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?