One of the primary reasons God sent his Son into the world was to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The Son of God entered into the world to cast the devil out and thereby break his grip and influence over the kingdoms of the world (John 12:31). The primary device the devil uses to gain control over people is deception. When people believe his lies they are under the control of the devil. Moreover, he uses fear to keep people bound to the lies by making truth seem too controversial and too costly for total commitment. As the slanderer, the demonic further uses deception to incite hatred among and between people. He convinces the “us” that the root of all their woe is the “them.”
Jesus entered into the world when many Jews were praying to be delivered from the Romans that they so despised. In contrast Jesus taught his followers to pray, “deliver us from evil” and to love their enemies. Jesus didn’t come to destroy the Romans, he came to destroy the works of the devil and to draw all people, Jew and Gentile, to himself (John 12:32). His mission was to rescue Israel and people of all other nations from the power of darkness and evil itself, to be a light to the nations. The devil on the other hand works to keep people in the dark and divided. He leads them to believe that what they really need is to be be rid of their enemies rather than reconciled with them. He convinces the “us” that evil is located outside of themselves in the “them,” which leads people into self-righteousness. Hence Lesslie Newbigin’s warning to the church about the danger of Marxism in his book, The Open Secret (1995).
A just society can flourish only when its members acknowledge the justice of God, which is the justice enacted in the cross. If I do not acknowledge a justice that judges the justice for which I fight, I am an agent not of justice, but of lawless tyranny.
At this point the Christian has to be aware of the trap set by Marxism. I am not here questioning the Marxist analysis of the nature of capitalism, which I find very convincing; I am speaking of the Marxist understanding of human nature. The most obvious feature of the dedicated Marxist is extreme moralism. For the Marxist, evil is always something external to oneself. It is the “class enemy” that constitutes the locus of the evil against which one has to fight. Consequently there can be no thought of forgiveness and reconciliation. There are only two realities — the oppressor and the oppressed, the exploiter and the exploited. The oppressed and the exploited are the exclusive bearers of truth and righteousness. There is no truth or righteousness over them. so to speak, that is able to judge and forgive them. Two things follow from this: (1) When the “oppressed” acquire power, absolutely no check exists upon their use of that power. There is no righteousness over them that can judge them. The result is the kind of tyranny that we have seen under Stalin and his lesser imitators. Those who identify themselves as the representatives of the “oppressed” are in a position to combine unlimited self-righteousness in respect of themselves with unlimited moral indignation in respect of their opponents. This is the most characteristic feature of the dedicated Marxist. Since there is no transcendent righteousness that can judge and forgive both the oppressor and the oppressed, the way is open for unlimited self-righteousness (p. 111).
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who was imprisoned in a Soviet gulag for questioning the moral underpinnings of the Soviet régime, well knew the tyranny of which Newbigin warned. He also knew the proclivity to locate evil outside oneself in the other isn’t only a problem among Marxists. As he said, “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being” and that line shifts in every heart throughout a person’s life (The Gulag Archipelago, 1974, p. 168). The story of Judas reminds us that no matter how close we may be to Jesus, we’re never far from the devil (John 13:21-30). Chillingly, Solzhenitsyn warned of a threshold, a point of no return, where one may completely give oneself over to evil (p.175). It reminds me of John 12:35-36 where Jesus says,
“The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (ESV).
Jesus calls us to pray “deliver us from evil.” The evil-one himself would prefer that we pray “deliver us from them.” During Jesus’ earthly ministry many Jews would rather pray “deliver us from the Romans.” The Nazis prayed “deliver us from the Jews.” The Bolsheviks picked up an ancient radical Pelagian sentiment and prayed “deliver us from the rich.” Dr. Michael Brown recently posted an article in which he writes that some are rejecting calls to pray for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris saying to do so would be like praying for the devil himself. I suppose their prayer is “Lord, deliver us from the Democrats.”
A PBS legal counsel was caught on tape before the election saying kids of Republican parents should be taken from them and sent to reeducation camps if Biden were to win because he believes Trump is close to Hitler. Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and MSNBC and Nicole Hannah Jones of the New York Times posited that millions of Trump supporters need to be deprogrammed and punished. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee wants to throw a blanket of suspicion over most of the National Guard because most of them likely voted for Trump as did about 75 million of the general population. Some are praying “deliver us from the Republicans.”
Others are praying, “Lord, deliver us from the Federal government” in the name of white supremacy. This was the prayer of Timothy McVeigh, who detonated a bomb at a federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people including 19 children in 1995. Others are praying “deliver us from ‘whiteness'” itself. By this they don’t just mean extremist groups like neo-Nazis and the KKK; they mean white American and white Christian culture in general. Jemar Tisby is apparently suggesting that all of white Christian religion is totally corrupted by racism. Are some praying, “Lord, deliver us from white Christians?” Along those same lines some are praying “deliver us from the police.” All of these, of course, are variations of “deliver us from them.”
The prayer that Jesus taught, however, is “deliver us from evil” which is only possible if it is accompanied by a prayer for God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Us always begins with you and me. A posture of recognizing our own need for forgiveness and a willingness to forgive others is not optional if we are to be truly delivered from evil. It’s not the evildoers and haters but evil and hate themselves that is the greatest threat. No one will actually “win” the zero sum game that’s being played (Matt 4:8-11; 16:26). As Martin Luther King Jr. recognized, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Monastery at the Mount of Temptation
In Jesus the Truth entered into a world riddled by lies and full of hate and spoke the truth in love. He was the Truth in Love in the flesh! Pilate tried to forge a compromise between the Truth and lies, but in the process couldn’t help but torture the Truth. When push came to shove he sent the Truth to be crucified in the name of political correctness and the self-interest of personal expediency (John 18-19). All of us are tempted to temper our commitment to the truth out of fear. Fear keeps us bound to lies and from bearing bold witness to the truth. In Jesus, however, we see that the Truth can be denied and betrayed, mocked and ridiculed, distorted and tortured, and even killed dead and buried, . . . but not forever. To choose truth over lies, to choose faith over fear, to choose love over hate, is to choose life over death.
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven: Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil; For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.