Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Devil in Disguise

I decided not to go in this direction for my sermon, but it was a good page or so of information. If it sparks anything or fires the ole imagination, cheers!

We probably have diverse viewpoints about this figure in our faith tradition. Many of us probably don’t believe that evil has some personification, that perhaps Satan is some psychological projection of the evil inside us. Some of us no doubt believe in a real and tangible Devil who is actively trying to upend God’s designs for the universe. Perhaps you don’t believe in the Devil or even evil as a reality at all, but instead simply consequences for not aligning our will with God’s will.
I’m not sure there are any requirements for orthodoxy on the Devil. We don’t focus our beliefs in that direction. In some ways it really doesn’t matter. We pray to be led not into temptation, but delivered from Evil, but we don’t define what that Evil is like. Satan is a number of things in the Bible—and much of our scriptures were written in a time when the Jewish imagination had not yet conceived of “The Devil.”
But the Devil makes an appearance there in our scripture today. We hear about him and what the early Christian mind thought was his authority. In several places in the New Testament, the Devil, some spirit trapped between heaven and Earth, has jurisdiction over much of the world as we know it. Satan tempts Jesus with the power to rule over the entire earth in a political fashion, much like the people of Israel were expecting the Messiah to do. The Devil takes Jesus up on a high mountain and says to him, “I will give you all their authority and power, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I wish. So if you worship me, it will all be yours." Elsewhere, in 1 John 5:19, we hear “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of Satan.”
This must have been pretty apparent to the early Christian church people, who were hunted down by the authorities and tossed to the lions. It wasn’t hard for them to imagine who was behind it all, pulling the strings—it must’ve been the Adversary. The rulers of the nations seemed to be in collusion with the Evil forces of the Universe. They were to be feared and opposed as diligently as the Devil himself. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world…”
I mention these things today because I believe it is important for us to examine our evolving relationship with Evil. The early church drew the battle lines—it was the Kingdom of Heaven against the Kingdoms of Earth. Have we evolved as a society? Have the Evil forces behind the governments of the world simply evaporated, moved into easier to identify realms? If one judged by the focus of the televangelists and Christian radio wonks, it would seem that Christians believed nowadays that Satan had changed address to Hollywood or the Halls of Science and Jesus himself had taken up residence in Washington!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:10 AM

    What about the Book of Job, where God and the "Adversary" strike a deal to torture Job to test his faith? Does that do nothing to question how good an omnibenevolent diety is? How can a god, with "triple o's" (omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent) ever let evil occur? Free will is one thing in our human lives, but the concept of free will doesn't exist with "triple o's" for a god.