Read Luke 11:14-20
14 Another time, Jesus was expelling an evil spirit which was preventing a man from speaking, and as soon as the evil spirit left him, the dumb man found his speech, to the amazement of the crowds. 15 But some of them said, “He expels these spirits because he is in league with Beelzebub, the chief of the evil spirits.”
16-20 Others among them, to test him, tried to get a sign from Heaven out of him. But he knew what they were thinking and told them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is doomed and a disunited household will collapse. And if Satan disagrees with Satan, how does his kingdom continue?—for I know you are saying that I expel evil spirits because I am in league with Beelzebub. But if I do expel devils because I am an ally of Beelzebub, who is your own sons’ ally when they do the same thing? They can settle that question for you. But if it is by the finger of God that I am expelling evil spirits, ‘then the kingdom of God has swept over you unawares’! (JBP)
In his preface to Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis said that we can go to two extremes when considering the Devil. One is to dismiss or ignore him; the other is to focus excessively on him. In our churches today we can see some evidence of going to these extremes.
What are we to do with these many, clear statements about evil spirits in the gospels? Some argue that all that talk was a first century way of talking about what we call mental illness. It is true that there can be some overlapping characteristics, but it is a bit patronising to accuse these writers of being ignorant of emotional and psychological issues.
Others believe there was an upsurge in demonic activity at the time of Jesus which we need not expect now in more ‘normal’ times. And it is true that the presence of the Son of God really did activate demonic opposition. But given we have the Spirit of Jesus, and given we still seek to expand his rule, it is doubtful to assume the evil spirits have just gone into some sort of hibernation.
Christians in other parts of the world figure that these evil spirits are still around and still active. In our sort of society, perhaps they operate through other means. But we would be mistaken to think the evil one isn’t at work in his own perhaps more subtle ways. We dare not give him too much attention, but we dare not pay him no attention.