Saturday, October 03, 2009

Big Ones and Little Ones

Following on from yesterday’s bit about the super vacuum cleaner it also reminded me of a thought process that I was considering earlier this week. The link will become clear soon, follow the thread and you should get the jumper at the end of it. (You’ll need the jumper – it’s nearly winter!)

A dear friend of mine (ah ha, back to that one again, but it’s all about relationships right?) sent a prayer request on a pressing issue and that triggered an immediate response of mine which had all the right words of piety in it. The text ended with me riffing off the top of my head (reads better than following the leading of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t it?) and stating the same words that Paul uses in Romans 12:21 – Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. As ever it’s well worth checking the context of the verse as will become clear.

As I hit the send button on the text I actually started thinking again about the nature of evil. What is it? Is there a difference between evil, ungodly and wrong? Is there a difference between evil and ungodly? What is it?

The thought lingered with me throughout Monday and led to an engrossing conversation I had with another dear friend of mine. (That’s four different dear friends, if you’ve been counting from yesterday. Here I was thinking I didn’t have any!) I was talking with her about the nature of evil and what it is and we went up and down life experiences, general reasoning and scriptural support for the various positions being put across. She was a tremendous help in giving a different angle on what I was thinking about. Sadly, however, she failed to convince me of a growing conviction I have about the nature of evil. That is this: evil is that which goes against God.

Now in case you think my dear friend was refuting that, I quickly add, that’s not the contention I put to her. The far reaching consequences of that, however, will see God describing things as evil that we wouldn’t. I mean let’s face it, when the word evil is mentioned we have certain images, behaviours and accompanying words that spring to mind. To bring it across these are usually linked to graphic, horrific and physically moving definitions. You can fill in the gaps with your own views of evil, I won’t list them here. My friend was helpful here by giving a definition of evil as the extreme opposite of good. That definition is supported as you’ll notice by a deduction of that Romans 12:21 trip which gives us the two battling sides. Now by ‘battling’, I’m being a bit naughty, I know, for how can evil even think it has a chance against good, when it always wins? Oh yeah, it always wins – not all experiences may give that impression, but the entire tapestry of history at the end will show who wins and it be not evil, and evil be trounced good and proper by … errr … good.

So having that definition in mind, it should help us further to see what God would consider evil – apparently when we play favourites and discriminate on material basis, that’s evil. Don’t take my word for it – read James 2:4 for yourself. Now come on, the reasonable thinker will think, we’re hardly calling that an atrocity. That’s hardly something to be considered by the term ‘evil’. Bad, sure. Socially unacceptable, fine – but evil? That’s taking it a bit far isn’t it? Well evidently if Jesus is to be taken seriously, we’re actually not taking it far enough, because the whole deal of the Sermon on the Mount is about Jesus highlighting just what evil looks like when He riffs out the clarity of what we’ve heard it said and what he says to us. Calling someone a fool isn’t just naughty or ill-considered. Fantasising sexual encounters with one who is not your spouse is not just harmless play.

What’s my point? What does that have to do with the vacuum cleaner? Well we have this tendency of establishing big sins and little sins. We safely categorise deeds as being little white ones or dark, nasty, ugly ones. As we do this we fail to realise that these little white ones (which are not that clean) get embedded into our psyche, a psyche that’s already in need of re-wiring. Then the little ones become engrained and before you know it, while you’re looking to demolish the ‘big ones’ the little ones have such a hold on you that you can be justly accused of the very things that God Himself considers to be evil. As I said, don’t just take my word for it – check the book for yourself. As these little ones remain a part of the system, unseen and unconsidered just like our vacuum cleaning experience of yesterday, we will miss it and suffer for it.

Therein lies the problem of sin – it’s not just the big, obvious, blatant, stomach-churning ones, it’s the little ones that don’t even get so much as a slap on the wrists. It’s the little ones that even get promoted as positive values to pursue by various outlets. It’s the little ones that are passed on in playgrounds, offices, churches, leisure centres and homes from mouth to ear, heart to heart and perpetuated with no realisation and thus no repentance. Yeah, sure fight the major injustices, but unravelling that thread will show just how interconnected that is to those small ones that tend to go unnoticed. Not only will they need to be exposed for what they are, but they will need to be dealt with. There is only one Man for that job.

For His Name's Sake



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