Some evenings, when the younger kids are in bed, I like to play Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (the first one). A while back, the Game of the Year Edition (with the DLC), was deeply discounted, and it seemed like a good opportunity. Let me be up front: if you have small children, this is not a suitable family game for you. It is violent and revolves around fighting innumerable orcs, uruks, and other denizens of Middle Earth who are bent on destroying you, as the player. It is not on my list of selections tagged as “Family Games” in my Steam account.
However, it is a well-made game, with characters that talk, interact, and behave much more realistically (compared to, say, the guards in the original Wolfenstein, who would perpetually pace between two pixellated points, if you didn’t get their attention).
Furthermore, this game is particularly immersive. Without any “I win” moves or easy escapes, getting into a sword fight with a gang of uruks can quickly become a one-sided battle – with you on the pointy end of a spear. This is especially true if a lone orc runs to sound the alarm and you find your character surrounded. Battles are won one sword slash, dagger attack, or defensive block at a time, and there are no red potions that one can spam in order to quickly restore health (even when two or three of the goblin captains spawn into the same battle).
There is a particular risk when going into an enemy stronghold, which is crawling with monsters. After investing time in fighting (or sneaking) to get the target point for a mission, the stress of needing to complete the goal is palpable. I’ve finished gaming sessions with my knuckles locked up and my hands aching from the sustained death-grip on the controller.
Once the game is saved and we return to the desktop, though1, real life doesn’t find us beyond the reach of battle. I’m not suggesting that Mordor’s worst residents are outside your house, nor do you need to practice your swordsmanship for this battle. Instead, we are in a centuries-old fight of good versus evil. The fight is waged constantly (like the ongoing battles in a persistent game like Planetfall or EVE Online), and we don’t always get to choose when we will participate. Ambushes wait around many corners (not to mention traffic lights, offices, aisles, and hallways), dragging us into the fray and forcing us to choose sides.
However, it is imperative that we remember what the battle is about. All people are created in God’s image, and their souls are worth fighting for. Human beings are not our enemy. Instead, the evil that is in the world (brought by evil forces into a fallen world, leading to both the practice of evil, and the suffering caused by the evil of others) is an affront both to God and to those who align themselves with Him.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 NASB
As we prepare for the inevitable conflicts that we face, strategy and preparation are appropriate, we must consider the decisions that we will make in order to sway the local tide of battle for one side or the other. See passages like 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 5:13-14, Hebrews 12:11, 1 Corinthians 9:26-27, and of course, Ephesians 6:10-17.
However, just like Shadow of Mordor cannot be won by merely ambushing small bands of wandering orcs, at some point we must not limit ourselves to just picking off “straggler sins” – those little, easy-to-address challenges that we face. Reminding someone else to stop using inappropriate language (especially when they are trying to quit) isn’t bad, but it’s a drop in the ocean of sin that floods a fallen world.
Yes, we can certainly take on the easy battles, whether those be in our own lives (overcoming our sinful nature, with the help of the Holy Spirit), or in others (lovingly guiding people away from the harm that evil will do to them). But sometimes, we must jump directly into the fray instead, and get our hands dirty with the process of engaging evil and fighting for the good of others. Sometimes, we need to tackle the stubborn sins in our own selves, or step out and actively fight evil. We may need to make a major change in our lives to eliminate temptation that strikes at our weaknesses, or stand up for those who cannot defend themselves.
The good news in this (because fighting evil can be a messy, tiring battle), is that God – the source of all good – can never be defeated. Despite battles where His team appears to suffer setbacks, He has planned, orchestrated, and – in fact – already won the final victory.
So, study the enemy (sin and the forces of evil), stay ready for surprise attacks, and – when your Commander calls out a charge, tackle evil head-on. Keep fighting to rescue as many people as possible from the slavery of sin.
This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
1 Timothy 1:18-19 NASB
- Yes, I’m a PC gamer. I’m also sometimes a console gamer, a handheld gamer, and a casual gamer. It’s a vice, but there are occasionally some useful lessons that can be learned from the virtual world, which apply to the actual world. ↩