Thursday, 24 March 2011
"There will be plenty of time for opting out of evil once we are in heaven." Well, it's not exactly his words but that was the general idea of what this one particular man said. It's a popular idea. The idea is that we, as humans, Christians, live in a sinful world and as a result must, from time to time, commit sinful acts. We all fall short, make mistakes, screw up. That's different. This idea stated by the particular individual is that we must or should commit sinful acts. And why must/should we do things scripture tells us not to do? Why ought we go against Christ from time to time? For the common good. That's the common thought anyhow. There was a movie in recent years titled The Boondock Saints which is a cult classic. It's abut two Irish Catholic brothers who kill corrupt men (mob type fellas) as a service to God. Their motto is one that provides a slogan for this very idea. They would pray "Destroy that which is evil so that which is good may flourish." It sounds cool. However, cool isn't always right.
At no point in Jesus' ministry is this theory proposed or encouraged. In fact, it is spoken against. The entire law is summed up by "Love God and love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-40). Love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). Love and evil do not mix. God is love. God can not mix with evil. At no point does Jesus say "Love your enemies and do good to them... unless..." The argument that killing a wicked person or doing evil for the sake of good can't be argued scripturally since we're given concrete examples of what it looks like to love others (Luke 6:27-36). Jesus is pretty clear that it is not only those who are good to us that we are to extend love and good deeds towards but those who are against us. And remember, most of the you statements in the New Testament are closer to y'all statements than to an individual use of the word you. These teachings were directed at groups. Together we suffer and live as sacrifices. My friend Jmalloryand his wife T_Sheffield are a great example of understanding this. One would not kill for the other and one would not ask the other to kill for them. But killing is only one small example. Let's not get too hung up on it.
Back to the original theory that we'll have time for dismissing evil when we're in heaven but not right now on earth. This idea flies in the face of the teaching of Jesus and his apostles. Jesus is quite clear that the kingdom of God is at hand and that we are to embrace it (Matthew 3:2). Jesus makes it clear that his followers are citizens of his kingdom and act accordingly, as though they did not belong to the world and its ways any longer (John 15:19, 17:14-16, 18:36, 2Corinthians 2:10:2-4). God's people have moved away from evil and into life/goodness/love (Ephesians 2:1-9). Yet there is a tension. Christians belong to the kingdom of God and act as if heaven were already present even though the era of eternity to come has not yet arrived. It's strange. It is as if they have entered God's dimension (aka heaven) while still living on earth. Perhaps this is why Jesus instructs his followers to pray the words "Your kingdom come, your will be done here on earth just as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Christians recognize that whatever there is time for in heaven there is a need for on earth. Since Christians make up the Church and the Church is the Body of Christ (1Corinthians 12:27) which continues Jesus' ministry of reconciling all things to God (2Corinthians 5:11-21) then the Christians are the vehicle by which God ushers his kingdom into the world day after day in this current era. This is why Paul demands that Christians "Be imitators of God" (Ephesians 5:1). Paul says we are Christ's ambassadors, "as though God were making his appeal through us." One ancient writer named Aristides put it this way: "And see, because of them [Christians], good flows on in the world!" These words could not be true if the Christians he encountered were doing evil for the sake of good. So when we read in Isaiah that men "will neither harm nor destroy" that means that it is imperative that Christians, right now, neither harm nor destroy. Since evil will not exist in the kingdom of God in the coming age it can not exist in the kingdom of God in this age and thus must always be dismissed for what it is. Evil. That is, not good. Or, not of God.
Throughout the Old Testament there are examples of God's people seeking to do God's will according to their own tactics and it never pans out. Abraham seeks to fulfill God's will for him to be the Father of Israel by committing adultery. After escaping Egypt the Israelites create idols to worship God. In the New Testament some of Jesus' disciples try to keep children from annoying Jesus so he could spread his Good News but they are rebuked. Later, Peter, a close friend and student of Jesus, cuts off the ear of a Roman soldier to defend Jesus and is harshly rebuked for that as well. Time and time again people in scripture go against God's words to fulfill his commands and it never works out. The means do not justify the ends and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
So when we ask ourselves if we must face those who do evil with evil or with actions that are not good we have a clear answer from Christ. When we ask if we must uproot the evil from amongst the good he advises "No... because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn." (Matthew 13:26-27). The judgment will come. God is just and all will judged according to how they lived (Revelation 20:12-13). We can trust God to take revenge and deliver his wrath on those who seek it (Romans 12:18). We can love all people, at all times, forgiving them and doing good to them, no matter what they do to us or others (Romans 12:9-21). We can treat everyone the way we desire to be treated because Christ is victorious and the righteous judgment is coming. All shall be well. The world shall be purified at the end of this era of eternity so that the next era of eternity may begin. In that era, there will be no pain. There will be no war. We can live in the peace of Christ with the rest of creation instead of enduring a fallen creation.
The conclusion can not be argued against. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." I'd also suggest we don't try to dress-up evil for our own purposes and give it a different name. A wolf dressed like a lamb is still a wolf. Intentions can not change evil into good. The wrong thing done for the right reason is still wrong. Why would we live any other way? What possible reason does the Christian have to not love enemies and neighbors at all times? What reason is there to not forgive? What reason is there to not do good to, pray for, and bless all people? What reason is there to invest in evil? I submit that there is no reason. At least, no good or scriptural reason. So if you think of heaven/eternal life/the era to come and you can't envision the existence of the deed you are about to commit or are currently endorsing then rethink it. If doesn't belong in heaven then it doesn't not belong on earth.
"Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God" (3John 1:11).
What examples have you seen of people doing the wrong thing for the right reason? What have you done in your life that probably wasn't the best idea but had good intentions? How can we overcome the evil in the world?