“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth
was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a
wind from God swept over the face of the waters. “ Genesis 1:1-2.
”These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were
created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens…”
Two different accounts, two different perspectives. Some scholars today
believe that by presenting two contradictory creation stories, the editors
of Genesis were making it clear that nothing written by humans, even that
which is inspired by the divine, can ever describe divine truth. We simply
don’t have the words or the scope of understanding.
There are many people who believe that the first chapters of Genesis are a
factual account. Ironically, this is a reflection of the scientific nature
of Western culture. Those who reject the scientific view we call
evolution, are themselves reading the Bible from the literal standpoint of
Creation or evolution? Each is told in the language of its time, in
context with prevailing culture, and based upon the body of knowledge
available. Events move quickly in Genesis—or so it seems to the reader.
Evolution occurs over millennia. But God’s time line is not ours; and
God’s methods are impossible for us to comprehend.
Still, in both accounts, the earth is lifeless at first. Then, incredibly,
life! Over time, that life takes many forms, each more complex than the
last. Humankind appears on the scene, and over time, changes. As Cain slew
Abel, so did the first modern humans slay the Neanderthals. Horrific
natural disasters wipe entire species from the planet. Evolution, like
Creation, is a story of trial and error on a divine scale.
God the Creator fashioned an extraordinary planet, God the Creator was the
Divine spark that brought forth life on that planet, and God the Creator
continues to be involved in that creation. Creation and
evolution—perhaps they’re different only in the words people from two
different ages use to describe them. What is extraordinary is how closely
the Story of Creation told by the ancient writers parallels the story of
evolution as modern scientists tell it today.
The true meaning of the Scriptures can’t be found in a literal reading
of the text. Our pitifully inadequate human language is simply not up to
the task of describing God or God’s actions. Sacred Scripture should
inspire us to seek a reality beyond ourselves, truth and beauty and
goodness so awesome we can’t comprehend it, let alone put it into words.
Words can lead us into the presence of God the eternal, but we must allow
them to become more than words. When we read scripture, we need to stop
thinking like scientists. We need to seek the true meaning beyond the
How long has it been since you’ve read The Book of Genesis?
Two Greatest Commandments – Part I
In Matthew 22:34-40, when one of the Pharisees, a lawyer, tests Jesus by
asking him which commandment in the law is the greatest, Jesus responds,
“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all
your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first
commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as
yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the
This second of the greatest of God’s commandments may be the most
difficult of all for most of us to follow. Certainly the state of our
world today – not so different from our history – is overwhelming
evidence that God’s children don’t play well together.
From one end of the scale to the other, from petty acts of spite to world
war, we are always finding ways to avoid, disrespect, neglect, injure, put
down, label, maim, fear, hate, kill our fellow human beings. Sadly, we
learn how to do these things at an early age. The accepting innocence of
childhood, the Eden occupied by those too young to know how to be uncaring
and cruel, has a short life. How quickly we become preoccupied with
separating ourselves from those people we perceive as “different”.
But think—aren’t we all “different” or strange to someone,
somewhere? Just as we judge others, they in their turn judge us. Just as
we label others, they in their turn label us. We are all “different”
to each other. But not to God. In God’s eyes, we are one. We are God’s
children, created in God’s own image. Every time we mock another person,
every time we injure someone, emotionally or physically, every time we
lower ourselves to violence, we commit an act against God.
Christians have been and continue to be right in the thick of this
arrogant and dangerous disregard for the first and second greatest
commandments. Christians gave us the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials,
the destruction of entire peoples and cultures in the New World. In
Ireland, Protestants and Catholics kill one another—in the name of
religion. Various hate groups call themselves Christians in the same
breath they espouse the ugliest forms of racism and bigotry. Christians
have earned a reputation for a self-righteous, intolerant, unforgiving
attitude toward the rest of God’s children. Can we honestly say that, in
some respects, this reputation isn’t well-deserved?
In Galatians 3:28 Paul tells us, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there
is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of
you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Similar messages are found throughout Galatians: 5:13-14; 5:22-23;
6:7. But the most powerful message of all comes from Jesus himself, who
taught not by words alone, but by his every action. Jesus, indeed,
practiced what he preached! Can we say the same for ourselves?
As we approach Easter, perhaps it’s time to re-discover the message of
the Gospels. Perhaps it’s time to die to our old selves, so that we can
be re-born with a new attitude, more in keeping with the greatest of
God’s commandments. Like the disciples, we won’t get it right the
first time, or even the second, but we can view each new day, each
re-birth, as a new opportunity to give it our best. As Christians, we who
have presumed to take the name of the one who loved so deeply, so
perfectly, he died for our sins, can we do anything else?
In Part II, we’ll take a closer look at some of the Scriptural
references to Christ’s message of love, acceptance and forgiveness.
Two Greatest Commandments – Part II
Jesus taught in many ways, by preaching, by using parables, but above all
else, Jesus taught by example. He didn’t say one thing and do another;
he actually lived – and died -- what he preached.
As we read the Gospels today, it’s important for us to remember the
culture of the time and place in which they were written. In this context,
the example Jesus sets is extraordinary for its radical acceptance of
people of every description. In those days, much of what Jesus said and
did would have been unthinkable. As we follow his ministry, we see that he
spends time with sinners, Gentiles, women, the mentally ill, the diseased,
the deformed, “foreigners”, children, beggars— even his disciples
are often shocked by his actions. And every time, Jesus rebukes The Twelve
for their pettiness, the smallness of their faith and vision.
What, we wonder, would he have to say to us?
In Matthew 15:21-28, a Canaanite woman, a Gentile, speaks to Jesus as the
Jewish Messiah. He says that he has been sent only to the lost sheep of
the house of Israel. But her personal faith in Jesus’ message is so
great that he heals her daughter. Although his mission – to call Jews
back to God – is clear, Jesus shows us by example his willingness to
respond to faith wherever it might be found.
In Mark 5:25-34, Jesus heals a woman who dares to touch his cloak. Not
only has she approached a rabbi in public, she has a “hemorrhage” of
many years; she is therefore ritually unclean. Does Jesus snatch his cloak
away, or chastise her? No. He heals her-- because her faith is so great.
In Mark 10:46-52, the crowd tells a blind beggar, to be quiet when he
calls out to Jesus. Today we would call Bartimaeus a “homeless
person”, or simply a bum, or worse. We, too, would tell him to shut up
and get lost, or ignore him altogether. But Jesus stops, and tells
Bartimaeus that his faith has made him well.
When the “woman who was a sinner” enters the Pharisee’s house where
Jesus is eating in Luke 7:36-50 and bathes his feet with her tears, dries
them with her hair and anoints them with ointment, Jesus’ host says to
himself that if Jesus is a true prophet, he would know what kind of woman
was touching him. Jesus responds with a parable, and then rebukes the
Pharisee, who has shown no such courtesy to his guest.
“Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been
forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is
forgiven, love little.”
We see another example of forgiveness for past sins in John 7.53-8.11, the
familiar story in which Jesus challenges a crowd bent on stoning an
adulteress to death: He tells them, “Let anyone among you who is without
sin be the first to throw a stone at her”. Jesus is soon left alone with
the woman. He tells her he does not condemn her, and to go on her way and
not to sin any more.
Luke 17:11-19, Jesus cleanses 10 lepers, one of them a Gentile
“foreigner”. In those days, lepers were feared and hated– they were,
in fact, treated like lepers. But Jesus extends his acceptance and love
even to the “foreigner” among them. Throughout the Gospels, we also
see Jesus driving demons from the “possessed”, people we recognize as
suffering from severe mental illness. One of the most dramatic examples is
found in Mark 5:1-13, in which Jesus heals the demoniac of Gerasenes.
How do we treat those among us who are diseased or physically imperfect,
foreign, or simply different? Do we judge them by their behavior,
condition or appearance; treat them with fear, hate and distrust? Or do we
treat them as Jesus did, with love and acceptance?
In Jesus’ time, Rabbis avoided speaking to a woman in public (note the
disciples’ astonishment), but in John 4:7-30, Jesus has an extended and
serious conversation with a woman about salvation. The woman is also a
Samaritan, a people the Jews held in contempt, and, after five marriages,
lives with a man who isn’t her husband. Still, not only does Jesus talk
with her, he identifies himself to her as the Messiah! She then goes on to
testify to other Samaritans who come to listen to Jesus themselves, and
accept him as their Savior.
Finally, Jesus sets the ultimate example. In spite of our flaws, his love
for us was so great he died for it.
of Magdala – Part I
“There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary
Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and
Salome. These used to follow him [Jesus] and provided for him when he was
in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to
Jerusalem.” Mark 15:40-41.
The Book of Mark is generally recognized as the earliest of the four
Gospels, and it’s here, at the end of Christ’s life on earth that Mary
Magdalene is first referred to by name. It is Mary Magdalene and Mary the
mother of Joses who see where the body of Jesus is laid, and when the
Sabbath is over, it is Mary Magdalene, this time with Mary the mother of
James, and Salome, who bring spices to anoint Jesus’ body in accordance
with Jewish tradition.
The women wonder who’s going to roll the heavy stone away from the
entrance of the tomb, but when they arrive, they find the stone has
already been rolled back. “As they entered the tomb, they saw a young
man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were
alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for
Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.
Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and
Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him,
just as he told you.” Mark 16:5-7.
The story of the events after the crucifixion is essentially the same,
with minor variations, in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. The same
women are present, with Mary Magdalene common to all three. In Mark and
Luke the women go to the tomb to anoint the body; in Matthew they simply
visit the tomb. In Mark, Mary Magdalene alone sees the risen Christ; in
Matthew, Mary Magdalene and the “other Mary” return to the disciples
and meet Christ on the road; in Luke, the women tell the disciples what
they’ve seen and (in all three cases) are scoffed at for telling idle
The Gospel of John is different. The women who watch from afar are gone.
In John 19:25, John states, “Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus
were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and
Mary Magdalene”. It is Mary Magdalene alone who discovers the empty tomb
and runs to tell two of the disciples, who race to the tomb to verify her
discovery. The disciples return home, but Mary stays. Peering once again
into the empty tomb, she sees two angels who ask her why she’s weeping.
She tells them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know
where they have laid him”.
When she turns away, the moving and dramatic story of her recognition of
Jesus in the garden unfolds. Calling him Rabboni, a term usually reserved
for God, she attempts to embrace Jesus, but he tells her, “Do not hold
on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.” Mary then
follows Jesus’ instructions to go to the disciples: “Mary Magdalene
went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she
told them that he had said these things her”. John 20:18
In John, Mary Magdalene is clearly described as the first witness to the
Empty Tomb and the Risen Christ, the cornerstone of Christian belief. As
the first recipient of an apostolic commission -- from Jesus himself --
she becomes the first Apostle.
How and why did Mary of Magdala, first Apostle, become the “reformed
prostitute” of the Christian religion? We’ll look at the answers to
that question in Part II.
of Magdala – Part II
”The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of
evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven
demons had gone out…and many others.” Luke 8:2
The other reference to Mary Magdalene’s “seven demons” occurs in
Mark 16:9. She is never referred to as a sinner, prostitute or harlot. She
is one of many people in the New Testament, male and female, young and
old, from whom devils or demons are cast out. In not one of these cases is
the “unclean spirit” sinful or sexual in nature. These
“possessions” were most likely seizures or psychological disorders.
Mary also had the misfortune of coming from el Majdel, a prosperous
fishing village on the lake of Galilee notorious for its excesses;
however, this doesn’t automatically make her a sinner any more than it
would a resident of one of today’s cities known for its excesses.
Neither is there any evidence in Luke 8:2-3 linking Mary Magdalene to the
“sinner” mentioned in previous verses. She is simply described as one
of the women traveling with Jesus and the disciples “…who provided for
them out of their own resources.”
This would seem to describe a patron of the Jesus movement, not a
From this handful of references in the Gospels grew the Mary Magdalene of
myth and doctrine. Over the next two thousand years, she would be whatever
the times demanded she be, defined by men and women alike to suit their
own needs, both personal and institutional. But the role assigned to her
by the leadership of the early Roman Church is the one that remains with
her today, the role of repentant whore. How and why this happened is as
complex as the relationship between religion, politics and power.
Within a few generations of Christ’s death, the orthodox Church declared
it was Simon Peter to whom Christ first appeared. The cornerstone for the
apostolic succession and male authority within the Church had been laid.
In spite of the example of Jesus’ radically enlightened treatment of
women, and the virtually co-equal role women played in the early days of
Christianity, the Church quickly reverted to the patriarchy of the
By A.D. 200 Christianity was headed by a hierarchy of bishops, priests and
deacons who considered themselves the guardians of the “one true
faith.” This catholic (universal) church gained military support after
Emperor Constantine became a Christian in the 4th century. The efforts of
this empowered majority to destroy every trace of the early Christian
writings they considered heretical and to attempt to suppress them even
into the 20th century were highly successful. The New Testament
we know today is a very small set of writings selected and arranged by
Bishops at the direction of the Church of Rome that only those writings
supporting the apostolic chain of authority from Jesus to the Apostles to
the Bishops could form part of the scriptural canon.
Among the writings that disappeared were the Gnostic gospels, many of
which, including the Gospel of Mary, feature Mary Magdalene as a central
figure, often with a closer relationship to Jesus than that enjoyed by the
twelve male disciples. When these texts vanished, so too did the Mary
Magdalene who was chief disciple and “companion of the Savior”. As
time went on, many of the leaders of the now celibate Catholic Church came
to view women not only as inferior to men, but also as dangerous sexual
creatures to be feared and hated. There could be no role in this Church
for a First Apostle who not only represented a challenge to the very
foundation of its considerable power, but who was female in the bargain.
Because she couldn’t be ignored entirely, Mary Magdalene was
deliberately re-cast as the redeemed whore, a symbol of repentance. It is
a label that sticks to this day. It is also a label without scriptural
basis. As we approach Easter, perhaps its time to take a new, fresh look
at Mary of Magdala.
Jesus Movement (The Divided Church)
The first followers of Jesus were not Christians. The evidence tells us
that Jesus, like his followers, was a devout Jew. He was a gifted teacher
and healer. Many believed that he was the Messiah. It wasn’t until after
his death that some of his followers decided he was divine, that is, that
he was the Son of God, but the doctrine that Jesus had been God in human
form didn’t become final until the fourth century.
There is nothing to indicate that Jesus intended to found a new religion.
In the beginning, while Jesus was still alive, there were differences
among his followers, just as there are differences of opinion between
people today. But they were all followers of Jesus. This evolved into a
“Jesus movement”, which itself evolved into what one scholar calls
“the Christ congregation”.
“One of the scribes…asked him, “Which commandment is the first of
all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our
God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your
strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as
yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
About two years after the death of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, who had been a
Pharisee until his conversion, began to preach that Christ had died for
our sins, and was resurrected. Paul also saw himself as an Apostle to
non-Jews. The idea of conversion as a personal transformation also came
out of the Christ congregation, as did many other concepts that are unique
to Christianity. In fact, Paul is considered the creator of Christianity
as a religion.
Paul’s ideas were radical. Although there were already many varieties of
the Christian experiment, the biggest split, one of many hundreds to come
in the future of Christianity, was between Jewish Christianity, with its
roots in the Jesus traditions, and led by Jesus’ brother James; and
Paul’s Christ congregation, with its appeal to non-Jews and based on the
shocking idea that Jesus had been resurrected.
is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no
longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
This early split set the pattern for the next two thousand years.
Christianity would divide itself again and again over everything from
theological and philosophical arguments to issues of property and
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one
hope of your calling, one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, one God and Father
of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
By 235 Christians were speaking of a Great Church with a single rule of
faith. It began to appeal to a broad cross-section of people, including
the brilliant Greek and Roman thinkers of the time; women; and pagans. To
survive, the Church built a masterpiece of organization run by efficient
bureaucrats. In 313, Christianity became a legal religion within the Roman
Empire with the conversion of Emperor Constantine. When Constantine
declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380,
the Church and the men who controlled it began to amass property, wealth,
As the Church grew, so did its lack of tolerance for the views and
practices of others. The adoption of so-called “correct” symbols and
rituals became mandatory. The Church became obsessed with doctrine,
symbols, laws and rituals rather than with the divine. Fourth century
theologians began to develop the concepts of the Holy Spirit and the
Trinity. The Latin theologian and philosopher Augustine (354-430) ,
founder of the spirit of Western Christianity, defined the Trinity and
described the terrible God of the fall of Adam. The Christianity the
Romans called “a religion of women” began to reflect the contempt and
hatred its leaders had for the female gender.
“He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as
it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts
are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as
doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human
tradition. Jesus in Mark
The Church split into the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic
Church around 1054. The Western Church favored a strong central church,
while the Eastern Church accepted a looser alliance.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members
of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” 1
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the cults of Mary and of the
saints reached a peak. Relics and holy places were all the rage. Western
Christians saw Satan everywhere. The Roman Church had become corrupt. The
printing press had been invented. This was the Renaissance, the dawn of
the Scientific Age and the birth of capitalism. People began to see
themselves as individuals who could think for themselves. The time was
ripe for yet another division within the Church, and this time it would be
explosive. The after-shocks still rock us to this day.
The Reformation split Europe into Catholic and Protestant churches. Martin
Luther, a German Catholic broke with the Catholic Church in 1517 over
issues of religious doctrine. Luther was the first “protestant”, but
it wasn’t long before the Protestants themselves began to splinter into
sects and denominations. A Swiss, John Calvin, established an
international denomination that inspired the Puritan revolution in England
and the colonization of America. Calvanism shaped the very soul of America
– the Puritan work ethic, and conviction that theirs is somehow a
favored nation. The Reformed and Presbyterian Churches were born of the
teachings of Calvin and John Knox.
“…But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the
inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the
members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all
suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together
with it.” 1 Corinthians
The English branch of the Catholic Church broke with Rome in 1534 over the
issue of the Pope’s jurisdiction. The Church of England, or Anglicanism
was established with the King, not the Pope, at its head. In America, the Anglican Church would become known as the
In 1738, John Wesley was “born again” – a uniquely Protestant
experience – while attending a meeting in a Moravian chapel. He believed
he had received a direct mission from God to preach this new kind of
Christianity, which stated that religion was an affair of the heart, not
of doctrine. This denomination came to be called Methodist after the
undergraduate society Wesley had founded with his brother at Oxford, a
society that emphasized discipline and method.
The Anabaptists, who were originally rejected by both Catholics and
Protestants, became the forerunners of “Free Churches.” Some believe
the Anabaptists also gave rise to the modern Baptist Church.
Today, as we enter the Third Millennium, there are well over 250 Christian
denominations, despite re-unification efforts by such groups as the World
Council of Churches. Perhaps this is a good time to remember Jesus’
words of warning in Mark 3:24-25: “If
a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a
house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”
versus Evil – Part I
and Part II
For Christians, evil is personified by Satan, or the devil. He’s very
real and he’s always present, ready to sneak up on us at the first
opportunity. The Gospels tell us that the devil tried to tempt Jesus
himself. The devil failed, but notice Luke 4:13, “When the devil had
finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” The
message to Christians is clear: Satan never gives up.
The theme of Good versus Evil has been at the heart of tales told by men
and women for centuries. As modern as we like to think we are, we’re
still fascinated and often inspired by stories of Good triumphing over
Evil. Our popular culture is filled with examples. Stephen King’s book,
The Stand, pits the devil and his minions against God and the faithful.
The movie The Devil’s Advocate, starring Al Pacino as Satan, tells a
frightening tale of temptation. The television series Buffy the Vampire
Slayer, follows Buffy and her mentor and friends as they battle demonic
forces in a small town.
Sometimes it’s easy to tell who’s who in a story. The good guy wears a
white hat, and the bad guy wears a black hat. But the best stories are
more like real life. True evil may be hiding under that white hat.
That’s because Satan is a master of disguise. He’ll use every means
available to draw us in. He may even work through our friends, relatives,
neighbors and co-workers.
It’s Satan’s voice that tells the alcoholic that just one drink to
celebrate can’t hurt. It’s his voice that urges the diabetic to treat
himself to just one piece of cake. His voice that cajoles teens to smoke
or do drugs, because all their friends do. Satan works on the theory of
the slippery slope. If he can persuade us to take that first small step.
his work is almost done. In Matthew 7:13, Jesus warns us to ”Enter
through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that
leads to destruction.”
Satan also works from within each and every one of us. He preys on our
weaknesses, finds our most vulnerable spot. He sows the evil seeds of
self-doubt, self-pity, self-hate. When we hear that recording inside our
head telling us we’re not smart enough, not pretty enough, not strong
enough, that voice that tells us we’re stupid or ugly or worthless,
that’s Satan talking. And he can be mighty persuasive, as King David
learned, when he committed adultery with Uriah’s beautiful wife
Bathsheba, and then sent Uriah to his death as told in 2 Samuel 11:2-26.
Evil is all around us. In Part II, we’ll look at some of the ways
Christians can recognize and deal with it.
versus Evil – Part II
As strange as it may sound, the first thing we all need to do before we
wage war on evil is to know ourselves. With God’s help, we must take an
honest inventory of our strengths and weaknesses. This can be painful, but
it’s absolutely necessary. Jesus tells us why in Mark 7:21-23: “For it
is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come:
fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice (greed), wickedness, deceit,
licentiousness (extravagance), envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil
things come from within.”
If we know our weaknesses, we can be on guard against Satan when he tries
to use them against us. This takes us to the second thing we need to do to
protect ourselves from evil influence. We need to learn to take
responsibility for our own actions. We need to stop making excuses, stop
blaming others; otherwise we’ll never grow into mature Christians. As
Jesus clearly warns us, evil intentions come from within. It’s up to us
to choose whether to give in to temptation or not.
Most of us know when we’ve strayed onto Satan’s slippery slope. We
hear that little voice that tells us we’re wrong. We just choose to
ignore it. We take a few pencils or nails home from work, excusing our
actions by saying we’re not paid enough anyway. We join a gossip
session, or cut other people up, telling ourselves we wouldn’t fit in if
we didn’t. We surf the Web on the job, stealing hours from our employer
because he deserves it. We join our buddies for a drink, and then get into
our cars and drive home, telling ourselves it’s okay, we’ve just had a
In a world becoming numb even to graphic reports of genocide, mass
starvation, and the decimation of entire populations by AIDS and other
diseases, it’s easy to make excuses for own acts of wrongdoing, even the
big ones. They seem so trivial by comparison to what’s going on around
us. And this is exactly what Satan wants us to think. But with each small
transgression, we’ve chosen to listen to the voice of evil that comes
from within. We’ve chosen to let Satan into the house of our hearts.
The third thing we need to do to protect ourselves from evil is to know
the Enemy. Evil is easy to see when it manifests itself on a large scale,
as it did during the Holocaust. It’s easy to see when people give in to
temptation and commit murder, adultery, theft, assault, abuse. But most of
the time, Satan is a master of covert operations, creeping in through the
small cracks of every day life. Listen to the character of Satan in The
Devil’s Advocate when he tells the young attorney that people never see
him coming because he blends in with the crowd. As we learned in Part I,
Satan lurks in the small things. To protect ourselves from his influence,
we need to be honest and see those small acts of wrongdoing for what they
are. We need to heed that little voice telling us we’re wrong.
Most importantly, we need to humble ourselves before God and ask him for
his help. He knows none of us are perfect. He asks only that we depend on
Him. Luke 10:27 instructs us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with
all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
We must live in obedience to God. We must listen to God, and then
obey him. We must do what’s right and keep doing it until Satan lets go.
We must stand fast, no matter what. “Submit
yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from
you.” James 4:7
The rules for us as
Christians in the war against Evil are simple -- “Trust the Lord and do
good” (Psalm 37: 3), but the way can be hard. Jesus knew this. Time and
again, he warned his disciples and those who came to hear him teach that
they would be mocked and even hated for their beliefs. “Blessed are you
when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you and defame you
on account of the Son of Man,” Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 6:22.
As we grow as Christians, we may meet resistance from friends and even
family members. Growth can be painful. We must resist the temptation to
become self-righteous, unforgiving and harsh. Instead, we should lead
others by our example, knowing each of us must find his or her own way, by
choice. Evil can find no foothold when we live in obedience to God, when
we do what we know is right, when we live with joy and celebration in the
fullness of Christian compassion, charity, kindness and love for others.
The way may be hard, but the reward is no less than eternal life!
Originating in the fourth century of the church, the
season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday and climaxing
during Holy Week with Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, and
concluding Saturday before Easter.
Lent is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter.
Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that
occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, and are
referred to as the Sundays in Lent. The number 40 is connected with many
biblical events, but especially with the forty days Jesus spent in the
wilderness preparing for His ministry by facing the temptations that could
lead him to abandon his mission and calling. Christians today use this
period of time for introspection, self examination, and repentance.