When we talk about the things that beset this fallen world, darkness is one of them. Evil is another one altogether.
Most of us, for sheer convenience, try to equate this two ideas - darkness and evil. But the biblical witness reminds us that they are two vastly different things. Darkness is the place where God has not yet spoken; evil twists His words.
Let's go back to the beginning, but not all the way. Instead of Genesis 1, where darkness dwells, we find evil first in Genesis 3, where the serpent slithers in. When the serpent arrives, he doesn't have anything new to say to Eve, really. What he says, instead, is, "Did God really say...?" and then he just ever so slightly twists what God said, so that she doesn't remember if that's what God said or if He actually said what she remembers Him saying.
It's just the slightest little introduction of almost-but-not-quite, and that's all it takes.
And that's how evil always works. It is, at its very core, not very creative. It's never exciting and new; it's always boring and old. It's always based solely on the work of good and wouldn't even be possible if there was no good to work off of. It never thinks for itself, so it never has anything interesting to say. If you met evil at a party, you'd find it rather annoying because it would be the guy playing the same old joke time after time after time and finding it hilarious all over again.
In other words, if you actually met evil, you'd think he was pretty lame.
That's why evil never lets you see its face. That's why it works only in whispers. It lowers its voice so that you fill one in for it. When Eve heard the serpent speak, the serpent never gave her opportunity to consider his own words; he made her think about God's. Once she starts hearing God's voice in her head, she struggles to remember exactly what He said and His tone and His tenderness. She's put God's voice to evil's question, and when all is said and done, she picks the fig and eats. (Sorry - it wasn't an apple.)
It's the way evil has always worked, and it's the way that evil still works. It happens all the time, right? We do something stupid, the same old sin that we keep falling into over and over and over again, and although we know that God is gracious and forgives those who sin, there's this little whisper that introduces the idea that maybe God thinks we're a sinner. Doesn't God think you're a horrible, ugly, stupid sinner?
I don't know - let me check that idea out. And then, all of a sudden, in our heads, we hear the voice of God saying we are horrible, ugly, stupid sinners, and wow...I guess He really does say that. What are we supposed to do with that? Many have said, "I don't need this judgment," and they've turned away and gone to seek their own path through the world, a path where they don't have to listen to such voices.
But God never said we are horrible, ugly, stupid sinners. God said we are His children. We grieve Him, but He loves us. We fall short, but He rises up. We sin, but He forgives. The idea that we are horrible, ugly, stupid sinners is a subtle twist on a half-sentence of God, whispered into our hearts at the worst of times, just enough of a whisper to make us forget what God truly said. It's wicked.
It's all that evil has ever done. It's all that evil can ever do.
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