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Last week, we discussed President Trump’s assurance that North Korea would be “handled” and the mixed reaction that statement received. In the days since, with the key support of North Korean allies China and Russia, the UN passed new sanctions effectively reducing the country’s economic output by a third. It was a bold move but seems to have had little impact on Kim Jong-un and his government. The Washington Post broke a story on Tuesday that could explain why.
United States intelligence officials recently determined that, in addition to their developing weapons program, North Korea has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead that could fit inside many of its long-range missiles. The Japanese Ministry of Defense recently reached the same conclusion.
As the Post describes, that development was expected to take the regime years to attain. While North Korea still lacks the missiles necessary to deliver such a warhead to the mainland United States, much of the world is now theoretically within range, including many of America’s allies.
Despite the looming threat, some experts argue that an even larger mistake than underestimating North Korea’s nuclear capabilities would be to overestimate them, thereby unnecessarily increasing the stakes in the region. Others argue, however, that the fear of overestimating the danger posed by the regime have led us to, in the words of Jeffrey Lewis, insist “on impossible levels of proof” instead of reacting appropriately to what we do know.
As Christians, we often struggle to find a similar balance when it comes to our enemy. I’m not equating Kim Jong-un or the North Korean government with the devil, though his fingerprints are certainly on many aspects of their oppressive regime. Still, the world’s current attempts at finding the appropriate way to size up the threat posed by the small communist nation can offer a helpful reminder of why so many of us fail to adequately respond to the threat Satan poses as well.
Most believers fall into one of two camps regarding the devil. The first underestimates his influence on the world around us, thereby allowing him to go relatively unnoticed. Many of us in the West fit this description because we don’t see demonic possessions or the more public demonstrations of his presence more commonly found in other parts of the world. As a result, we reduce him to a cartoon character with a pitchfork who occasionally shows up on a person’s shoulder to offer bad advice.
Scripture is clear, however, that Satan is far more than a caricature of some relatively harmless evil. He is a roaring lion actively looking to harm those whom Christ died to save (1 Peter 5:8). Such destruction is often accomplished most easily when done from the shadows rather than in the open. As a result, he is more than willing to remain hidden and unnoticed as doing so serves his purposes best.
Overestimating his presence and power can be just as destructive, though. Scripture is also clear that, despite the threat he poses, he is a conquered foe (Revelation 20:7–10). Christ’s victory on the cross was absolute. Consequently, even the devil knows that the only success he can still have comes from limiting our witness as Christians and placing obstacles in the way of a person’s salvation. When we grant him more power or authority in our lives than he deserves through fear of his influence and an overestimation of what he is still capable of accomplishing, we serve his purposes just as readily as when we act as though he doesn’t exist.
Ultimately, a correct view of the devil will lead us to understand and appreciate our role in the ongoing struggle over the souls of those around us. Our enemy may be fighting a losing battle, but he is still fighting and so should we.
What part has God called you to play in that struggle?