Yes, evil is real, but it cannot stand before Christ.
We are trying in this season to better understand the subject of evil—what it is, where it comes from, how it works, and how we are meant to respond to it. Today I want to think with you about an even more primary question: Does personified evil really exist?
Isn't the whole Lucifer or Satan story just a projection of humanity's worst fears, an adult version of the monster under the bed? Aren't stories about evil spirits and demon possession a primitive way of describing mental illness or social maladjustment? When people say that a person or group is gripped by evil, isn't that the sort of excessive paranoia or tribalism that should have died with the Salem Witch Trials? Shouldn't we take less seriously parts of the Bible that mention the work of the devil? Maybe it's time for 21st century Christians to drop the whole evil talk. What do you think about all that?
In the film The Usual Suspects, a police detective struggles to find the cause of a wave of unspeakably violent crime and corruption terrorizing his city. A string of clues increasingly seem to illuminate the outline of a wickedly cruel and powerful genius of foreign origin named Keyser Söze as the evil root. The problem is that the detective's main source of intelligence about this brilliant sociopath is a half-wit, invalid snitch named Verbal (played by Kevin Spacey). The shadowy figure Verbal describes seems far too clever, powerful, and dramatic to be real. Verbal rejoins, "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." Eventually disgusted that he's wasted his time listening to the stupid invalid's crazy stories, the detective sends Verbal on his way only to realize moments too late that all along the ...
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Dan Meyer is pastor of Christ Church of Oak Brook in Oak Brook, Illinois.