Sermon for Sept. 13, 202 -- "Evil"

 

“Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men. The Shadow knows.”  I believe that Steve remembered that line from the old radio show The Shadow last week.

So what is evil? Can a person be pure evil, or just a person’s actions evil? Do we see examples of evil today or is it more of a historical reckoning? Is it appropriate for we humans to judge something or someone as evil or is that God’s job alone? Where did evil come from, human frailty or God?

These questions and more buzzed around in my mind this past week. Perhaps I just let it get to me too much, but it made for an overtime sermon.

So, what to do with this incredibly difficult concept stimulated by those words in today’s gospel, “You’re an evil man!” the King said in the parable. What to do, what to do; so I guess I’ll just tell a hometown story.

Socrates and Alexandra Jones in my hometown had a little boy they named Live. That’s spelled L – I – V- E, the e being silent.

They were a wealthy family who lived on Snob Hill in a mansion overlooking the town. Their money had come from a great great grandfather who was a timber robber baron in his day who made great investments. Since his day members of the Jones family had various occupations, which were more hobbies than work, and they could always count on their inheritance. Most of the Jones were of average intelligence but felt they were smarter than other folk because they were wealthy.

Live was the quintessential product of this family. Live was a bit dyslectic and invariably wrote his name as Evil in large flashy print.

In the private school his parents sent Live to, he was a bully, actually more of a bully among bullies. He looked down on most of his classmates and certainly the regular folk in his hometown. He hung out with other like-minded bully types at school.

Live and his parents occasionally attended the First Class Reformed Church in a town near New Sharon. His mother sent Live to the church’s catechism class, but Live missed most classes and never joined the church. He understood that to join prospective members had to confess their sins before the congregation. Live thought that was stupid, he had nothing to confess anyway.

One of the things Live and his bully friends loved to do was to put down others they felt beneath their standing. They were racist, sexist, xenophobes who blamed others for all bad things. The idea of empathy or care for others was foreign to their thinking. Every bad thing came from niggers, kikes, pushy broads, japs, chinks, etc.

Live did a book report on Mein Kampf, supporting the author’s point of view. His favorite book was The Prince by Machiavelli who promoted the ideas manipulating others, callousness, and indifference were perfectly good traits to get what you want politically.

Live particularly loved to dupe others and feign friendship in order to get his way in matters. Live as an adult had many businesses and thought he was a great businessman even though most of the businesses failed, but that always the fault of other folk.

And that’s the way it is in my hometown where folk are pretty much like folk everywhere else.

Have you ever thought of what it would be like to be the parent, or sibling, or cousin, or teacher of someone like Live, or Hitler, or Attila the Hun or the man described in Jesus story today and other characters we see as evil?

Evil is a conundrum. Evil, that which is profoundly immoral and wicked, the opposite of good.

Where does that evil come from? Philosophers and theologians have debated it forever. Many religions deny it even exists such as the Bahia’s, and Muslims. In Judaism evil is the result of bad human choices but why would they make such choices? In Christianity we can say like Flip Wilson, “the devil made me do it.” Giving ourselves a scapegoat in Satan, but that goes against the grain of Monotheism. We ignore biblical passages like “I make weal and create woe” from Isaiah. But God being the author of evil is a difficult pill to swallow.

I have argued that evil comes from being created in the image of God. God is all powerful, omniscient, creator of all things, so we also want to be all powerful, omniscient, and the creator of all things. Thus evil is in conflict with God because we want to be God.

Paul tells us not to criticize, demean or judge others. God does the ultimate judging not us.

But still we have to judge whether something is evil or not for developing our moral principals.

We need to condemn evildoers like the forgiven man who did not forgive others.

I’d like to tie a nice bow on things at this point and draw a conclusion. But I just can’t.

But forgiving is something we can do. It is hard, especially with folk who appear to be evil personified. But we need to forgive even while condemning actions that we deem as evil; to forgive the likes of Live Jones and others.

How often? Seventy times seven or always.

 

 
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