The Dawn Treader blog recently asked readers what the term "spiritual warfare" meant to them, and he's posted some reflections on the answers he received. A lot of good insights, but I especially like this observation:
...the most insidious type of spiritual warfare is not the spooky demonic type in my opinion. It manifests itself more in the Uncle Screwtape and nephew Wormwood type of warfare. Temptation is spiritual warfare. So is gossip. So is bitterness. So is lack of forgiveness. "Ordinary" kinds of sin, like a sinful thought life, need to be considered as spiritual warfare. Whether the besetting source of the temptation or gossip is a demon or our own sinful nature matters not. In either case, our response is to cry out in prayer for help.
He also notes the danger of blaming sinful behavior on demons or evil spirits, and thus downplaying our own role in our sometimes sinful decisions and actions.
As with Mr. Dawntreader, my own ideas about spiritual warfare have evolved over time. When I was younger and reading a lot of Frank Peretti novels, the term "spiritual warfare" conjured up images of invisible angels (with cool swords) and demons (with scary bat wings) battling it out for my soul as I made my way through the day. I don't doubt that there are demons out there causing mischief, but the type of spiritual warfare that seems most relevant to my everyday life is the struggle against my own sinful nature. Each little moral decision I face as I go through the day--whether to be kind or rude, generous or selfish, honest or dishonest--is like a small shot fired in that spiritual conflict.
What about you? When you think of spiritual warfare, do you see an actual struggle involving angels, demons, and praying saints? Or is it more abstract? Has your understanding changed over time or due to experiences you've had?