I once thought of as ‘strong’ and firm’ so soft of things like homosexuality. Albert Mohler a few years ago denounced any possibility of people with homosexual attractions from finding healing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and Don Carson has endorsed a book which says that the only option a person with homosexual desires has is to ‘accept’ them and live as a ‘celibate gay Christian’. Appalling theology on sexuality like the stuff written by Wes Hill on how a person can be both ‘gay and Christian’ are currently running rampant through the church – and causing great damage.
But that’s not the only thing. Christians are not praying against the encroaching evils of the world. They’re watching the same shows, listening to the same radio stations, sending their children to the same educational institutions, and wearing the same lipgloss as the world. Or they never pray, never get passionate about anything, and couldn’t care less about the lost (or their own lostness). Christians get stuck in addictions, unable to move onto better things and only fearful of negative consequences. Christians kids start participating then in Halloween and dressing up like characters from the demonic story of Harry Potter. When other Christians stand firmly and boldly against the world’s evils, they are not encouraged, supported; in fact, they become demoralised when their fellow brethren attack them for being ‘too negative’ and ‘obsessive’. If a Christian with temptation (and there are no Christians who don’t have it) seek help from the body of Christ, will they find any help or people to pray for them? Maybe not, when the church has been living and acting like the world for so long, lulled to sleep by the enemy and not even thinking that they’re in a precarious position. If the church walks and talks like the world and doesn’t look remotely distinctive, is it any wonder that the heathen think us hypocritical and irrelevant?
These things in themselves are troubling enough, but it’s a worrying sign that the Enemy is at work in the church today. Like Wormtongue, the Devil is not attacking the house from outside. With much more subtlety and craftiness, he gets inside the manor, whispering junk in our ears. He tells us things like “Don’t to get on bended knee and pray – after all, God’s not listening, is He? He’s not good, powerful, or caring to one day answer your prayers, so why bother? Why read the Word of God and align your life with it – after all, it’s all archaic and irrelevant; and anyway, the online sport updates and social media feeds are so much more entertaining aren’t they? Spiritual battle?! Don’t fight that – your measly prayers won’t win anyway, and your addictions are far too powerful to overcome. Just give into them, ask forgiveness, and go back to it again. Or don’t even call it a sin at all and find a ‘third way’ to live with sin. Don’t put yourself out by speaking against the evil of the world – after all you need to think about what’s best for you and you don’t want the wife and kids to suffer for speaking up against things, do you?”.
Like Wormtongue, he tried to send us on fruitless wildgoose chases like a cat running after its tail, and putting us off using our strongest weapons against him: 1) prayer, 2) the Word of God; and 3) Obedience. Your fire for God, if you listen to the enticements of the Enemy, will peter out, and you will live for comfort, crude self-survival, and nothingness. You’ll become a ‘nice’ person who fights for nothing and cares for nothing, except for yourself. “He’s a real Nowhere Man sitting in his Nowhere Land; making his Nowhere plans for nobody. Doesn’t have a point of view, knows not where he’s going to” is what we become, neither hot nor cold and being fit only to be vomited out of the Lord’s mouth.
As God’s children, we need to pick up our weapons, cast out the voices of Wormtongue, and fight! There is far too much to lose if we don’t. I have started fervently praying and seeing God amazingly answer prayer in some rather astonishing ways. Who else in the church is willing to do the same, by relinquishing control of things and letting God take control and direct what we do? When we totally surrender, surely revival and blessing will follow.
NB – here is the clip from Lord of the Rings with the deliverance of Theoden: