We all know this story.
Lucifer is hanging out in Heaven, acting as captain of the cherubic hosts. He (male pronoun used here for simplicity) is basically the worship leader in Heaven. With every movement he makes, there is music. And it is beautiful. But Lucifer becomes jealous of God, gathers up a third of the angels and tries to overthrow The Great One.
Lucifer and his “army” lose and God casts them to either Earth or Hell (interpretations vary) and now Lucifer is The Devil and the angels are the demons that we know today.
This would be considered a literal translation of Satan’s origin story.
But what else can we pull from this story? What else is happening that we are not acknowledging? There are pieces in this simple paragraph that the church (as a very general body) tends to ignore.
Based upon this telling, if I am a Literalist (to believe the Bible is word for word accurate with no symbology) I am to also believe that there is such a thing as jealousy in Heaven. Correct?
If you are a Heaven-Is-A-Perfect-Place-Where-No-Pain-Exists type of person (which most Literalists are, please correct me if I’m wrong), please do not shut off to this. Based upon the telling from the Bible, Heaven is a place where jealousy exists. And not only jealousy, but hierarchy. Lucifer stood above the other angels.
And not only jealousy and hierarchy but hatred, violence, rebellion and punishment.
This is not what we have been taught.
But this is what is written.
How do we come to terms with these two contrasting worlds?
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There is, without question, a darkness in the world. There is evil in the world. There is selfishness and greed and hatred. You can turn your TV to any news station, fire up social media or peruse the papers at your local grocery store to see it.
Darkness is real.
But is The Devil?
Have we pinned our every shortcoming on this singular being? Is he our universal scapegoat? Is The Devil responsible for tempting us at every occasion? Are demons responsible for tempting us at every occasion? Are there so many creatures of darkness that each of them lingers with each of us, constantly tempting and whispering words into our ears? Is that how we think we exist? And does that sound medieval? Demons whispering in our ears.
Do we believe that we are inherently good people and it is only by the temptation of dark forces that we do evil?
Or… is that evil inside of us?
Is The Devil inside of me?
Am I The Devil?
Could the snake in the garden that tempted our perfect heroes be nothing more than symbolic of our own wants and desires?
What is the first sin we commit as humans? We disobey.
“Rory, clean your room.”
Just like Adam and Eve. Or “Adam and Eve”.
Does darkness and light, good and bad, God and Satan, exist within me and you and everyone at every moment of every day? Are we each, as individuals, capable of doing what is right or wrong with our free will at any moment?
Here’s a personal confession that isn’t really a personal confession at all.
I love pornography.
I could watch it all day long. Just sit down with a bowl of popcorn and let it rip. Video after video after video. Non-stop. 24/7. Weekends and holidays.
Now, it should be noted that I do NOT do this.
I do not watch pornography.
But I want to.
I choose not to. It is my choice that creates my actions. And it is my actions that define my character. Same for all of us.
We are each, as men, addicted to pornography.
Our male brains are hardwired, like magnets, to draw us to those images. We are born with that compulsion. Ladies, if your fella is telling you that he doesn’t like pornography, watch out, because you have got a liar on your hands and he is telling you things just to keep you satiated. If a man produces testosterone, he wants naked women. As many as possible. As often as possible.
This want is not a threat to the sanctity of your marriage or the commitment of your relationship. This is a burning in his very human nature. And it cannot be shaken.
And now you say, “Nah, my husband is not like that.”
And then I say, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he does not exist.”
If you don’t think that darkness is there, it’s because you are being fooled. There is darkness in each of us. But it is our choice to be swallowed by it or to shine light on it. Light in our thoughts. Light in our actions. Light in our words.
Now I’m going to take that popular phrase a step further and say that the greatest trap we, as humans, ever fell into was believing that we were not subject to darkness. That we were somehow above darkness.
You are not above darkness. You are not above selfishness. You are not above greed.
Liking something. Wanting something. Being drawn to something. And actually indulging in that something are very, very different things.
Now, without going off on too much of a tangent, I do want to quickly acknowledge that there are various schools of thoughts on pornography – some people think it’s fine and some people find it repulsive / sinful / harmful. I tend to be of the latter group because, even though the act itself is being committed by two or more consenting individuals, the people experiencing it in the privacy of their home are, at the very least, being brainwashed to believe that sex is a certain way. And I believe this is very damaging to the individual.
This is my opinion. You are obviously free to disagree. (High-five for respectful diversity!)
That said, I am opposed to brainwashing in all of its various forms – cultural, religious, sexual, analytical, creative, etc. We should not be told what or how to think. If given certain data, the truth should be self-evident.
For example, does extended exposure to pornography affect the way in which a man views a woman? Does it alter our opinion of what women should be capable of / interested in? Does it alter our expectations of our wives?
If the answer is yes to any of these, then it’s brainwashing.
If you were raised in the jungle with one woman as your partner, you would still desire her sexually but your wants and actions would not be formed by things you had witnessed. We choose to be victims of our environments.
The devil is not tempting you.
You are fighting your culture and your human nature. And it is a difficult uphill battle. But we must admit that we are fighting a battle. And we must admit that we are fighting a battle with ourselves. It isn’t until we know who our enemy is that we can begin to overcome them.
We need to adjust our cultural perspective on darkness – what the church likes to call sin or what humanity calls immorality. Being drawn to the darkness is not immoral. We are each drawn to the darkness in our own way. We are each selfish in our own way and, ultimately, doesn’t each sin come down to a form of selfishness? To sum up sin would be to say, “Putting oneself before another.” Murder, envy, lust, greed, lying, stealing, etc. It’s all really different forms of the same thing. But these are natural human traits. Survival at all cost came with us when we arrived in the universe. Batteries included.
Being drawn to a thing does not make you a bad person.
Making a decision to be a part of that darkness is where things spiral out of control.
I don’t believe that’s Satan whispering in our ear. That’s us.
That’s our own wants and desires.
You’re sitting at a dinner table and you’re stuffed. You’re so full. You’re going to puke. But then dessert shows up and you take just a couple more bites because it looks so delicious.
That’s gluttony. Your body is begging you to stop poking food into it and you just keep on truckin’. You think a demon is sitting at The Cheesecake Factory, prodding you on, encouraging you to have one more bite? Does that thought sound silly? It should.
Those are your decisions.
The Devil is not in you.
The Devil is you.
And you create the darkness in the world. When you choose not to share. When you talk about someone behind his or her back. When you insult someone, whether in his or her presence or not. When you choose to ignore a hungry person. When you pressure your wife / girlfriend to do something they’re not comfortable with. When you steal something, even a tiny thing that nobody will probably ever notice is missing because really, they weren’t using it anyways…
That’s you. That’s you creating darkness in the world.
Don’t worry about the splinter in your brother’s eye until you’ve removed the timber from your own. That’s a biblical truth that I think anyone, regardless of faith, can apply productively to their lives.
Maybe stop worrying about The Devil and start worrying about yourself.
Start thinking about each moment. Each day. Each word. Each decision that you have to make. You bring either darkness or light with every action that you make.
If The Devil is real, he only exists within the temptations themselves. He does not cause the temptation but is the temptation.
Likewise, I don’t think that God causes the kindness. God exists within the kindness. God is the kindness.
And we choose to cast light or we choose to cast shadows.
And thanks for coming to church on a Wednesday 🙂
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