Sunday, January 09, 2011

Battle of good and evil

We are to love each other, right? It's one of Jesus' greatest commands ("love your neighbor as yourself"). But is there ever a time, place or target where our most noble emotion could be hate, and our most noble action would be to attack?

If that's ever true, then I would guess a Christian to answer it is when we are directly fighting evil itself. In the 21st Century we don't always know how to label something as 100% evil, but we look back on the past and claim that some people (Hitler, Manson) or actions (genocide, murder) may qualify.

If we go back farther, though, to New Testament writings, we see that Jesus and his disciples encountered demons during their ministries. Demons! Surely if anything was to qualify as 100% evil, then it has to be these direct servants of Satan.

One of these encounters was recorded in the book of Mark (Chapter 5) with a demon called "Legion". But instead of Jesus battling this evil spirit with aggresiveness and attack, he does three amazingly graceful things:

1) Asks for the demon's name. This isn't to gain power over Legion -- it was already established that Jesus had that power without needing to know the demon's name.

2) Grants Legion's request that he not be cast out into "the pit". We're not sure what that means, but it didn't sound good, and Jesus spared Legion that fate.

3) Grants Legion a second request, that he be cast into a herd of pigs.

Why would Jesus show kindness and grace to a demon? Is there any possible advantage to be gained by this, or any possible different fate for Legion? Does a demon retain the hope of changing sides?

And applying to today, if Jesus showed kindness to a demon, exactly when do we have license to be angry and vengeful in the name of fighting evil?


Bob said...

This much I know: I don't have the answer to that question.

Great post.

Debby said...

I do have an answer to that question: "We DON'T." We just don't.

Great post, timely post. Good job.

Roland said...

We shouldn't be vengeful, but we don't always have the luxury of granting grace. We don't have the power of Jesus to know that a "demon," here among us will stay down, and not come back to harm us again, should we grant him or her grace.

It also depends on the grace. We don't have to be cruel (and shouldn't), but we also shouldn't leave them in a position to do harm again in the future, should their brand of evil be severe enough the first time.

Redlefty said...

Roland, I agree. If only the righteous anger would look less cruel and more tragic/reluctant!

Bob Barbanes said...

This is just another passage from the N.T. that does not make sense. For example, in the story we have a human (he speaks) who is strong enough to break iron shackles. Have humans become *weaker* since the time of Christ? It's only been 2000 years, after all.

Different versions of the Bible (mine, for instance) don't mention "a pit," but rather a plea to "not send us out of the country/area." Just more inconsistency, thank you.

Finally, the herd of pigs feeding(?) on the side of a hill: 2,000 of them?? I know that pigs cannot fly, but can they also not swim? I'd bet they could, even back then. But for some reason they were drowned when these - quite innocent, I might add - pigs rushed down the hill and into the water, leaving those who were feeding them quite distraught, as we can imagine.

We are left with one logical conclusion: Is this story true? Probably not. Is it supposed to be an example of Christ's mercy that we're supposed to follow? You might conclude that.

I do know one thing: Whether this story is true or not, our kill-or-be-killed culture is far removed from Christ's example. FAR removed. Nowadays, we would make sure that Legion would be neutralized to the point where he/they could never again pose a threat.

And we would call it righteous.