November 8, 2005

Deliver Us From Evil

1545 page30 capt's not hard to find evil. We can go looking for it, but, even without our assistance, it seeks us out. In big and small ways it seems simply a part of our lives and our world. However, when confronted by the big acts of horror, we are reminded--if we have had opportunity to forget--of the real magnitude of the problem of evil.

It reminds us also of the significance of Jesus' direction that we should pray: "Deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13, KJV).

Without wanting to downplay recent tragedies, the well-publicized disasters are also examples and reminders of so many more tragedies around the world. On personal, local, national, and international levels, each day's list of tragedies extends far beyond those of the headlines.

When we are again brought face-to-face with the menace of evil, we pray with David, "Bring an end to the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure" (Ps. 7:9).* It is a prayer echoed throughout the Bible and by God's people throughout history.

1545 page30Such events also give a new perspective on our relationship to the evil in our world. When faced with the almost overwhelming sense of evil, we can appreciate Paul's exhortation to "hate what is evil; cling to what is good" (Rom. 12:9).

When we are so brutally reminded of the true nature of evil, we should be inspired again to work against evil in all its forms in our world. We must work toward building justice, mercy, grace, and peace within and beyond our spheres of influence.

And we pray, "Deliver us from evil."

Yet when we turn from the world and the evil around us and honestly look at ourselves, we find little comfort.

C. S. Lewis wrote: "You and I are not, at bottom, so different from these ghastly creatures" (Letter, Apr. 16, 1940). He was commenting on Hitler and Stalin, but the principle applies more broadly. Part of our horror at the evil we see in the world is the recognition of at least the seeds of that same evil in ourselves. We can identify with the victims--it could have been any one of us--but we can also recognize with horror our potential role as perpetrators of evil.

We see our evil as more than just potential; it is real in us in many different ways, large and small. Paul described the battle with the evil within: "When I want to do good, evil is right there with me" (Rom. 7:21). It is an ongoing, frustrating, but essential struggle.

It is too easy to become almost comfortable with the influence of evil. But we should never take evil for granted. It is not the purpose for which we are created, or the end for which we are destined. "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you" (James 1:21).

So we pray, "Deliver us from evil."

And there is yet another sense in which we pray "Deliver us from evil." This is most simply summed up earlier in the Lord's Prayer: "Your kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10). In the frustration and anguish, we cry out, "How long, O Lord, how long?" (Ps. 6:3).

Even if it seems so at times, heaven will not be silent forever. Ultimately, there is one answer to evil: Jesus Himself. He came to this earth because of God's boundless love in response to the evil of this world. He was crucified because of our evil, but also, in God's plan, to heal that same evil. He rose again, signaling God's victory over evil in all its forms. Jesus will come again to this earth to destroy evil completely. On that day and forever after, evil will be no more. Our world will be re-created; we will be re-created.

Each new tragedy, each unfolding horror, each further appearance of evil, should call us back to Jesus and the hope we have in Him. In the face of monstrous evil He is our only hope. He will return.

When we pray with the closing words of the Bible, "Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20), we are again praying, "Deliver us from evil."

*Unless otherwise noted, Bible texts in this column are from the New International Version.

Nathan Brown is editor of the South Pacific Signs of the Times and the South Pacific Division Record.