It's a serious post so buckle up.
I attend a weekly "Face Out Group" at church (while Teagan is at Promiseland / Children's Choir). The group I choose to attend is a small group made up of parents. The current topic is a multi-week focus on suffering and evil in the world. Basically a "why does God let bad things happen to good people" kind of focus.
I've been with the group for several weeks and been very vocal in the discussions.
Last night, the subject focused specifically on the devil.
Does the devil exist?
Modern Christians consider the Devil to be an angel who, along with one-third of the angelic host (the demons) rebelled against God and has consequently been condemned to the Lake of Fire. He is described as hating all humanity, or more accurately creation, opposing God, spreading lies and wreaking havoc on the souls of mankind. Other Christians consider the devil in the Bible to refer figuratively to human sin and temptation and to any human system in opposition to God. In the Bible, the devil is identified with the serpent in the Garden of Eden, the dragon in the Book of Revelation (e.g. Rev. 12:9), and the tempter of the Gospels (e.g. Mat. 4:1).
So is the devil a literal figure? A symbolic figure?
I started out not sure of my beliefs when the questions were being asked. Do I believe in the devil? Do I believe that the devil is responsible for evil? I was raised to believe in a very literal devil, a very literal hell. All mistakes, sins, wrong choices, bad things, evil... all was on the shoulders of the devil and his doing and the weakness of humans in their choosing between the devil and God.
I was unusually quiet for much of the conversation. I was listening, observing, absorbing.
Towards the end, I finally got to a point that I needed to put my thoughts into words. I wish I could have had the subject ahead of time because I do better writing and preparing than flying off the cuff in certain discussions. It took some digging to get my point made clearly. But here's what it boiled down to for me.
I know one Absolute Truth. God's love. His love is never ending, all encompassing, complete, and perfect. It is the greatest gift He has given me. He has given me love so that I can show others love. I strongly believe that my purpose is to share that love. With everyone. Period. Loving all people. That the ultimate goal is to love others the way God has shown me love. Which means without judgement, without fail, with sacrifice, with giving. This, of course, is impossible by human standards. But it is what I carry in my heart and what I feel I am working towards.
Does this mean I never get angry? Nope. Never gossip? Nope. Never feel jealousy? Nope. Never make bad choices? Nope. Never judge? Nope.
I am human. I am not perfect. I make mistakes, I sin, I choose poorly, I don't stay connected. But I pray and meditate and stay focused on doing my best. Some days I do better at that goal than others.
But my temptations, my mistakes... that's between me and God. It isn't for anyone else to judge or decide. It isn't for anyone else to determine if I am choosing the devil vs God.
And most importantly... it isn't my place to determine where someone else's bad choice is coming from. That's between them and God.
So does the devil exist? Maybe. But I don't need an answer to that.
Also brought up was the "Oh! So you mean like a love the sinner, hate the sin thing?"
Love the sinner. Stop.
That's what I mean.
It doesn't matter if you are black, white, gay, straight, married, single, childless, Jon & Kate + 8, or whatever. God is love- for you and everyone. And we are all sinners. We all mess up. Love the sinner.
Is my thinking flawed? Absolutely. So is anyone else's who tries to answer this topic. I don't have all the answers. I only have one.
Any discussion that results in the answer being 'love' is a good one, in my opinion.
And, for what it's worth, I think you're doing a terrific job.
I so do love your posts, Liz. I can see your heart so clearly in them. And I agree with the spirit of your message, but having grown up in the Bible Belt, I see some things differently regarding faith.
Love, of course, is the message and the foundation of all Christian beliefs - but faith is also based on structure. I don't think you can ignore one to support the other. They work together beautifully. Don't they?
I never said there was no structure, though. I think that I have plenty of structure in my faith. But it starts with an Absolute Truth and grows from there.
I've always hated the phrase~ Love the sinner but hate the sin~It never rings true to me. I'm not saying I embrace & love everyone myself, because I do not, but that phrase, whenever I've been around someone speaking it~ was usually uttered by a person ragging on someone else, but pretending to love everyone.
I don't believe in God or in the Devil, but I do believe in deep and abiding love. ~Mary
Growing up, we didn't talk much about the devil. But as adult, I've come to understand and know that an evil force -- call it the devil -- does exist. I've felt it in my own life. I believe in spiritual warfare and protecting my life, my soul and my family by covering them in prayer. That is the loving thing to do.
LIz, I love your thoughts on this topic.
Love them. There is much wisdom in just loving and not judging whether others deserve your love or not. My prayer is always, "Oh let me be wise."
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