Thursday, June 22, 2006

Imitations of Good & Evil


Truth be told, I have a real problem with people who go around quoting Scriptures as their preaching point. It doesn't really impress me that much. I think that largely, it's because too often people use scripture out of context or to help them emphasize a point that they make, while ignoring everything else about that passage. My experience has been that those who frequently misuse quoted scripture also usually have pretty bad theology behind them. So when I hear someone say, "As it says in the Bible..." I brace myself to hear their personal point of view. Whether it's actually Biblically or contextually accurate or not is another story. For example, my dear granny (who, by the way, I deeply love) tells me that -- according to Bible -- "God only helps those who help themselves". At that point, I always have to remind her that that verse is nowhere to be found in God's Word. Likewise, when people use the "Women should be seen and not heard" line and back it up with I Corinthians 14:34, I have to remind them that this passage must be taken in the context of the time when it was written and that it is not implying that women need to be silent in modern churches.

However, every so often someone will drop a verse or two that will really challenge me. For instance, just yesterday, my minister friend read my post about revenge and gave me a call about it. After we discussed it for a few minutes, he hit me with the following passage:

"Dear friends, do not imitate evil, but imitate good. He who does good is of God; he who does evil has not discerned God."
-3 John 1:11


I was floored.

After he dropped that verse on my head, it got me thinking. How often do I imitate the evil things of the devil, instead of imitating the good things of God? Perhaps the better question is: how can I tell which is which?

To “imitate” means to copy the actions of another. That being the case, I wonder how often I copy the devil's actions. Comparatively, how often do I imitate God's actions? When the guy driving his mammoth SUV almost plows me off the road, is he acting out of evil? Would I be imitating evil if were to drag him from his Hummer, smack the mess out him and, and toss his keys in an open field?

When I throw away leftovers; knowing that people are starving all over the world, is that an imitation of evil? I'm sure that, as children, we've all been hit with the “You know, there are starving kids in Africa” line. While our parents probably thought they were doing “good” by teaching us not to be wasteful, I've always thought that I was doing “good” by not eating more than what I could actually take in.

When I feel like a person has done me wrong and I respond by returning the favor, am I imitating evil? When someone has imposed themselves on me and my way of life, am I imitating evil by trying to forcibly drive them out (of course, this is one is only a hypothetical. We know that this never happens. Right?!)? I can’t help but to think so. Some people would argue that I am wrong while others will say that I'm right.

I once had a Bible-thumping, ultra-conservative co-worker who made a habit of pontificating to others (she was a Republican version of me :) ). One time she sent me, along with about 100 other people, an email calling for the boycott of the Ellen Degeneres Show show because she came out as a lesbian. She even went so far as to point out verses that suggested how much God hated this type of televised evil. In my response, I put together a short message about the dangerous sin of Christians hating others, clicked "Reply To All", and sent my email to her and everyone she contacted. Not too long after that, she removed me from her mailing list. Who was at fault here?

I guess this is where I'm stuck. What is evil? What is good? Who defines good and evil? I know that Christians set their standards by what the Word says (allegedly), but not even the Bible pinpoints everything we do. Certainly, it doesn’t categorize everything we do into the good and evil columns. Interestingly, what looks like good to some is actually considered evil by others. Since I can’t seem to determine the difference between good and evil, how do I know when I’m imitating either one?

Your thoughts?

- ACL

9 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

NOT A REPUBLICAN said...

Whoa Andre, Good post!

Here's the first thing that comes to my head. RELATIONSHIP!

The closer that you are to God, the better that you're able to hear him. You're absolutely right: The Bible doesn't pin-point everything that we do. However, your devolped relationship will help you discover the difference. For instance: When you hit "Reply all" on that email, was it because you had a secret annimosity against this person and just wanted them to get called out OR was it because you truly felt that others needed to know? If it was the former then guess what: You could've been absolutely right and STILL imitating evil! The closer you are God and (Get ready cause this is key) the more WILLING YOU ARE TO LET HIM CHANGE YOU, the better you'll be able to tell the difference between good and evil.

When it's all said and done, Thank God that we serve a God that, at any given time, we can ask and be granted forgiveness.

R U S S said...

Good post!

I recently posted on world hunger.
You might be interested.

b blessed
russ

joanne said...

Hi Andre. As usual, you’ve made me think. These are some difficult questions you’ve raised. I don’t think I’ll even make an attempt to answer them. I’ll have to think about them a bit more before I do.
I have to admit that I thought the Ellen email story was pretty funny. It would have been fun to see y0ur coworker’s face when she saw your response!

Thanks for once again giving me lots to think about. I get something new from you every time I stop by (just about everyday)

KC said...

Hmm…this is an interest post to ponder on. I’ve noticed how people try to use the Bible to explain why they don’t celebrate holidays like Halloween or Christmas or allow their children to dress up.

But you made a great point; sometimes our practices should go much farther than our interpretation of the Bible.

thehc said...

Hey Andre,
Great post. The more I think about good and evil in the course of my life, the more it comes down to intent. It does get a little fuzzy sometimes. Should I praise someones intentions even when they've done me wrong? I say yes, even though it's hard. This makes it easy for me to separate good people from bad (when all people are a little bad). Bad people have bad intentions even when doing good things (such as making themselves look good just to get laid, or promoted, or pick your vice), good people do good things even when they don't benefit. This to me, is the true definition of great character.

thehc said...

Hey Andre,
Great post. The more I think about good and evil in the course of my life, the more it comes down to intent. It does get a little fuzzy sometimes. Should I praise someones intentions even when they've done me wrong? I say yes, even though it's hard. This makes it easy for me to separate good people from bad (when all people are a little bad). Bad people have bad intentions even when doing good things (such as making themselves look good just to get laid, or promoted, or pick your vice), good people do good things even when they don't benefit. This to me, is the true definition of great character.

Andre said...

@ Not a republican: Great points you raised. Having a close relationship with God allows you to hear what He has to say a lot more clear. I remember a close friend of mine (thanks, "JD") telling me a story about a guy who was listening to someone speaking to him; only it was as soft as a whisper. The only way for the man to hear what the speaker was saying was for him to move closer. God is the speaker.

Thanks for your comments. Don't look around. You know who I'm talking to...

@ russ: Actually, I found your whole blog to be interesting. Very well written and well articulated.

It's also interesting that your wife is vegan. I'm making steps (albeit slow ones) toward veganism. But to date, all I've managed to accomplish is being a moderate vegetarian (and a crappy one, at that). Thanks for stopping by.

@ Joanne: While I can't say that I was involved in the email response thing just to call her out (this also addresses Not a Republican's question), I often wonder what was going through her head when she read my response. I can imagine that it's not easy having your ideas and beliefs challenged like that. But, I felt compelled to repsond; as opposed to letting this Christian hatred and fundamentalism go unchallenged by Jesus' love (at least, I thought it was hatred).

@ KC: I know what you mean about holidays and stuff. I don't think that following God has anything to do with subscribing to mindless, traditional beliefs just for the sake of it. I think that God blessed man with intellect for a reason other than turning into mindless, routine drones.

@ HC: I agree with you on this one. Intentions for an action are just as important -- and sometimes dangerous -- as the actions themselves. When Nazi Germany wanted to solve the "Jewish question" by essentially exterminating them, their intention was to create a "master" race. If you wanted human "cleansing", that idea would make sense. But, there are underlying problems with the intent. Their intentions were based on the premise that Jews were dirty; which is bad in and of itself. Then, their actions (based on their "good" intent) resulted in one of the most shameful acts in history.

I guess the point is: It's not just our actions that are significant; but it's our intentions. It's not just our intentions that are significant' but it's the thought behind our intentions.

Thanks for all of your comments.

"JD said...

I got a shout out! Hey, you didn't call me back....still must be holdin a grudge!

Andre said...

Oh, so you're revealing your true identity to the world, eh?

It's about time! :)