“For 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 (ESV)
This verse neatly explains how the nature of spiritual warfare is not against other people. Those people are still our neighbors (Tip #3 Answer the Questioner), and we are still called to love them (Mark 12:31), even if they get hostile or mean. Often the other person arguing with you, or writing and speaking against Christ, doesn’t see the real battle going on. We owe them grace as Jesus showed us grace “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8). They get rocked and jolted, just as you would, as worldviews crash into each other. Heavenly forces strive to liberate what Satan has enslaved, and the captors cling tight to their victims as various ranks and levels of authority all compete for earthly outcomes.
Since this war is different from earthly combat, we can expect it to be fought differently too. Here, the artillery is not hot metal, it’s words and ideas. 2 Corinthians 10:5 describes it saying, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (ESV). The image is of skilled thinking and artful communication combined with a deeply disciplined mental life. The artillery in spiritual warfare is aimed at our minds, changing our minds, setting fires of doubt within our compound, and erecting a foreign flag over our worldview. This battle is odd to our senses, because we would prefer to treat the other person as our enemy. That target is easier to see, and easier to hit. But instead, we should treat them as another errant sinner, spiritual impoverished, enslaved by a cruel master, caught in the crossfires of a war they don’t understand.
We do not fight them, they are captives just like we were. We fight for them. They are not our enemy, they are potential friends. Only God knows whether this person might be the next Saul of Tarsus, or more recently, John Newton (1725-1807) the former slave trader, while himself enslaved to sin, who would later come to faith and pen the classic hymn, Amazing Grace.