Understanding evil and its influence on our faith journey.
As part of our faith journey, we think of God and all His goodness, we think of His infinite love, grace, mercy, peace, and creation. Our faith journey calls us to learn about God through the teachings of Jesus Christ. We find encouragement through Christ’s promise to us that someday we will shed this place of sorrows and realize the full scope of God’s love. But for now, in this place where sin surrounds us, we sometimes feel helpless to continue on with our faith journey. We hear the words whispered in our ears every so often: “Toss Christ off your back and your life will be more enjoyable.” And so we’re tempted to give up as we weave our way down a faith road that seems difficult to travel. But there is hope. Do not give up. God provides us the tools to stand firm and it is through the understanding of God’s words that we receive the strength to continue onward, even in the most difficult times.
One of the ways we can stand firm is to understand what evil is and how it begins to overtake us. Jesus touches on the topic of evil and its influence on our faith journey in the following verses:
Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
In Matthew 8:23-27 above, we see how the disciples were relaxed in their boat with no sense of urgency. And when a storm came along that challenged their faith, they were not prepared, they were fearful and their faith faltered. Had the disciples been more diligent regarding their faith, as God commands us all to be, their fear would have been replaced with confidence, their faith would have remained solid, and they would have been able to rebuke the waves themselves. An army of soldiers which is comfortable and complacent is an army that is ill-prepared for difficult times. Matthew 8:24 says, “And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves.” In this verse, the sea represents our life on earth, the boat represents our faith journey, and the strong storm represents sin which stirs up our lives and begins to overtake us. A broken marriage, adultery, a friend’s betrayal, an addiction, a child who abandons us, these are all things that stir up trouble in our lives which cause us to question our faith. In the story above (Matthew 8:23-27), we are reminded to be prepared in our lives for these troubled-times, so that we will remain strong.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
Once again, God is warning us to be prepared for battles against evil. In Ephesians 6:10-13 above, these verses contain a more stern and direct warning to us. These verses are truly warning us about the real battle that rages around us, and to whom the battle is against. God is telling us, in no uncertain terms, to strengthen our faith. God says we will need His armor; His protection to stand firm. To fully grasp why God is warning us, we must learn about another realm which is not of God. This other realm is evil and we need to be aware of it. It’s difficult to think of evil because we think doing so is negative and therefore it has no justification for our time as a Christian. We take comfort in looking the other way when the topic of evil arises. It is as if that by ignoring evil, we feel we can cause evil to go away; but this is not true. We are not called to avoid the consideration of evil, or doubt the existence of evil, or limit our thoughts of evil into a hidden corner of our mind. Nor should we be mislead to believe evil is simply a negative human action which can be controlled. Yes, it is distressful to think of evil, and it is tempting to ignore the thought of evil because, understandably so, we only want to concentrate on the goodness of our God and the goodness of our lives. However, and I say with confidence, just as we are called to acknowledge the fullness of God, we must also acknowledge the fullness of evil. Jesus speaks about evil, and we are warned about it; so therefore we are called by God to acknowledge evil as well.
We tend to think evil is the same as human sinfulness, this is not true. Killing, murder, lust, lies, and hate, yes these are terrible actions which cause great pain and suffering; however, just as humans are incapable of reflecting the fullness of God through our human love, humans are also incapable of expressing the full depravity of evil through the most sinful actions. Our sinful actions are not the epitome of evil, for if we were evil, then Christ would have already condemned us. Evil is separate from us. Evil entices the flesh and blood, you and me, to carry out sinful actions with warped human pleasure as our reward. In Ephesians 6:12 above, we are taught that we are not to wrestle against human flesh and blood, but instead, “…against spiritual hosts of wickedness“. In this verse, God is communicating to us that the battle is not against each other, not against ourselves, but instead, it is against evil itself.
God is Love. Evil is hate. Evil is Jesus’s adversary, evil is endless, evil is infinite, evil is hideous on a scale our human mind cannot comprehend. A faint glimpse of evil will create an endless amount of nightmares that do not end. When a man walks into a school building full of children and mercilessly kills all he can, our minds become numb as we try to comprehend the underlying motivation. We ask ourselves, “Why did this person do this?” and our mind cannot absorb any attempt of a rational answer; as if there were a rational answer to be found. So therefore, if we cannot comprehend the human action itself, how much more dreadful is evil which influences the action.
“This he said, not that he [Judas Iscariot, a disciple of Jesus] cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.”
Judas Iscariot’s life is a clear sign to be diligent to how evil starts with subtle influences on our lives. In John 12:6 above, we see how evil had a subtle influence on Judas’s life. And in the verses below, we see how these subtle influences eventually led to Judas making a pact with evil; thereby causing God to remove His protection from around Judas.
“Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”
“But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?””
“Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
Judas committed the most significant act of sin by betraying the one who came to save man. Judas made a fateful final decision to serve evil, and so God removed His protection from around Judas and the gates of Hell opened and evil began to flow into the mind of Judas. Judas warranted his reward with a simple kiss. As Judas received his taste of evil in his human mind, he became out of his mind. His human mind could not absorb even the smallest comprehension of evil. He could not limit his perception of evil as it flooded into his mind and it drove him mad. Even though Judas was not physically dead, he saw the results of his final judgement. Judas screamed out in madness. He shouted out to the world to not be in the place he was beginning to perceive. He shouted from the grave while he was alive, and no others have been able to do so before or since. Because of his human madness, Judas was able to end his own human life, but we need to ponder with great urgency that, unlike our physical life, our soul goes on as a thousand years. So we must decide whether we are to have a final life in the company of all that is love, or a final death in the company of all that is evil. I beg you my brothers and sisters in Christ; heed the warning of Judas. We are to increase our awareness of evil and its influence on our lives so that we will remain steadfast in our faith and under the protection of God.
When we see evil’s influence, we are to rebuke evil. We are not to hate those that hate, for hating is the calling card of evil. To hate those that hate causes evil to spread. To battle against evil and its influence over the flesh and blood, we are to honor the teachings of Christ. In Leviticus 19:17 it is written: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” We are under no authority by God to judge another soul; so we are not to hate another soul. We are to rebuke the evil which influences the soul, just as Jesus did when He was awoken by the disciples and rebuked the storm.
We are warned to not listen to those who profess Jesus is not real. This is the Antichrist who wants us to reject God because this spirit seeks death for us. This spirit wants us to reject Christ, and therefore, reject life. We are to acknowledge Christ who offers life through God’s love. God then defines love, not as a human feeling, but something much more. God says love comes from Him, and therefore, through the spirit, we share in this power. This power allows us to have life through Christ, the power to hear truth, the power to stand up to the evil one, the power to conquer spiritual fear, and finally, the power to share life itself with all, even those who we feel are not deserving.
And finally, as God loves us in an instant, God calls you, His good and faithful servant to reach out to others with the same sense of urgent love. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to reach out to all we can in the way our mighty God has taught us to do. We are to reach out to others and guide them towards Life. We are to do so in a compassionate way, but we must be quick in doing so.