The most common images of the devil are either that of a red guy with horns and a pitchfork or a ridiculously attractive and seductive woman/man. The former points to the ugliness of his sin. The latter points to how enticing his sin is to us. In my opinion, I think Satan is not so blatantly obvious. Sometimes there are events that occur in history when we see complete evil out in plain sight, whether it be a shooting in Nevada or mass genocide in Germany. Yet, Satan works in subtle ways. If you ask me, I would say that Satan brings a false sense of comfort and peace. He’s a friendly person to you. And the most confusing aspect is that he will feed you some truth, and pepper in some subtle lies. Sometimes he encourages strict adherence to religious doctrines. How on earth could that be wrong? Isn’t following the law to the letter a good thing? Jesus didn’t think so. Not in the case of the Pharisees who considered anything that required any effort to be “working on the Sabbath.” Jesus essentially told them that they need to understand the “spirit of the law.” In other words, “use common sense when applying the law.”
Did you know that there are Jews out there who refuse to push buttons on an elevator on Saturdays because it’s technically “work?” There have also been heretical sects of Christianity which promoted strict fasting guidelines, such as the Montanists, which started off as a strict observance and eventually grew into a full-fledged group of schismatic heretics. This was the group that the great theologian Tertullian succumbed to.
Then you have the opposite end of the spectrum: the liberal interpretation of the moral law. Essentially, this view discourages even following the law in certain areas. This Satanic influence is more apparent and does not need much explanation. But the two ends of the spectrum have one thing in common: both detract a person from having a genuine relationship with God. That’s really what Satan’s aim is. He becomes your friend who slowly directs you off the path of righteousness. There is certainly a balance to genuine worship of God. Certainly in this day and age, in comparison to society, the true church is conservative. However, it was not too long ago in the past when the church was considered liberal in comparison to the societal norms. The command to be fruitful and multiply was liberal in a society that considered licit marital sex to still be inherently sinful. After all, some theologians theorized that it was in the act of sex that original sin was transmitted and some monastics considered all marital acts to be a byproduct of the sin of lust. In fact, some even suggested that there would have been a different reproductive process if it hadn’t been for the fall.
The takeaway here is that Satan is able and willing to be anything and everything to subvert us. Sometimes he uses obvious enticements that we know are wrong but can’t resist. Other times, he disguises himself as an angel of light, using elements of truth to weave heresies to lead us astray. There are 4 cardinal virtues: Prudence, Courage, Justice, and Temperance. Prudence is your compass, temperance is your map. Courage your sword, justice your shield. Employ these tools that God gives you to know and follow the right path. And know that Satan will not stop short of using tremendous good to achieve tremendous evil.