Ireland was only four years old with big blue eyes, cherub cheeks, and curly blond hair. She looked up rom her toys and asked, “Auntie N, are we supposed to hate the devil?” She knew that “hate” is a bad word and was never to be said of her sister. But she also knew that the devil was bad and that everyone seemed to hate him.
My first inclination was to say, “YES!!” but I wanted her to understand the reasons why, not just my opinion. At four, my opinion carried weight for her. At fourteen, she’d hear other ideas and form her own. She needed to see HOW to create views based on reason, not merely personal preferences.
“What did the devil do, do you think?” I questioned.
“He’s mean and ugly,” she snarled as she wrinkled her forehead, shaking her curls angrily.
“Did you see a picture of him somewhere?” I wondered what brought the Enemy into her sights.
“On TV. He scared me, too. I don’t like him.” She looked over at her sister. “Sophie said her friends in Bible class hate the devil, and she hates him, too.”
“Sophie is right about God and Satan being enemies. But God isn’t afraid of the devil. God is God, and the devil is just a mean angel. God is way stronger than any angel, even old Satan. Have you ever heard about what the devil did to God’s friend, Job?”
“The one that got swallowed by the whale?” Her face brightened, thinking she remembered something important.
“Well, that man’s name was Jonah. This man lived a very long time before Jonah. His name was Job, and Satan was really mean to him.”1
“No, I don’t know Job,” she admitted.
“Job was God’s friend, and one day God was meeting with a bunch of His angels. Then in came old Satan.” I hissed as I said his name, frowning as if greatly offended. “God asked him what he was doing there. Old Satan said, ‘Aw, I was just out messing around and was in the neighborhood and wanted to see what’s going on.’ So God said, ‘Then did you notice my good friend Job when you went by his place? He’s one of the best people I know.’ Then old Satan said God wasn’t fair and was nicer to Job than He was to anybody else, and that’s the only reason Job was his friend. God told him that wasn’t true, and if Satan thought he could make Job hate God, then just go ahead and try. Well, Satan was so mean and ugly, he hurt Job’s kids and all of his animals and even made Job have sores all over his body. Then Satan made Job’s friends bully him, too. Job didn’t understand why all those things were happening to him, and Job’s feelings were really hurt. But he always knew God was in charge. And sure enough, God made him well and gave him an even bigger family and more animals, and Job lived a long time. Satan never beats God.”2
Sophie joined in the discussion. “If Satan’s an angel, why is he so mean?”
“I think he’s ashamed of himself when he sees how strong and good God is, and he’s jealous and wants what God has.3 He even lied to the first humans God made–Adam and Eve…”4
“I know Adam and Eve!” Ireland, bouncing excitedly, clapped her hands. “They lived in God’s garden!”
“Yes, they did, but Satan lied to them and got them in trouble with God, so they had to live somewhere else. But God has shown everybody the way back to His house. He put it in the Bible. So Satan won’t ever get his way.”
Nannygranne didn’t want the girls to fear Satan but instead understand he’s not to be ignored, keeping a distance from him with God between him and them.
“Satan is our enemy, but Jesus is our real superhero and always beats Satan. One time Jesus went away by Himself into the mountains to pray for a long time. Satan came slipping up and whispered stuff in Jesus’ ear to make Him think God didn’t really love him. But he didn’t fool Jesus.4 Satan always likes to try to make us mad at God and each other.5 Satan likes to talk ugly to our thoughts in the dark. But when we listen to God’s word and pray to Him, it’s like turning on a flashlight, and Satan always runs from the light.”
“Yeah! We’ll turn on God’s flashlight and scare the devil away!” Ireland pumped her chubby fist.
“You know, girls, there was a mighty and important soldier angel of God named Michael. Michael wanted to take care of Moses after he died. But old Satan wanted to carry Moses’ body off.4 Michael just said, ‘I’m going to let God take care of you, Satan. He’s going to tell you that you’re wrong.’ Even that strong, powerful soldier, angel Michael, stayed away from Satan and left him up to God. He wouldn’t even say anything ugly to Satan. He didn’t want to be like Satan was. Satan’s the one that says ugly things to people.”
“So we’re supposed to be nice to him?” Sophie challenged.
“Let’s think about this. If you were at Walmart and a nice-looking stranger smiled at you and put out his hand and said to go with him or her, what would you do?”
“I’d run tell you, Auntie N! You’d clobber ’em!”
I couldn’t help but laugh at her keen vision of my defensive actions regarding my sweet nieces. She wasn’t far off! “That’s right! And when Satan makes us feel like doing mean or ugly things like him, let’s run tell God, and God will clobber him, too! We can always tell God, and He’ll make Satan leave us alone.6
“So no, Sophie. Michael wasn’t nice to Satan at all. But Michael stayed away from him even though he was strong and powerful. He knew it wasn’t his job, but God’s, to get Satan. You and I want to stay far away from Satan or anything like him and stay close to God.”
“Okay. I hate the devil like God does, but I’m not going to mess with him. God’s going to mess with the devil for me.”
At that, Sophie and Ireland seemed satisfied, turned back toward their toys, and the conversation was over.
I prayed they would always be so resolute, trusting them to God’s great safe hands.
1 Book of Jonah
2 Satan’s jealousy Luke 10:17-20
3 The Book of Job
3 Genesis 3
4 Jesus and Satan Matthew 4; Luke 4
4 Jude 1:9
5 Rev 12:10
6 James 4:7-8a “… But resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”