By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
—– Original Message —–
To: “Thomas Lee Abshier, ND”
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2005 1:51 PM
Subject: Resist not evil
Thomas, I don’t have the energy or the interest to engage in a tug-of-war right now.
As I see it, all things are within God’s dominion. That means All Things… with nothing outside of His embrace, nothing outside of His Being. He is the creator of both good and bad, day and night, perfection and imperfection and HE LIVES WITHIN ALL.Close examination will reveal that good and bad are inseparable from each other and require each other for their existence. Over time, good morphs into bad and bad morphs into good. When one is identified with the good, and one feels it is their duty to destroy the bad, that leads to a self perpetuating cycle of struggle where the so called good and bad feed upon each other. There is no future in this. That is why Christ said “resist not evil.”To find real wisdom, one needs to expand the context. From a context that is larger than good and bad, “us versus them”, one is able to offer something of value to resolve conflict, to heal, and to bless. Then the agenda changes. It is no longer an agenda of trying to crush the enemy, but to recognize that the enemy is not separate from oneself.His advice to “love thy neighbor as thyself” is extremely profound. This love is another way of speaking about the expanded context to which I refer. I invite you and the others on this distribution list to expand your context and to relax your grip on the struggle to crush the perceived enemy, whatever his name might be.Recall the climax of the movie, The Matix. Neo’s victory did not occur because he was able to get stronger than his enemy. Instead he did something completely unexpected. He jumped inside the enemy and occupied the same space. That changed everything. Highly instructive.
To begin with, let me acknowledge the positive intent of your response to my Harriet Meirs letter. You felt that I used an “us vs. them” Good vs. Evil approach which could not resolve the cultural battle between Christianity and Secular Humanism. This, in turn, inspired you to write a note to me which presented another method of approaching societal conflict.
In Summary: You feel that good and evil are illusions of perception and valuation, or impossible to accurately judge, because what was once seen as evil will precipitate good results over time, and vice versa. You feel that there is a better way to handle conflict than to frame the other person as the enemy. You feel that we should deal with conflict by going inside of the other person’s world and get to know their pain and motivation. You believe that when we engage a person who has done us wrong, or holds an evil worldview, that it is more helpful to really understand that person rather than simply treat them as an enemy that must be destroyed or proven wrong.
I agree with you on the point about the value of entering into another person’s world. Everyone has gone through their own life drama of painful experiences; as a result, we have all developed our own strategy and have made decisions as to how to cope with the ongoing pain of life. Most of us are required to develop some very strong protective responses to the pain in our lives at a very young age. Our parents, teachers, siblings, and authority figures that should be there to guide and protect us are usually unable to help us or give us good options to properly deal with the pain and the circumstances. As a result, young children act out reflexively with very primitive responses such as avoidance, going numb, and retaliation. Children lack the ability to intervene in the perpetrator’s life to transform his attitudes, habits, and actions. Likewise, they do not have the skill or resources to overcome their circumstances and turn them from painful to pleasant.
The perpetrator, who is causing pain, may have developed his habits of violation by going down the same pathway of life as his victim, by having been the powerless child. Or, he may have been a strong-willed child that recognized the feeling of power associated with manipulating adults by tantrums, rebellion, and saying “No” to every effort by parents to discipline his behavior.
Is the child evil? Is the behavior of the child evil? Or does the child’s behavior become evil when he grows up and acts out the same pattern on his children, wife, and society? The answer to that question actually lies in the definition and understanding of Evil.
My Definition of Evil: Evil is any thought, word, or act that falls outside of God’s perfect way of life.
Aside: I know that you do not believe that evil actually exists. Thus, I have established a definition that I do not believe is possible for you to resist accepting as a concept. I will continue to use this concept as my definition of evil throughout my essay. This definition has within it the following assumptions:
God exists and has preferences as to how we live and act.
He has a Way of life which He holds as perfect, excellent, better, and desirable.
God, in fact, desires that humans walk in this path.
Walking in such a path is in fact possible.
Evil has associated with it, its own spirit, spiritual hierarchy, and desire for dominance as a kingdom (that opposes God’s Kingdom which also desires dominance and but desires instead goodness for its people)
Having established this definition, we shall examine the relationship between the two concepts, and kingdoms, of good and evil. It is my hypothesis that my definition of good and evil includes within it your method of the proper way to deal with conflict. Please examine my arguments and worldview, and inform me if I have missed the mark in understanding your concept.
Do we all commit evil as people? Yes we do. Can we be perfect in all things at all times, and never commit evil? No we cannot. Does evil play an integral and necessary part in all of our lives? Yes it does. How should we deal with the fact that we act, speak, and think evil at times?
We should recognize the evil that we do as missing the mark of God’s perfection; and that this error is sin. (Note: the word “sin” means to miss the mark.)
We should purpose in our hearts to overcome/resist the temptation, impulse, habit, or character trait that pressured us into committing these acts of boundary violation.
We should confess to God our error; admit that we have violated His natural order.
We can restore ourselves to right relationship with Him by accepting His provision for reconciliation. Jesus died as a perfect sacrifice for the debt that was created in the heavenly ledger by our error. This credit is available for our redemption by our posture of willing and sorrowful repentance for our violation of His perfect world.
We should make it right, pay the debt, and restore order to the disorder we have caused by our evil act.
Is there any value to evil? Yes, without evil it would be impossible for man to develop Godly character by choice. As people, as children growing into adults, as untrained and undisciplined souls, as blank spirits subject to the animal natures and drives of our humanity, we are automatically tempted to partake in evil. The world is far too complex to be able to see the perfect path in every circumstance. Our blindness, our inability to weigh all the moral consequences of every option, and our inability to generate and see all possible alternatives in every situation makes it impossible for us to walk perfectly in His way throughout life. And, when we add to this the fact that we are strongly tempted by our passions and innate animal nature, there is zero chance we will walk through life without error. Jesus did it, but He was God. All that says is that it is possible, not that we can do it with our human perspective.
As we walk down the path of life, we have glimpses of His perfection, but not a clear enough view to be able to walk without error or misstep along His path. And, at times we are pulled by our rebelliousness to push against that perfection which we glimpse. As a result, we act out our animal-selfish nature at times. We then violate the perfect order that God wants us to live in relationship to Himself and others. And yes, this is evil.
Are people evil?
People act out evil, error, transgression and trespass, and to the extent they embrace the actions of perpetration, they draw the spirit of evil closer to themselves. As people habitually yield to the pull of evil, they become more accustomed to the feel, and develop a taste for it. Acting to satisfy the desires of evil can become an addiction, a passion that is so strong that the man may even desire to stop, but the circumstances and tricks of his mind continue to lead him back to the same behaviors that he has just sworn to forever avoid. The addict has a soul that God loves, just like every other soul. But, as long as he is acting out his addiction, and desires to continue in his rebellion, he separates himself from close fellowship with God. Whether a man goes to hell for eternity, a time, or the portion of his being that is impure and not submitted to God is burned up before entering the heavenly regions, is unknown. The betrayal of loyalty to God by our evil acts and addictions to evil can be forgiven, but full restoration requires a desire to be free; full and enduring freedom will probably require support and accountability to maintain the walk along God’s path.
What is evil?
Evil lives on two levels. 1) The level of action – the outward manifestation of error. 2) The spirit that drives the evil, that tempts to error, that pushes us to violate God’s perfect order and tempts us to desire to violate His order.
In other words, there is a level of perfection which is defined by God as “Good”. This is the standard and benchmark by which we can measure and know our relationship to His Goodness. This would be the life lived in the land of “Perfect”. To the extent we fall short of living out every one of God’s acts, thoughts, and speech, we are in the domain of evil. The level of penetration of evil/error into our soul is dependent upon our conscious and subconscious embrace of the spirit of that evil. If we desire to continue playing in that realm of imperfection and violation, we have incorporated evil into us as part of our character. If we are struggling with a habit, we are imperfect in flesh and soul, but grace is given as far as the eternal consequences of such error, dependent upon the level of our commitment and effort to overcome.
What is the purpose of evil? Why did God create evil? God created the universe, not just to make a universe to watch or control it, but to have fellowship with man as a being who could truly satisfy His desire for requited love. He created man with an octave of similarity to Himself that was sufficiently like his own nature as to allow for the possibility of a true relationship. Without the possibility of evil, there is no possibility of free will. Without free will, it is impossible to give God our devotion, commitment and love as an adult. Without free will we can only love Him as a child or a robot, incapable of any other response but love. Thus, it was necessary for God to create evil as a polarity His goodness. As the metaphorical “other woman” against whom He competed for our affections, and gave us tests by which we, in fact, prove our love and fidelity to Him.
God wanted to experience love freely given. And for Him to receive that level of relationship from us, it was necessary for God to create the circumstances of life that allow for love to be given, or withheld. In so doing God was able to create a world that satisfied His desire for the love of a peer, an equal, a co-creator of life and goodness. God had to create evil as an option for us to love, instead of loving Him. Love given without an option to withhold love is cheap and mechanical. God desires true relationship. God desires that we give Him our hearts out of free will. This satisfies and requites God’s desire for love and relationship. God was required to create evil as a polarity to create a life experience in His world which was actually satisfying.
Does God truly need us? God is self-existent, and He is complete within Himself. His inherent nature is Love, and love requires an “other”, and object of love and affection. Thus, to satisfy that Love nature He created the universe, and populated it with people who could choose to love Him, or reject His pull to relationship. Adoration or slavish obedience is unsatisfying to the heart which desires True and fulfilling mature love. He desires that we give Him love out of choice, by our free will. Thus, He created a universe where He could actually experience the possibility of rejection and satisfaction. He draws us all to Himself, since we are all special and we each satisfy a unique aspect of His being. Each of us is necessary to Him to satisfy that particular aspect of His infinite capacity for individual love. We are being called to relationship and to resonance with Him by obedience to His way. It is our choice whether we follow the call.
Did evil enter into man when he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?We don’t know whether the story of Adam and Eve was a metaphor or an actual play of life that produced the penetration of the spirit of evil into the hearts of men. But, I will take it as fact that man was created perfect, knowing only God’s way, incapable of imperfection or violating God’s perfect order. I will likewise take it that in some transaction, man willfully chose to violate God’s Way. Man took it upon himself to separate from the flow of God’s Way, and instead chose to walk in a path that satisfied the animal instinct, and the temptation by the spirit of evil to taste the illicit pleasures of rebellion, self, and ego satisfaction. In this act, man took upon himself the spirit of evil, breaking the perfect fellowship of relationship he once had with the perfect God.
Was this a mistake? Was God surprised, shocked, or disappointed by man’s rebellion? No. God knew that man would rebel. This was part of His plan. God even planned for the redemption of the universe with the sacrifice of Jesus prior to even creating the universe. God knew that man had a human spirit with animalistic pulls living within him. Throughout human history, He has always drawn us to Himself, but He knew that we would be unable to resist the temptation to act and submit to the spirit of evil.
After Jesus died, He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us on our daily walk, before that time people only had the law, and the ritual cleansing by sacrifice available. God knew that the perfect man He created in Adam was not initiated into the ways of Evil, and had no real defenses against the temptation and trickery that evil could present. He knew that once man was initiated into the knowledge of both Good and Evil, that he would be unable to accurately distinguish between the two and that he would be lost in the sea of possibilities.
Life has too many variables for man to accurately distinguish between good and evil and to see the end from the beginning. Man does not have the eyes and sensitivity of heart to know God’s way in all circumstances from a superficial view of the present. Life can present situations where an apparently good act will precipitate circumstances and temptations that result in very evil and painful results. Likewise, there were times when a seemingly evil act would eventually resolve to produce many wonderful changes from which came much health and happiness.
Thus, for a man to become mature in the ways of the Lord, he must learn to be sensitive to the direction of the Lord. And, the only way to become entrained in the consciousness of the Holy Spirit is to practice acting in His ways. By learning His laws, we learn His ways. By learning His desired outcomes, we can begin to predict the end from the beginning and choose the path that He would have us walk. In general, pain and suffering, and learning of lessons through heartache and hard times are not the path that is desired by God. He will use this path to teach lessons.
But, the desired path is learning from wisdom. When we teach children in the faith, or rebellious children in our life, the blow to the ego and resistance offered by the evil within is less activated when we speak the truth with love. Hearty counsel is the least violent, and most productive form of warfare against evil. We should always be willing to confront evil with Goodness. When we give the lost person a vision into his end, we offer a hand to the errant soul who has been seduced by evil. We are God’s hands extended, and he wishes that all his lost sheep return to the fold, that the prodigal sons return to the blessing and protection the Father’s house. Both the evil and good in life teach us lessons about character and Godliness. But, good and evil are not unknowable sets of equally valid polarities. Good represents God’s perfect way, and evil represents the way of all other possibilities other than His bull’s eye of perfection.
If we desire to be in relationship with God, we must learn His ways. By acting in the Way of God, we develop traits and habits that resonate with His character, and we become like Him. All behaviors are not Holy, good, Righteous, and equally acceptable. There truly is a Way of God which is better and Right. When we are led by His Holy Spirit and recognize that there is a True set of Right principles, the fog of illusion and confusion between good and evil lift. When our eyes are opened by practice and submission to the fact that God has a planned perfection in our lives, we can see that good and evil are both parts of the process of instructing us in His way.
By following God’s ways, we become like Him, wise in the ways of the world, able to distinguish good from evil. We are then no longer confused by the apparent shifting of frames caused by good arising eventually from evil circumstances, nor disheartened and seduced into believing that evil is good when good intentions and actions have unintended evil sequences that unintentionally precipitate.
When we are mature in God’s way, we can be at peace in life. We can relax in our concern about living in truth or error. When we are solidly grounded in His principles, and our heart has been cleansed of the desire for evil, we can enjoy life, knowing that we are involved in part of the divine play of perfecting ourselves. We are human, and we will always feel the passions of anger at violation, jealousy at betrayed affection, sorrow at loss, and joy at hope fulfilled. Emotions are the soul sensations that give meaning and significance to our lives. When we are aware of God’s plan and are working to perfect ourselves, we can frame the ups and downs, evil and good of life, in such a perspective as to feel secure, knowing that it is all for a purpose.
We may never be able to see or understand the full picture of God’s play and purpose. But, by studying the Bible, letting its words nourish and mold our spirit, and by being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to place the pain and pleasure of this world into perspective. When we have a framework that allows us to understand life in a pattern that is similar to God’s, even though imperfect, we can get a glimpse of the significance to the pain and trials of life. Such a framework allows us to places the trials in perspective let God be God. It helps give us the patience to allow Him to reveal His purposes over time.T.