When considering the ultimate antagonist, certainly Satan comes to mind right? Thoughts of good vs. evil, light vs. darkness bubble from within. Perhaps we think of the Raiders with their infamous pirate, skull and cross bones shaped logo. We pull for the Lakers or Celtics, Bulls or Pistons depending on our sways. We construct “Darth Vader” in our lives as a reflex to life itself.
Antagonists are needed for the best movie plots, stadium ticket sales and military budget justifications. Last night at practice I found myself evoking the notion of an antagonist. With motivating intent I assured the boys that we have what it takes to beat any wrestling club out there. Perhaps, in that moment, I forgot a lesson learned through wrestling long ago; the ultimate antagonist is within ourselves. This internal struggle is the ultimate contest. Adam and Eve didn’t fight against Satan, they battled the quick springing seed of pride which he subtly planted. Genesis 3:5-6:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Shame, fear, and doubt condemned their minds, drowning any thought of conviction. They pushed blame on down the line letting personal repentance slip through their fingers. Genesis 3:12-13:
12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 13 And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
Jesus’s confrontation with Satan was short lived in the wilderness and paled in comparison to the literal sweat and blood required to wrestle with His humanity in order to obey divine purpose in the garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26:39 & Luke 22:44:
39 And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt;
44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
The Apostle Paul wrote of this internal struggle extensively. Romans 7:23-25:
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.