Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Location of Evil

It's been dawning on me of late that we live in a world that teaches us to always locate evil outside of ourselves. This is manifest in the blame culture, the demonization of certain people groups and sub-cultures and the blatant hypocrisy of mass media. And this isn't just a problem that resides in secular society, the church is equally possessing of this worldview. We have a particularly effective way of ensuring we are not troubled by the thought that something within us may be wrong. Religious imagination weaves a spell constructing a Satan with powers out of all proportion with the character described in the pages of scripture. He is omnipresent, he knows our thoughts, he afflicts us with sicknesses of body, mind and spirit. Before long we actually begin to shift our focus away from the author and perfecter of our faith and begin addressing our prayers to this imposter - beckoning him nearer by the volume of our declarations that he must flee.
It is two millenia since the Master first warned us that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean, rather 'all these evils come from inside' (see Mark 7). Why then do we still fail to allow the transformational potential of these words to affect our discipleship? Are we so blinkered by pride that we fail to see that the seeds of every human evil lie dormant below the carefully raked topsoil of our hearts. I hope not but fear so. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect every believer to walk around in a state of permanent shame and unworthiness, I just want to hear less blaming of the devil for issues that are self-generated and need dealing with honestly in the privacy of the 'secret place'.

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1 comment:

Matt Valler said...

Matt, great to meet you today. Great blog. Been reading several posts.

Was thinking about this issue of evil after we talked about it earlier. You used the analogy of a toy train and carriage, linked by little magnets. If you get the carriage round the wrong way it gets repelled from the train. Similarly, it's hard to hold our genuine goodness, reflecting God's image together with our broken sinfulness and our part in evil. They often become two mutually opposing ideas; modes that we live in, either 'good' or 'bad'.

When trying to fathom evil, people have often said that evil really is good gone bad. And I guess that is maybe what the story of the garden of Eden suggests. I wonder if that helps us flip the carriage to get a joined-up approach. I need to be given a sense of potential: that to say there is evil in me does not mean I am trapped as I am, or that I am evil. My life isn't as it could be, but there is something to aspire towards, and in Jesus and the church, someone(s) to help me reach it. No lost causes here; just hopefuls.

Just some thoughts.