The Free Church Tradition: Opposition to Evil-Part One, Sunday, May 16, 2010

   Evil exists. Tolerance of persons does not necessitate passive acceptance of evil. The lessons of the 20th century, vis a vis the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge, the ethnic purges of Stalin and Mao and the passive American acceptance of abortion as a right of privacy regardless of danger to a human fetus, all direct Christians to this conclusion; evil exists.

   Evil acts. Evil, with its supernumerary sin, performs bellicose acts of hatred, greed and perversion. The most banal performance of evil is in its demands. Evil demands its own. Good people, good organizations receive the impetus to quail before evil, lest the good be condemned as judgmental. Western culture Christians are marginalized by evil, perhaps due to prior bad acts of their own. Evil acts. Evil demands its own.

   To oppose evil in the name of Christ ought to mean one opposes evil as Christ opposed evil. Two of the most powerful recorded events in Christ's ministry, in which He actively opposed evil, may not even be Biblical. They are, however, illustrative of just how Christians, who had time to think about their Lord, their church and evil in the world, believed Christ would respond to evil. 

   In the first, there is a woman taken in the act of adultery. We will not rehearse here the various proofs of her low estate or of her promiscuity. It is enough to say, she is obviously guilty. She is brought to Jesus by men who represent power in that culture. The men who bring her expect Jesus to sanction her death by stoning. We should not read much into the fact the recorded crowd of would be executioners was male. There would have been few, perhaps no, women of that day who would have felt differently.

   Instead, Jesus spends some moments writing in the dirt. We waste our time asking what he wrote. He may simply have been embarrassed for the woman or offended by the blood lust of the crowd. Regardless, Jesus spends some time writing in the dirt. 

   When he looks up it is to pronounce the conditions of the harlot's death. A man may drop the first suffocating stone on her but it must be the man in the crowd who is without sin of his own. Did Jesus mean the man had to be totally without sin, or did the man only need to be pure of the type of sin the woman was accused of that day, or is it the man had only to be clean of the sin the woman was accused of that day, with that woman?

   No matter. No sin-free stoner could be found. One supposes their dispersal is a kind of confession by the accusers, since no one can be found to indict any in the crowd openly but neither can any be found among them to condemn the adulterous woman.

   Jesus actively opposes evil in this story, John 8:3f. Simply put, Jesus opposes the great evil of the crowd, as the sinful acts of the woman are obvious by her wretched condition. He does not forget her. She is not to be condemned that day. She is to do what Jesus causes the crowd to do; regard her soul, repent her sin, reform her life. No one condemns her then but Jesus judges her life style. He tells her to change her ways, with the obvious implication she will find herself condemned someday if she continues her life style.

   Evil exists. Evil acts. Evil degrades immediately and condemns finally. The Christian who opposes evil in the name of Christ ought to oppose evil in the manner Christ uses to oppose evil. Jesus sees all that is there. We ought to look for more than one degraded person. Systemic evil is systematic in that it pervades institutions and persists on itself for generations. Is this how the sins of the fathers are visited on the children for generation after generation? it would seem so.

Tomorrow: This Kind Go Not Out But By Fasting and Prayer: The Free Church Tradition, Opposition to Evil, Part Two, Matthew 14-21

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