Kingdom Principle: There are two kingdoms, Satan rules his kingdom through the spread of evil.
|Exodus 3:1-15||Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b||Romans 12:9-21||Matthew 16:21-28|
How do you decided if something or someone is evil? If they disagree with you and you call them evil for having a differing opinion – I think that makes you the evil one. Can you decide what evil is – outside of a moral absolute? Can you decide what evil is outside of a Biblical mandate? (what about when we disagree on the Biblical mandate interpretation?) If you are doing good (helping the widows and orphans of the world – James 1:27) yet doing so in the name of another god – does that make the act evil? George Bush had no problem calling the terrorist activity of the Middle East evil – was he right? – Obama has avoided all such rhetoric is he wrong? – recently he addressed ISIS as cancer, while John Kerry is not so subtle – he spoke up to call them the face of Evil.
So was ISIS evil 6 months ago – or is it only evil when they act out to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10) What about a man who rapes ? Is he Evil? What about a man who looks at Porn? Evil?
What about a woman who gossips, back stab’s or manipulates? Is she Evil? What about a woman who posses for porn – is she evil? merely lost? Lacking a true identity? Or what about the one who enslaves her? Evil?
What about a child who has been forced by circumstance to steal for food and kills to survive? Evil? Or is the circumstance evil? Or are the absent parents evil?
I raise these questions to get us to think about how do you decide if something or someone is evil, and conversely what about if something or someone is good? What do you do that is good? And what makes that act good? What if we do an action with the intention of it being good, but in the end it does harm? The elders, chief priest and teachers of the law were the ones doing “good”, but also the ones who were going to kill Jesus… does that make them evil, or again just the act they performed is evil?
Paul calls us this week to hate evil and cling to good, further to overcome evil with good. Therefore we must be able to not only know the difference between the good and evil, but also how to engage and interact between them. The list of Romans 12 explains the steps of living loved (humility) and loving life (hospitality). Verses 9 – 16 highlight our interactions with those who we share fellowship of the gospel, while 17-21 speak to the reality that no everyone shares in the fellowship of the gospel. I wish I was going to be able to give you an more clear answer –but it may just have to be enough that the true measure of your goodness is found in your humility and hospitality.
This concept of identifying evil gets even more tricky when you enter in the Gospel passage of Peter rebuking Jesus out of pride and arrogance. (1 John 2:15-17) Peter passed the test last week (Matt:16:15-16) but he failed the temptation this week. (Adam as well passed the test and failed the temptation, here Moses is clearly struggling with the test). In light of Peter’s rebuke (a failed temptation) Jesus addresses Peter as if he were Satan – the very presence of evil. For that is exactly who Satan is –the master of evil who had moved against Jesus and Peter had played the part of the vessel. What does this say about the questions I asked above? Is the man, woman or child evil or is it actions that they take? Are the actions evil or is it only the source of power by which they move and dedicate their movements. I have elsewhere written of the difference between sinners, fools and evil people as well as the difference between tests & temptations. Here the question is how to identify evil, so that we can overcome evil with good. What is the good that those around the globe can engage for those who are fleeing for their lives– the Muslims, Yazidis and Christians…. The problem is that we are faced with the temptation to divert our efforts & energies elsewhere.
The thrust of this post is not intended to be political or to solve the crisis of the Middle East, much rather to ask us to address the realities of evil in our neighborhoods and in our own very lives. (Can you say Ferguson? Do I dare ask where the evil lies there….?)
Jesus gives us the insight he gained from being confronted by evil through the temptations of Satan in the wilderness. (Matt4:1-11)
- Temptation 1 – Satan says, “Turn Stones into Bread”. Jesus overcomes, saying, “ feed only on the Word of God”. To the disciples Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Evil will fill your flesh, but it will not satisfy your heart.
- Temptation 2 – Satan says, “Throw yourself from the Temple”. Jesus overcomes saying, “don’t put the Lord to the Test”. To the disciples Jesus says, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their live for me will find it.” Evil will promise you greatness, but it will leave you empty handed.
- Temptation 3 – Satan says, “Bow down and I will give you the kingdoms of the earth”, Jesus overcomes saying ,“worship the LORD only”. To the disciples Jesus says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Evil will re-direct your worship, and in doing so it thwarts the will of God.
To be tempted is not sin. Temptation is the way of the enemy. The renewing of our mind helps us to see temptation for what it really is – an invitation to engage in sin.
For us, Evil is not to be feared or retaliated against, nor shall we find ourselves conversely embracing evil, for each of these is sin. Evil ought to repulse you, but not repel you. For if you are repelled by evil then there is no way in which you can overcome evil with good. Evil has no power over you. (1 John 4:4) Prior to the burning bush, Moses had run from evil in Egypt, I believe God is calling Moses back to confront the evil from which he ran with good. When we turn away from evil –it spreads, when we call evil – for what it is –we must overcome it with good.
Therefore how do we know evil when we see it – the only answer I can thoroughly defend is discernment & wisdom– both of which are gifts of the Holy Spirit. If breaking a law is evil – then Esther – Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr. are evil…. This is not so! If Killing is evil – then God is evil and this is not so…
God is Love and we are called to sincerely Love without hypocrisy. This love must come from deep within at the core of this is our Identity and behind our Identity is the act of Revelation leading to Reconciliation. (read the 4 posts leading up to this one…)
The like between Reconciliation is Identity is how you see your self – “Who am I?” as well as how you see God and others– “Who are you?” These are both questions Moses poses to God at the burning bush. He is wrestling with the very questions I am posing here! How do I know what do to? What is evil? What is good? Moses was raised, cared for, and valued by the very system that now he sees as evil – does that make him evil?
These are hard questions (hence the long post) But returning up to the theme of last week – Worship – notice what God tells Moses will be the sign that God has sent him. Moses will worship! To be in worship is to align yourself with the will of God. Therefore to not be in worship is to either be moving against God’s will or at least stagnate in the process. Therefore let us return to Paul in Romans 12– Humility & Hospitality are how to move everyday of your lives in worship. Character is at the center of both Hospitality and Humility.
Hospitality welcomes another into your place. (how else can good overcome evil) Humility demonstrates you are aware of your place without a need to advance or take another’s place. (when we have a conquer mentality, rather than knowing that we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. (Romans 8:37) Humility is not thinking less about yourself, it is thinking about yourself less. (therefore there is no fear) If you practice Hospitality without Humility – when you are welcoming others – you will defend your place or try to find your place at the same time. (therefore there is not a need to declare what is evil, rather move in worship doing good.) If you practice Humility without Hospitality, then you greatly decrease your chances of Credibility (read here to connect Character & Credibility).
To SUM it all up: Evil exists and the Evil one is the Enemy. (Eph. 6:11-12, Matt 6:13) We must focus our attention on being in alignment with the King and his Kingdom.(Col. 1:10-14) When we focus our attention to diagnosing what is evil, we are eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Life is available for us only through the power of the Holy Spirit and there is no good outside of what is given to us by God.(James 1:16-21)