Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome

Recently, I was reflecting on a passage in 2 Timothy 2:24-26 which reads:

The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
I was contrasting this with what we all know about sin, namely, that we do this all too freely. I was trying to get a sense of how one can sin clearly by one's own choice and yet be held captive by the devil to do his will.

My starting point in this is knowing that God is not the author of sin (see James 1:13). Yet, when I read the word "captive", I think of someone who is held against their will and being kept involuntarily. How does willingness to sin fit together with being held captive to the devil?

One possible answer would be the presence of a spiritual form of a condition known in psychology as the Stockholm Syndrome. This is said to occur when those who are being held captive begin to become sympathetic to the beliefs and ideals of their captors. One historic example of this can be found from the mid-1970s. A young woman named Patty Hearst was abducted by the Symbionese Liberation Army in early 1974. Two months after her kidnapping, she was actually assisting her captors in a bank robbery. 

Please keep this in mind when praying for those who have not yet come to faith in Christ. We are dealing with very real captivity, but a captivity which the captives are quite sympathetic with. What is needed is a change of mind. Pray that God will show mercy to these captives by changing their thinking. After all, isn't that what repentance is all about?

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