Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dancing with the Devil

The Arabs have a name for temptation, which is "Bint Iblis" which mean's "Satan's daughter". Which thought begs the question - Which is the issue really. Can you be half evil? Or do you cleave to the light or nothing? I notice that if you give sin a little edge, let it in just a little, it hammers in like a steam train and slams right through the core of you.

Evil can very effectively be kept at bay by keeping yourself inordinately busy. That works.

For a while. And then everything goes pear shaped just because at one point in time you were distracted and - Wham. There you go.

And then you become possessed; selfish, even to the point of being cruel. Or with you maybe it's something different. Maybe you manipulate and exploit. Or perhaps you become obsessed with selfish fear (fear is almost always selfish and therefore almost always evil). Or maybe it's just a small thing like cowardice. Seeming small of course. Cowardice is such evil, don't you think? One of the worst sins is that of the moral coward, unable to stand up for truth - or worse still unable to take a decision that involves personal emotional risk or vulnerability. But there's sin that's worse, still worse again - like pride - by which I mean the hubris that creeps up from behind. The "I am better than her" or "He's no good compared to me" pride that was the sin that led to Satan's fall like a lone dark star tumbling down forever down from the Kingdom of Heaven.

It comes in so many shapes and sizes, evil that is, but for me there are two main dynamics; but then everyone is different. For me first there is fear, perhaps fear of debt or ill health, that gnaws and numbs and disables. Then in creeps a powerful predator, feeding on fear perhaps, or responding to the vulnerability fear creates, manifesting itself as a sort of cruel selfishness, as if predatory anger could ever cure the pain. You've not got that problem? Lucky you. But you have others.

Or are you perfect? Perhaps you are. We are all potentially perfect and can be, for a while. There are moments of perfect love in which fear can take no hold and in which we are therefore incorruptible. Until the next time that is. There's always the next time.


In which context, note how little talk of hell there is in the New Testament (or indeed anywhere in the bible). But there are some pretty strange things said. Read First Corithians 3. I'm going to paraphrase a section from verse eleven - but if you're a stickler you should read the thing in full rather than my bowdlerised edit which is based on the revised King James version. It goes:

"No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are."

The point being that though Paul is addressing teachers here, there seems to be an underlying theme according to which all the dross will be burnt from us at the resurrection. If we are men of straw, God help us in this all consuming fire. Nothing will be left. But if we are pure gold then we will survive, intact, bright shining as the sun.

A daunting sort of afterlife wouldn't you say?

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