Saint Michael and All Angels [Read Revelation 12:1-17]
On any controversial issue, the world tends to offer only two solutions: Hate or tolerance. Either to embrace a person’s beliefs and actions, or to treat them as an enemy. Homosexuality, LGBTQ issues, abortion, immigration law, welfare vs. free markets, impeach or not to impeach, and other faiths and religions. The world offers us two reactions, hate or tolerance. Both are used by the devil to draw us away from God.
If you hate people, or count them in your heart as your enemies, or live with an angry disposition toward them because of their sins or because of their darkened and blinded understanding, then, truly, you’ve failed to love that person as God loves them. God so loved the world that He gave His Son to redeem us from our darkness and from our sins – to save us guilty sinners from this present evil age.
So I should not hate the person who is wrong. I should not be angry at the person whose nature is broken by sin. And I dare not alienate them from hearing the truth of the Gospel, in so far as it depends on me.
The devil uses good things to bring about wrong. The devil uses our sense of morality and our sense of law to bring our hearts to a place of strictness, hardness, and coldness toward others. This damages our faith.
On the other side of the coin, the devil uses our natural empathy or sympathy, mixed with a lack of understanding of the things of God, to bring us to a place of disregarding or even despising God’s Word and Commands. You see how some are treated harshly – you see how some are hated – in response, you become willing even to abandon God’s Word and truth in order to side with those you see as the injured party.
The devil pokes at our sympathy to convince us to embrace and accept things that we know are actually wrong and immoral. The message of tolerance is so often a message of embracing things which are displeasing to our God and our Savior.
Another weapon of the devil is despair – when my conscience doesn’t believe God has forgiven my sin, I embrace all sin as okay, or I hate sin so much that I even begin to hate sinners.
We are in the middle of a battle. But listen to this: “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” [Ephesians 6:12]
Men and women of this world are not our enemy – the battle is spiritual, “against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Both hate and tolerance are the weapons of these spiritual enemies – they are a sword in each hand. Anger on one hand and tolerance of wrong on the other are both the devil’s ditches on each side of the road.
You wrestle the spiritual forces of darkness, but the Archangels and the Angels of God fight on your side. Saint Michael the Archangel – the leader of the angelic armies of God – fights for the people of God. He fights for you.
We remember this feast day, St. Michael and All Angels, to remember that we are not alone in the battle. The angels, as ministering spirits, valiantly carry the victory that Christ has won on the Cross to you and to me who need that victory. The Angels and Archangels work in the business of Christ’s cross-won victory.
But what does victory look like, brothers and sisters? Can you perceive the true battle? What is the true battle and what is the true victory?
The victory of God’s people in this world is not a political victory and is not a victory of glory. The glory of this world belongs to this world and the devil. Our victory is not one of power, glory, or strength. It is not a victory of nations.
The true battle and true victory are that of faith in Christ. In 1 John 5:4, Scripture says, “this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Faith in Jesus is the battle. Faith in Jesus is the victory.
The world has many battles, often with a right and a wrong. Often with a wrong and a wrong. The true battle which every person must win is this battle of faith in Christ.
In this true battle, there is not a nation which is right, there is not a political party which is right. There isn’t a family which is all right. This true battle runs through the middle of each man’s or woman’s heart.
What do the victory and the battle look like? In Revelation 12:1-17, the true nation of God’s people – that is, the Church, the spiritual Israel [Galatians 4:26] – from whom Christ comes and who comes from Christ – is depicted as a woman who is glorious in the heavens but who on earth is fleeing, running, hiding in the wilderness. This woman, God’s people, has the victory, but never appears victorious on earth.
The all availing victory in this battle appeared to be the greatest defeat. The victory over the devil, the dragon, sin, hell, and unbelief was won by the death of the victor. By the all atoning death of Jesus on the Cross – the death which forgives and takes away the sin of the world – by this death the master of sin was defeated. Guilty men and women are now free to trust in a Savior and to believe in a gracious God.
The disciples, in today’s Gospel lesson, rejoiced that the demons were subject to them in Christ’s name. But Jesus told them rather to rejoice that their names are written in heaven. The battle and victory which concerns us is faith in Christ for salvation.
We remember the angels and archangels to remember that we are not alone in the battle. “Angel” means “messenger”. Angels are messengers which deliver the victory of Christ’s Cross to us in the message of the good news, the gospel. The battle is won by the speaking of the Word of God. These unseen angels minister.
“Michael” means “one who is like God”. Some say that Michael is actually a figure of Christ Himself in the Bible, like the “Angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament. Perhaps. Either way, Michael is one who has the power of God, who is like God, and who fights on behalf of faith in Christ – for you and for those for whom you are so concerned.
It is a heavenly battle we are in. Brothers and sisters, always stand for what is right and moral and God pleasing and for what is in accord with God’s Word and commands. Don’t fall into the devil’s traps of either an angry hate or a false tolerance. Focus your heart on the true fight of faith in Christ for salvation of sinners. “The victory that has overcome the world is our faith” [1 John 5:4].
And today especially, trust that in this battle for faith in Christ, all angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, and all departed saints, and all the obedient heavenly powers, stand together on Christ’s side - the Victor’s side – and your side and my side, of the battle line. In this battle for faith we are not alone. Amen.