About five years ago, my son picked up the game of tennis. Although he had never played, he fell in love with the sport. I knew very little about tennis, but I have loved watching him play. It’s a great game. It’s intense, it’s exciting, and it wreaks havoc on a parent’s nerves. I have noticed something about the sport of tennis that is unique–you can win a game without ever hitting the ball. I’ve seen this happen multiple times. A player is serving. He hits his serve into the net during his entire service game. In tennis terms, he double faults eight times. The opponent does nothing except move back and forth to receive a serve that, ultimately, never makes it over the net. In the end, the one receiving wins the game without ever swinging his racket. He simply watches from the other side of the court as the server self-destructs.
I believe the devil wins many battles without ever having to lift a finger. He simply sits back and observes as the church destroys itself. Infighting and back-biting are the equivalent of hitting the ball into the net. When God’s people cannot get along due to pettiness and selfishness, then Satan wins. When the Lord’s body sets aside unity for the sake of power, politics, and/or personal scruples, the devil wins. Satan has a tremendous amount of power and influence in this world; however, we make his job much easier when we continuously fail to execute the proper serve. It’s a sad fact that the church is the only organization that shoots its wounded. Why do we do this? Why do we hurt the very people that we should be trying to help? Love should be our identifying mark (Jn. 13:35), yet we can be very unloving toward our own brothers and sisters. This plays right into Satan’s hands.
In Philippians 4:2, Paul writes: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.” I don’t know the nature of the conflict between these two workers for the Lord, but Paul does not hesitate to “call them out” in front of everyone. Remember, this letter would have been read to the entire congregation at Philippi. Imagine the embarrassment these two women must have felt as they were called to the carpet. Paul’s message is clear: “Get over it! There’s too much work to do! Quit allowing Satan to win simply because the two of you can’t get along!” Throughout his letters, Paul stressed unity. Here, he continues to emphasize this theme because he knows the value of everyone being on the same page. The church is a team, and a team cannot reach its goal if there’s conflict among some of the members.
We must remember who the real enemy is. It’s not each other. Don’t lose sight of who you’re supposed to be fighting against and what you’re supposed to be fighting for. Don’t let Satan win by continually hitting the ball into the net.