In the TV series Avatar: The Last Air Bender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra, the world they inhabit is filled with benders–earth benders, fire benders, water benders, and air benders. Each group having control over one particular element of the physical world. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, is able to bring balance to the world. The Avatar is also the connection between the physical world and the spiritual world.
In The Last Air Bender, the spiritual world and the physical world is separated. And the Avatar, Ang, can travel between the too (he’s usually all blue when he first begins to travel there and then becomes regular when he’s there but he can’t bend). In the beginning of The Legend of Korra, the same is true as well. She can travel there as well, but the only other ones who are able to are the most enlightened and spiritually in-tuned people.
The spirits of the spirit world are an interesting lot. They can be friendly, ambivalent, and even snarky at times. Only a few are actually classified as evil (like Ko the Face Stealer). At the end of Book Three of Legend of Korra (spoiler alert) there is an epic fierce battle which is waged in both the spirit world and the physical one. At the end of the battle (after she wins) she decides to no longer let there be a barrier between the spiritual world and the physical world. The two can intermingle and all can travel back and forth.
This is all well and good, but what does this have to do with anything?
There is a spiritual reality here and now. It’s not on some distant world of benders and Avatars, it’s here.
In 2 Kings 6, there’s this awesome event of when the spiritual world is seen. The King of Aram gets all ticked at the prophet Elisha for a lot of reasons and sends out a huge army to kill him. As they are surrounded by this army, Elisha’s servant freaks. What are they to do. And then Elisha tells the servant
“Don’t be afraid…those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 2 Kings 6:16
And then God opened the eyes of the servant and they saw the hillsides surrounded by chariots of fire all around them. The spiritual world was stronger and more active and powerful than the physical world.
Yet, we don’t always think of the spiritual reality. It’s there. And there’s something that aren’t pretty. In the Avatar shows, the spirits can be ambivalent and snarky, but they are not really bad unless there are certain circumstances that turn them so. In Avatar, there is the struggle between light and dark which rages eternally, both equal in power and strength.
But that’s not true for the spiritual reality that is there. It is not evenly matched between good and evil. In fact, it’s way out balanced. God has won. God is victorious. Because of Jesus dying on the cross, the enemy, the devil himself has been defeated. There is not equality between good and evil. Evil has lost, the enemy is defeated. He has no power.
Now, the devil is the father of lies. And his two greatest lies are that either he has more power than he really does or that he doesn’t exist at all. Yes, spiritual warfare is real. Yes, there are more things in heaven and on earth that are dreamed up in our philosophy. But we have the victory in Jesus already. The enemy does exist, he’s ticked that he’s lost, and he’s working over time to make you think he has more power than he really does.
“For though we live in the world we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-4
How do we do this? By taking captive every thought, making it obedient to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5). It’s a war that needs to be waged. It’s an unbalanced war where we’ve already one and the enemy has no power at all.
Yes, the enemy, the devil, prowls like a lion looking for whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Yet all we have to do is stand in the faith and he is able to be resisted (2 Peter 5:9). In fact, the enemy has been detoothed and declawed by Jesus. All he can really do is scream at you and gum you a bit. He has no power. Don’t give him any.
Paul writes to the church in Ephesus
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:10-12
Yes, it’s a battle out there, but it has already been won. Paul lists the Armor of God in Ephesians 6:13-17. They are all defensive pieces of armor save for one–the Sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. And the only battle plan given is to pray. The war is won the battle is fought not by us.
There is no cosmic struggle like there is in The Last Air Bender or The Legend of Korra. There is a spiritual reality here, that is true. But it isn’t a cosmic battle between good and evil in which some make it out to be.
Don’t get me wrong, the spiritual reality is there, it is here, it is present, it is all around. And God gives us the news that the war is won, that Jesus is the victor in the battle. His hosts of angels and mighty heavenly warriors don’t even really need to battle because it has been won. The enemy defeated.
In the Avatar series (and I’m so not counting M. Night Shyamalan’s disaster of a movie) spirits are there and exist but are snarky, indifferent, and sometimes caught in an epic battle of good and evil. That is not so here. God has won with Jesus. The enemy, the devil, is real but defeated. And for all those in Jesus, you have been purchased with his precious blood and freed from the tyranny of the devil.
Don’t give him the power he doesn’t have. And don’t think he doesn’t exist. Instead, live in the victory of Jesus.