Evil and Satan
Christian belief holds that Satan exists and can influence our lives and actions.
Satan acts as leader of the fallen angels, opposed to God. "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." -1 John 4:8. If God is Love then Satan opposes love.
The opposite of love is hate, which gives rise to evil.
We saw evil at work in the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last month. We saw evil in action in New Town, Boston, Aurora, Tuscon and Fort Hood. A school, a theater, a famous road race, an Army post and now a church. Not just any church, but one in our own neighborhood. We grieve with those who lost loved ones and pray with a congregation and a community who will endure this horror for the rest of their lives.
We search for answers: gun control, mental health counseling and increased security. And the removal of a flag from a state capitol. Simon and Garfunkel sang, "A nation turns its lonely eyes to you". They were talking about Joe Dimaggio, but we are definitely a nation desperate for answers, maybe even the return of Jolting Joe. We are in a cultural meltdown. The family unit is suffering, cities are disintegrating, our people are divided. We call for laws to stamp out hatred. But hatred is not a crime. If it were, we would run out of jail space in a hurry. Racism is not a crime. It can surely give rise to discrimination, which at least in some instances is punishable by law. So the law has its limits. Racism and hatred must be overcome by a Higher Law.
No one believes that a flag caused Dylann Roof to break bad. But we took down the Confederate battle flag because it is a reminder of a bygone era that included slavery and bigotry. How will we honor the 300,000 Confederate soldiers who lost their lives in the war? A generation of young men lost forever. They were mostly dirt farmers scratching out a living for their families. Their grandfathers fought the British for our freedom. Those who made it back from the war came home to nothing. Crops and livestock had been confiscated, houses burned, families scattered and their precious land lost to increased taxes imposed by the new government.They lost everything, but they didn't lose slaves as only 6% of Southerners owned them, mostly wealthy planters. Now they have lost their place in history.
We have other reminders of the war all around us: Fort Sumter, Gettysburg, Antietam, Chickamauga, Shiloh. Close these parks down? Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. Jefferson had a love child with a slave girl. Take down the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial? General Grant owned a slave and General Sherman is thought to have rented one. The North owned the slave boats, along with the
British, Belgians and French. One British boat captain was John Newton, who thankfully repented of his sin and wrote our most famous hymn, Amazing Grace. Don't forget the African lords who sold their people into slavery. But why study history? It's such a bother. Just rewrite it. The song ended 150 years ago but the melody lingers on. Only this melody has no harmony to accompany it. Now we have another group who wished only to honor their ancestors labeled with the scarlet letter of shame.
Satan and Christianity
So where is Satan with all this? Loving it. Remember he is opposed to God and since God is Love, he is opposed to love. He wants division and hatred among the people. The stronger the division the better, but he'll take whatever he can get. Even the smallest, mildest thought or impulse takes the person farther away from God.
Where is Christianity? We are a nation of laws. We need laws and governments for protection and to provide justice and fairness in our dealings with each other. But there is no law that says you have to love one another. Love is not a legal term. Racism is not a failure of laws, but a failure to love. Christianity is uniquely positioned to fill this void. Jesus' first commandment is to love God. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. What's more, we are to love our enemies! Do good to those who persecute us! Forgive those who sin against us. Overcome evil with good. No other religion even comes close. "Love is the strongest force in the world - stronger than armies and dictators, stronger than evil, stronger than pain."- Ralph Wilson, from our Bible study.
Somewhere Christianity got off message. It is not seen as a force for love in this country. Not many people could recite Jesus' two commandments and that includes Christians. Christianity is becoming less relevant in our lives. God has been kicked out of the public schools and off the public square. People don't trust Christianity anymore than they trust the government to solve our social problems. The biggest news about Christianity these days is how we are persecuted abroad and losing membership at home and that the Pope has come out against global warming. Turning to God to get us out of this quagmire is not high on the list for the American people.
It is right for Chistians to recognize the presence of Satan, but wrong to dwell on it. It distracts us from loving God and loving our neighbor. We are caught up in divisions, judgments, even petty bickering. Or we are preaching hellfire and damnation and about living a puritanical, stainless life. Jesus spent 40 days with Satan and that was enough for him. He spent the rest of his time healing, helping others, training his disciples to do the same and going places that we wouldn't go on a bet. Maybe we should talk less about Jesus' divinity and more about his humanity. How he lived his life here on Earth. His kindness. His tolerance. Maybe we should stop measuring goodness by what we don't do, by what we deny ourselves, by whom we exclude. Maybe we measure our goodness by what we embrace, what we create and whom we include. Maybe then the nation will turn its lonely eyes to God.