“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” Matthew 12:43-45
This passage communicates so well that evil and unrest go together. I know only too well about evil and unrest- way more than I wish I did. For it is my own sense of unrest that has gotten me into trouble again and again. I am a part of a generation that is desperately seeking relief from unrest. We are bombarded with statements to be the best that we can be and obtain the best things for ourselves- the best car, the best house, the best looks, the best mate…the list goes on and on…and we never seem to have enough. There is nothing wrong with desiring good things. However, there is something wrong with not being able to rest when we don’t have what we want.
I believe that not only do evil and unrest go together, but evil seeks those of us who are in a state of unrest. Evil knows us so well. It’s been observing us our whole lives and knows the perfect moment to swoop in and take advantage.
What does evil require to find the rest it desires? It requires a host. I am convinced we are hosts way more than we are aware of.
I have to admit I am a horror movie fan. I grew up on Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. Horror movies comforted me in the sense that I felt understood. Living with the evil I did, horror movies made me feel right at home. Recently, I’ve watched the show The Strain on Fox. It’s not for those with a weak stomach, however I do think the show hits on the truth of the nature of evil. Wormlike parasites seek to find a human host…as the evil grows in the host they are turned into an evil, vampirish beings that seek to turn their own loved ones into evil, vampirish beings just like them.
I heard this sermon this morning by Zach Van Dyke:
Zach says in one of the best messages I’ve heard of the story of Tamar, that evil begets evil. When he said this I was all ears. It was just another bit of truth that I needed to hear to set me free from the years of lies I have been held captive by. In hearing Tamar’s story, I could relate to the victimization I am sure that she suffered at the hands of her two evil husbands, so evil that the Bible says the Lord put them to death. Yet, even after these two men died, Tamar was still suffering from the victimization of evil men. Judah had promised her a husband and wasn’t delivering on his promise. Tamar, who I’m sure was sick of being a widow and I am sure worn out with men victimizing her, decided to take matters into her own hands. In her state of unrest, she chose to disguise herself as a prostitute and trick Judah into sleeping with her. She actually became pregnant, and just when Judah was ready to bring her out an have her burned to death because of her prostitution, she presented Judah’s own seal, cord and staff. Oops! Judah was caught red handed and had to admit his sin and acknowledge that Tamar was more righteous than he was.
But can you see what happened to Tamar? Evil had so effected her life that she chose to commit evil to get what she desired. Evil begot evil indeed. I understand that.
In the sermon, Zach quotes from theologian Miroslav Volf who wrote about how the victim and the victimizer often become “intertwined with one another.” In his book Exclusion and Embrace.., Volf says, “Evil generates new evil as evildoers fashion victims in their own ugly image.”
Just like in the show The Strain evil seeks to find a host and create more evil.
In my own life I see this so clearly. I fought so hard not to be like my adopted father, yet in these past few years I have looked in the mirror and seen that I have suffered from the same unrest he did and sought to find peace in the wrong ways just like he did. However, I thank God for His restraining grace that I didn’t abuse children like he did, for the damage done to my family was bad enough.
I keep thinking at some point I will be able to stop writing so much about my sin and failure, yet God just keeps bringing it back to me with nuggets of truth that He wants me to see and remember. Today, I needed to understand how evil begot evil in my own life. One of the most insidious things about evil is that in its state of unrest it must produce more evil – someone who can reveal it’s face, and it often does that through abuse. Evil often grows through victims becoming victimizers, innocent children with no control over their circumstances becoming angry adults seeking control through more abuse. A vicious cycle. A cycle, as Zach says, that must be broken by someone on the outside; that Someone is Jesus Christ.
How I thank God that He has broken the cycle in my life. I thank Him that He is showing me the truth more and more so that I can live in truth’s freedom. When He says for us to go and sin no more, he’s not just going to leave us to do it on our own. He is actively showing us ways through His word to do just that.
Today, one of the things that comes to mind specifically was the state of unrest that I was in even before I met my ex-pastor. This unrest was deep in my soul, crying out for someone to belong to, someone to feel a connection with. This yearning resulted partly from not having what I wanted in my relationship with my father. It also resulted from building walls in my own life and keeping others out for fear of being hurt more. I was lonely and I didn’t even know it. In my unrest, I yearned for a person to connect with. Was this a bad desire? As I said before, it isn’t wrong to desire good things, however it is wrong in our state of unrest to get impatient with God and go after those things on our own in a way that God doesn’t have for us. I longed for connection and prayed God would bring a person into my life that I could connect with. You may wonder why I didn’t seek it in my husband. I wonder that now, too. He’s become the person lately I have come to rely on and connect with more than anyone else. I was only able to connect when I started to tell him the truth. From the beginning in our marriage, I think I started to hide things about myself, because I was just too ashamed to tell him. For many reasons, many being linked to my abusive past, I believed the lie that I couldn’t trust that the person God had given me as my spouse could handle it.
When I met my ex-pastor he seemed to be this person I could connect with. I believed for years that he was my answered prayer. I cannot tell you how confusing this has been. One of the things I believe our world tells us that we must have is someone that we can call our soul mate. The best romantic movies consist of the couple who are meant to be together finding one another, having an amazing connection and living happily ever after. I’m not poo-pooing romance, truly finding someone to love you unconditionally is an amazing and wonderful God-given gift, but we need to recognize that often the things we love can get us into the most trouble…I can still hear my ex-pastor’s saying in an effort to downplay his abuse of me, “But we share a heart…”
I have to bring up The Strain again, because these quotes about love and it’s power over us reveal the truth of how the things we love can be our greatest weaknesses and the entry way for evil into our lives.
Hunger is the most important thing we know, the first lesson we learn. But hunger can be easily quieted down, easily satiated. There is another force, a different type of hunger, an unquenchable thirst that cannot be extinguished. It’s very existence is what defines us, what makes us human. That force is love…
Love, you see, is the one force that cannot be explained, that cannot be broken down to a chemical process. It is the beacon that guides us back home when no one is there, and the light that illuminates our loss. Its absence robs us all pleasure of our capacity for joy. It makes our nights darker and days gloomier. But when we find love no matter how wrong, how sad, or how terrible we cling to it, it gives us our strength, it holds us upright. It feeds on us and we feed on it. Love is our grace. Love is our downfall…
What I find fascinating is how love is considered a gift, a blessing, with no acceptance to the fact that it also binds and chokes and strangles…
Thus our unrest that comes from the desire for love is often the doorway evil uses to come in and make us it’s slaves.
I’m convinced the way to freedom is all about loving the right things and knowing what real love is. If we love God, cling to Him and trust Him for the best we will not be disappointed. If we understand that real love is sacrificial and more about giving that taking, sacrificing than stealing, we won’t fall prey to those things that we think are love, but are actually evil in disguise.
I “loved” my ex-pastor and had a real connection with him. It was uncanny how he knew when something was wrong with me, and I knew when something was wrong with him. I attributed this connection to the Holy Spirit, and maybe on those days when I actually prayed for him, it was, but other times this connection got us into trouble. Being so closely connected to another human being resulted in big problems…because we knew one another’s unrest and so did evil and with it’s encouragement we sought to find rest in the wrong ways. That hungry force of love became Satan’s breeding ground for evil that grew and infected those around us.
I read back over what I just read and come to the conclusion that we humans are so messy, complex, and with an incredible capacity for evil…and for good. In our unrest, evil can come in and take over causing us to share it’s face, yet if in our unrest we turn to God, we reveal His face.
It’s all a matter of what we place our trust in, whom we choose to love.
Me – I guess I had to learn it the hard way with ten years of choking on the quail I’d begged for…and seeing that it made me sick. At first it seemed this ex-pastor was my answered prayer…I’m sure those first quail tasted so good to the Israelites, but after a while they grew to hate the taste…what I hated the most were the lies and deceiving those I cared about the most…because that was the thing my father did that caused me the most pain..those secrets I was too afraid to ever tell had stolen my life…I realized I was doing the same thing…the reality of evil’s face that had begotten evil in me stared at me from the mirror.
The most amazing thing about the stories of Tamar and Judah is that despite all the evil God worked it out for good- good that crushed the face of evil at the foot of the cross; for Tamar was the first woman listed in the lineage of Jesus and the twins she bore from her deceptive indiscretion with Judah resulted in Perez.
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David.
And the list just goes on…broken, messy humans often used by evil…but despite all of it God delivered to us Jesus.
And then there’s me… and I am recognizing that God didn’t want me to wear the face of evil any longer. He didn’t want me to live in unrest either. He wanted me to love the only one who could give me peace. And the only way I could do that was to see His love for me first. And He loved me despite my sin. He never gave up on me. That’s what real love does.
Evil begets evil, indeed…but love covers a multitude of sins…perfect love casts out all fear…love begets love…and there is no stronger force in the world…the cycle has been broken because Jesus Christ loved us enough to die for us…the captives are set free…and one day evil’s face will be banished forever…what a blessed unseen hope!