I believe in Good. I believe in Evil. I believe in absolute truth. I believe that sometimes we land firmly on one side or another of this virtually-eternal war…but only sometimes. I believe that more often than not, we are still in the position of Adam and Eve, standing with that forbidden fruit in our hands. We are still created in the image of God. We are still filled largely with His Goodness. But we’ve let evil in.
The question is…are we letting it reign?
I recently started listening to the audio version of a really enlightening book, The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. In it, the authors are examining the recent trend of “safe places” and “fragility” of college students and using scientific research to show why it’s harmful and offer solutions to it.
The authors begin by laying out three untruths they want to expose and refute. I do highly recommend this book, especially to anyone with a child or grandchild of the “internet” generation–it’s led our family to institute some changes! But I’m not going to just talk about the book. I’m rather going to take one of the untruths they name and examine it spiritually rather than academically. The untruth in question:
There are good people and there are evil people, and life is just one constant struggle between these two sides. How do you know if you’re on the side of Good? You trust your feelings.
Let me say again: I believe in Good and Evil. The kind with capitals. But still, with my logic engaged, I could hear that statement and immediately know that it was wrong.
Because of the use of the word people, first of all. And then because if you were to accept that statement as true, you’d have to rely on feelings to determine right and wrong, and we all know how fickle and often wrong our feelings can be.
But let’s look at that statement. Good people
versus evil people
. We know, intellectually, that this is wrong, don’t we? We have to grant that it is when we consider some of Christianity’s greatest heroes and, indeed, founding fathers. Paul. He was first a Christian-hunter. One eager to kill the “good people”, which by definition makes him the enemy.
If we call our enemy evil, that means he’s beyond redemption. Fully in the grasp of the ultimate Evil One. That he has bound his will to Satan’s.
Was this the case for Paul? Obviously not. God saw what human eyes certainly did not. God saw that Paul in fact wanted to seek the Good, but was laboring under a false opinion about what Good really was. He was earnestly seeking God and God’s will…but his feelings on what God’s will was happened to be wrong. God righted him. And we ended up with The Apostle.
This doesn’t happen with every enemy of God. But it happens with a shocking number of them. The why and how are certainly important, especially because it’s often through these “enemies” seeing the love of God at work in His people. But what I really want to focus on today isn’t whether they ever change.
It’s how we view them, even when we remain on opposite sides.
We can’t force change on them. But we can control our own feelings and actions in relation to them.
I cannot begin to count how many times in recent years I’ve heard people of opposing views label the others as evil or worst person ever or monster just because they don’t agree with them. It’s a natural stance to take, honestly. If you’re not us, then you’re them. And if you’re them, then you are on the Wrong Side. And more often than not, you’re there because of emotion, so logic will never convince you to join the Right Side. Therefore, you are beyond help unless God himself steps in (bring it on, God! Strike them blind and set them straight!).
Am I right?
But this is so, so hurtful. Not just to Them. But to Us. Whichever “us” that might be. Maybe it means Christians. Maybe it means Americans. Maybe it means Republicans or Democrats, Liberal or Conservative. Maybe it means a particular race. Or a particular gender. Or a proponent of a particular view or belief.
Whatever the label we embrace, when we embrace it, we exclude from our love anyone who doesn’t belong to the same camp. Seriously, this is another scientifically-proven fact. Humanity is tribal–our brains are wired to feel more empathy, sympathy, and care for those like us. But it doesn’t matter how they’re like us. We can make the distinction over something important, like faith, or something trivial, like the color T-shirt we’re wearing. But once the groups have been made and we’ve been told we’re part of it, MRIs show spikes that demonstrate sympathetic emotions for that group far more than any other. We want to belong. And when we do, we guard that belonging with ferocity.
This helps us survive, helps civilization grow, helps a tribe, then a town, then a city, then a nation to form. But once you get into a large group–like this huge country of ours, filled with such diversity–it becomes too big for us. We start breaking down into smaller factions. Anyone remember that unity for the first week or two after 9/11? It was shocking. We were, for the first time in decades, American before anything else. But it didn’t take long for people to start arguing again about what that meant. To start labeling and pointing fingers and thinking once again that the monsters weren’t the terrorists but them, the ones on the other side of the aisle.
This is natural. But God doesn’t call us to live in the natural, does He? He calls us to #BeBetter
than what we are in the flesh. To strive to live in the Spirit, who lives in us. Does God
choose who to love based on their decisions? Their color? Their gender? Their political views?
God isn’t bound by these tribal tendencies. God knows who the ultimate Us V. Them belongs to, and it’s not in humanity. We don’t have the eyes to see that spiritual war between Good and Evil most of the time, but we can have the eyes to see this basic truth:
That person who disagrees with you? God loves them. They are not beyond redemption. They are Just–Like–Us. Sinners until they accept the extension of Jesus’ grace. And how do we, limited in our view as we are, know if or when that will happen? We don’t. All we know is that God loves them. And so, as His children, we are called to do the same.
I do not and cannot agree with an awful lot of things prevalent in this world. I’m not supposed to. I’m called to stand against them. I’m called to hate evil. I’m called to name it for what it is. But “evil” is not a person. And when I hear views that I label as such coming from a human mouth, my role is not to denounce the person. My role is to find a way to be like Paul–to be “everything to everyone.” To find common ground with that person, so that I can love them. So that they can connect with and love me. And once we’re part of the same tribe–even if just for a moment–to show them who God is.
God is bigger than a tribe or a town or a city or a nation. God is bigger than liberal or conservative. And He calls us to be bigger too. To #BeBetter
. To be better today than we were yesterday. To be better than our human natures want
to be. To be better than we think we can, because it hurts
But we have Christ in us. And that means we can do all things. We can be in pain, or we can be in bliss. We can be the victors or the defeated. We can be in prison or we can be in the White House. We can be rich or poor, hungry or full. We can #BeBetter
. When we can’t achieve it through our own power, we can achieve it through His.
And so, my friends, can They. Our fight, remember, is not against the people of this world. It’s against the powers of darkness. But we can’t fight the ultimate Them if we’re so busy squabbling with our own.
My challenge–to you and to myself–is to stop seeing those of opposing views as Them. And when we find ourselves actually face-to-face with someone who falls in that camp, to focus on finding that commonality rather than our differences. Find what makes them Us. And then love them.
Let’s see what that might change.
When we’re talking about Us Vs. Them, there’s no story I’ve examined it more fully in than A Soft Breath of Wind. Zipporah can see into the spiritual realm–she actually knows who is out to “get them.” But still, she has to face God will–not to hate or condemn or let her own emotions rule her, but to find a way to love her greatest enemy.
And so, for the first time, signed copies of A Soft Breath of Wind are on sale from my online store! And the ebook is always $3.99.