As I have done in previous Lents I am sharing a daily reflection as part of my Lenten discipline. This year I am using the “Wilderness Wanderings” theme compiled by the “Lent Photo a Day” group. The word appointed for yesterday was “Evil.”
The Gospel of Matthew features the following version of the Lord’s prayer where Jesus instructs, “Pray then in this way:
‘Our Father in haven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.’ – Matthew 6:9-13, NRSV.
“But rescue us from the evil one.” Jesus follows this up immediately with this teaching, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15, NRSV).
Some people and many Christians believe that there is a great dualism between good and evil. There may well be. For me, I think evil is a direct result of (or in) temptation, sin, and our human lust for power and control. The “evil one,” most often referred to as satan or the devil, is a being that Martin Luther wrote quite a bit about, one that assails you especially in moments of great importance.
For many who regularly worship, you probably heard the first gospel lesson for Lent this year last weekend from Luke 4:1-13, where Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the devil. I find it interesting, that though Jesus takes on the devil alone for forty days and does so “full of the Holy Spirit,” he never ones actually calls the devil evil. I wonder if there is any significance to this? He certainly recognizes the trickery and temptation the devil uses and calls him on it, however.
As I look around the world I see signs of sin and brokenness. I see signs of greed and the opposite of neighbor love. I see signs of fear, and perpetuated systemic sin. If we need a term for this, “evil” might be the right one.
Given the political season that the United States is in currently, I find it interesting that Pope Francis‘ response to a question about Donald Trump, one of the Republican candidates for President, is receiving such a heavy backlash from some Christians and pastors. Father James Martin observes that, and unpacked it well. Including this observation, “Any person who consistently speaks of excluding people, who trumpets his desire to (literally) build more walls between communities, and who manifests a desire to increase division, is not walking the Christian way.” Building walls, excluding people, increasing division… I have a word for that, it could be called sin. These are most certainly signs of systemic sin. Put more bluntly, they could also be called evil.
More personally, this past fall, my brother was walking home with some friends and colleagues. On their way home they were stopped by a police officer, who grabbed their baton and started hitting and beating a young woman because of the color of her skin. My brother, and the others in the group tried to protect this young woman, and they too were hit. This was racism. There was no cause for the attack, they were simply walking home in Minneapolis after a peaceful protest. This attack and police brutality, is also the result of systemic sin. And it can also be appropriately called evil, because of that.
We have a long way to go to combat the evils of this world and society. But the first place to start is to address them head-on, and call them what they are.
What do you think?
Image Credit: Fence