Angel Sightings

Christmas is the season for angels: Angels blowing trumpets on Christmas cards, angels hovering over nativity scenes, angels crowning Christmas trees. But it doesn't stop with Christmas any more. Angels are becoming a new fad. It started in 1975 when Billy Graham penned a book called Angels: God's Secret Agents. More recently Joan Wester Anderson wrote Where Angels Walk, a collection of stories from people who believe they've been ministered to by angels. Listen to the dramatic story told by a woman who was walking alone in a rough section of Brooklyn, when she saw a man loitering on the sidewalk ahead. She whispered a quick prayer, then hurried past—safely. But afterward she discovered that minutes later, on the same spot, another woman had been brutally attacked. Stunned, she went to the police station and identified the assailant as the very man she had passed. The man recognized her, too. So why hadn't he attacked her? a police officer asked. The man shook his head. "Why would I have bothered with her? She was walking down the street with two big guys, one on each side of her." The woman felt a little like Elisha's servant when his eyes were opened to the invisible hosts. But while Christians are exploring a biblical view of angels, counterfeits are multiplying just as fast. We live in an age of spiritual hunger. Many people are ripe for anything that combines the permissiveness of the New Age movement with comforting reminders of a Christian childhood. Angels fit the ticket perfectly. Today guardian-angel lapel pins have found their way from the back bins of religious bookstores to the check-out counters of card shops. Trendy books have appeared on how to find your very own guardian angel. Two of them-A Book of Angels and Angel Letters—have topped the Publisher's Weekly religious best-seller lists. Stories of angel sightings will soon overtake UFO sightings as a subject for talk shows. But these angels don't sound very much like the ones in Scripture. Stories tell of angels that appear on command, like genies, to change a tire on a deserted road or to make a bus slow down and pick someone up. And these angels never, ever confront or challenge anyone. A recent article in USA Today describes them as "nonjudgmental." In other words, they make no demands on your behavior or character. These sound more like the "imaginary guides" of the New Age movement than real angels. Compare them to the angels described in Scripture. In the biblical stories, the first thing an angel says is "Don't be afraid." In other words, real angels are a fearsome sight. They are mighty warriors in the great cosmic battle between good and evil. The Bible calls them ministering spirits. But they are definitely not our personal genies. So as angel paraphernalia become a fad lasting beyond the Christmas season, take it as a reminder that people are spiritually hungry. You and I need to redouble our efforts to make sure what they get is real spiritual food. And not New Age counterfeits.


Chuck Colson



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