Re-post: Taking Evil Seriously

Do you think of evil as mere ignorance? Do you say people do bad things only because they don’t know any better?

Or is evil more like an intangible force that prompts a young man to steal a car at gunpoint or a girl to lie to her mother when she knows what she is doing is wrong?

To speak to the issue of evil, Jesus told one of his many incomparable stories. In it, evil is an invisible, intelligent, destructive power.

Here’s the story: A house is indwelt by an evil spirit. But the spirit leaves it and goes into the desert where evil spirits are believed to dwell. There this unclean spirit feels homeless so returns to the house previously lived in. It finds the place thoroughly cleaned, all swept and returned to order — but vacant.

This vacancy prompts the evil spirit to round up seven other spirits even more wicked than itself and they take up residence. The consequences are horrible! The house is then more defiled and disordered than ever (Luke 11: 24-26).

Evil is such a pervasive force in the universe that one story is not enough to fully account fo it. Philosophers and theologians have divided evil into two categories: natural evils (like tornados) and moral evils (like bank heists, murder or even hatefulness).

But they both represent something that does huge damage to those in its grip. We consider hurricanes and tsunamis that kill thousands to be the result of evil loosed into the world by the Fall. We think of cancer that way too. But theft, murder, deception, and greed are also evils of a more personal, human sort.

Elsewhere, Jesus gives a catalogue of the elements of evil that dwell in the human heart (Mk 7:20-23). And, under the heading of “the flesh,” the Apostle Paul presents an incomplete list of the acts or influences that flow out of this evil (Gal. 5:19-21).

The story Jesus told suggests that personal evil is a dynamic quasi-personal influence that resides inwardly in people and defiles their lives. It makes life chaotic. Its results are likened vividly to an abandoned house that breeds mold and cockroaches and mice and also throws furnishings, dishes, and knick knacks into disarray. Personal evil makes a mess of things inwardly.

Here’s what we can draw from this story: We are only authentically Christian and safe from evil when Christ lives in us. Being under Christian influences is not enough. That may help us to be nice, and to develop good church manners. But that niceness is not the bona fide evidence that we are Christians.

The evidence needed to show we are people of genuine faith is that Christ has not only cleaned us up but has taken over our lives as our resident Master.

The Scripures make this abundantly clear. The Apostle Paul notes that “Christ in you” is our hope of a glorious future (Col. 1:27). Of the Corinthians he asks, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 5:5).

Elsewhere he writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).

But here’s the most telling word of all, spoken by Jesus to his followers during his closing hours before his crucifixion. He said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” John (14:23).

Is your inner state regulated and ruled by the presence of the Living Christ? By faith does he live in you? And is your respect for the force of evil in the world so clear that it is easy to pray regularly, as Jesus taught us to do, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one?” (Matt. 5:13).

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Photo credit: L.Marie (via flickr.com)

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One thought on “Re-post: Taking Evil Seriously

  1. At some stage in life we may do something we know is sinful,then say we made a mistake.
    Sin’s a mistake for sure, but If we sin on purpose , then say it was an accident , we’re in trouble.
    For humans do sin deliberately . Saying evil was commited unintentionally is often evasive.It won’t do. Penitence is essential for forgiveness.

    When we know what we’ve done is wrong,we must admit it,not pretend we didn’t know.We have been clearly warned by scripture in the Apocalypse.

    ”But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” Romans 2 :5

    I’m unfamiliar with the division of evil ,by philosophers and theologians , into natural and moral evils.The idea has led me to give it careful thought.I suppose I never considered natural phenomena evil in themselves,though they may have bad consequences.I always thought of evil as having a will behind it ,either human or demonic.

    Surely, nature created without free will , can’t be evil,since created by God. God created mankind in His image,complete with fredom of will.So we can do evil, and mankind frequently does do evil, because Adam and Eve disobeyed and we fell.

    Forces of nature can have evil consequences.
    For instance the current bush fires in Australia kill people and destroy people’s homes.But I don’t think there are evil intentions behind the fires,unless demonic.My instinct says not. I think they are natural and have a beneficial function as well as unfortunate consequences.

    A bush fire has good consequences and also evil consequences,the good being part of God’s plan,it seems to me.Eucalypts ,like many plants native to fire prone regions,seem designed to thrive on wildfires.They fuel bush fires with specially designed flamable oils , and specially designed peeling bark that drops to the ground to draw more flame back up into the trees , creating flame – spread.

    Nature knows what it’s doing.Rather,God knew, when He designed nature.But God never set out to burn his people and their homes, surely.

    Maybe people should have had the wisdom not to build homes in bush fire zones.

    Similarly mankind should wisely avoid building homes on flood plains.

    The eucalypts and other fire -bug plants aren’t the sinners.Mankind’s reckless folly is the sin,in inhabiting and building on flood plains and in fire zones.Doesn’t Christ list folly as a sin ?

    Another phenomenon,accepted as natural ,which I often think about, is disease.Cancer and arthritis don’t seem to be deliberately evil ,but natural occurences with evil consequences.I’ve wondered if they have a Godly reason too difficult for us to understand.

    I’d never blame God for disease,because I know God is loving and faithful.

    The idea of evil in nature is a difficult concept to grasp.It doesn’t seem accurate. Theft ,murder, and adultery are commited out of evil human desires and emotions – greed, envy and hate or covetousness and lust.But God designed nature apart from humanity, without whole free will.

    Eucalyptus trees don’t think or make evil plans
    The Fall explains human evil ,as this week’s blog reminds me .I’d forgotten I’ve often come to that conclusion when ttrying to understand why evil exists in the world,the perfect world God created.

    Our kind spoiled things by disobedience.We must not walk in the worst way of Adam and Eve. Exekiel 20 comes to mind.

    “I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers or keep their ordinances or defile yourselves with their idols’.” Ezekiel 20:18 NASB

    Perhaps , many so called natural disasters aren’t natural at all, but manmade. Instead of blaming nature or God,maybe we should blame ourselves for greed motivated ,excessive carbon emissions, which unbalance our climate and cause extreme weather phemoena,harmful to us and other life.

    Let’s blame our own folly in thoughtless building and dwelling where wisdom says not to. We must accept the blame , come down to us through the sin of our own humankind.

    In Christ’s Lucan parable ,when the evil spirit returns from the desert,having failed to find rest, to the house it prevously inhabited,it finds a vacuum then fills it sevenfold, with spirits even more evil than itself.Of course,the house in the parable, is Christ’s metaphor for the person.The evil spirit returns to the person it left,finding emptiness.

    ”Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Luke 11:26 NIV

    Jesus’s catalogue of indwelling evils ,in Mark 7 comprises evil thoughts ,lust, theft, murder, adultery, covetousness, general wickedness, deceit, envy ,lying ,pride ,and that unwakefulness that lets folly in. All these evils can dwell in a person and defile the person when they spring from his mouth and do harm. Jesus said :

    ”What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander,pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:21 -23

    We must invite Christ into our hearts,not ignore His knock , leaving a vacuum for evil spirits to inhabit and indwell us. We must make the right choice who to invite, and choose the One,the three in One.

    ”You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” 1 Cor 10:21

    The choice is death with evil or eternal life in Christ.

    ”For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6 :23

    In his letter to the Galatian congregation,Paul reiterates much of Christ’s list of indwelling evils which can haunt a person .He adds some more – impurity, debauchey, idolatry ,occultism, hatred, arguementativeness , jealousy, fits of rage , selfishness , over- ambition, disputatiousness , factionalism , insobriety and sexual perversion .

    Paul also indicates there are further fleshly , worldly sins of the like, that can indwell a person.

    ” The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21 NIV

    Just as an abandoned or neglected house can rot and disentegrate,so a neglected inner person can become corrupt.

    A healthy person is indwelt by God,in the Person of our Lord ,the indwelling Holy Spirit, and in the Person of Christ.Christ in us. We need God in us.We need the Holy Spirit in us ,need Christ in us.

    ”If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Romans 8:10

    We need Christ in us so that the Holy Spirit indwells us.As Paul told the Ephesians –

    ”so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17

    God inspired John ,in the Gospel,to write –

    “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” John 14:20

    Later in the gospel,John writes God is in His Son and the Son is in us that we may know Christ comes from the Father and know the Father’s Love.By knowing His Love we can be saved ,perfected ,in union with our Lord.

    ”I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” John 17: 2

    Christ knocks.We must let Him into our hearts. He offers us everything we need,everything we shall ever need.

    ”Behold,I stand at the door and knock ; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me”. Revelation 3:20

    What an uplifting message of Hope ! Triune God offers to make His home with us ! We cannot refuse Him.We must hear His voice, cast off evil and open the door and let Him in.

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