"Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever." Psalm 37:27
I've had a mentor over the past three years who has truly helped to shape my view of Christ and what it means to follow him. I've stolen numerous sayings, quips, and cliches that make people laugh when I speak or write and even have them considering me witty once in a while. On the rarest occasion some "fooled" individuals have falsely called me smart or bright (hard for you and me to believe) because of the truth in these little sayings stolen from a disciple of Christ. One of my favorite sayings that He would send people off with after an inspiring message was for those in attendance to leave that day and to "Give 'em heaven" as they enter back into the world.
The moment I read today's scripture my mind immediately went to the thought of "giving 'em heaven" versus "giving 'em hell". When we turn from evil and respond by "doing good", we actually turn from giving people hell in favor of giving them Heaven. If we are to give people Heaven, we are showing them with deeds and words what a life of perfect love, lived in the presence of God truly looks like. It is not a life that a political system can come up with, and it's definitely not an idea your yoga instructor has developed in his or her pursuit of truth. Keeping with this idea of giving 'em heaven being what life is actually about for the follower of Christ, than why is it that we have always been told to "give 'em hell" before we play in an athletic event, perform in a concert or go for a job interview? Isn't hell the complete antitheses of God's perfection? If we are to love people, then why would we want to "give 'em hell"? What is so great about hell, that I think I need to give it to everybody? Of course I'm being sarcastic, but seriously...think about it, when we are told to give somebody hell, we are actually being told to give them the kind of treatment that helps them to NOT see God. Personally, even on my off days filled with doubt and fear, the idea of doing anything with the hopes of being outside of the presence of God is not only scary but is downright evil and foolish.
Now, the part of me that wants to take a mental break because it's Sunday didn't want to take this initial thought any further. But the Spirit in me, the one that reminds me that "everything is permissible, but everything is not beneficial", is telling me that we need to take today's passage a little further. You see, whether or not you like it, God has allowed evil into this world. I don't understand why, but I do know what evil is. In a few words, evil is just the absence of good. To make this clear, this is not what you and I consider to be "good". Instead, evil is the complete opposite of what God considers to be "good". My favorite explanation of evil can be done in a word picture of one of my favorite foods, the donut. As you know, donuts are in a word, awesome! They are truly one of the greatest breakfast goods, snack foods, and dessert foods ever created, but now I'm digressing. The basics of what I'm trying to say is that good is a lot like the actual donut. It is a real thing. It is tangible and it effects the senses. The center of the donut is called the "donut hole" (and I'm not talking about the actual ball of sugar dough that typically tastes better than a donut because it's bite sized and full of flavor). Where the donut hole is on the donut, is actually the place where the donut had a piece of dough cut out. The donut hole has a name, but the donut hole is not actually a real thing. Instead, the donut hole on the donut is just the absence of the "good" thing. Much like God's original creation was perfect, when man decided he knew best, pursuing the ability to "be like a God", he took a large cut out of God's initial "good" creation. The result then was a "good" creation that had pieces of the good taken out by the will of man. The places where there appear to be empty spaces or gaps in God's creation are otherwise called evil. Make sense?
When we do evil in this world, namely the pursuit of self over the pursuit of loving others, we are actually committing acts that are not in God's plans for what He considers to be good. As we read today's verse, we see that in order to live eternally, we must not only turn from evil but to also DO good as a response. Personally, it has become a pastime of mine to point out all the evil, the true absence of God in this World, this Country, myself, my family, my Church and my friends (look out, kidding). The problem however, is not only that I'll be judged by the same measure in which I judge, but that my response is not to do good as a resolution to the evil that I'm on the prowl for.
About two weeks ago, as I was sharing this personal shortcoming with a friend he asked me what I hoped to gain with all this "witch hunting". I honestly couldn't respond, a rarity for me as you can tell. As I've pondered this over the past couple of days I can't help but notice that my issues haven't always been in seeing the evil, as that may truly be a gift from God, but it's in my reaction to it. Even though there is a knowledge of the truth of good and evil in my head, there is no response to it in my own actions. Other than some words that I typically use to puff myself above those other "weak minded" Christians around me, my response is to just keep talking about the evil. As I have aimed to "get it", I've missed out on truly getting it.
Today as you consider what God is saying through this Scripture, please keep in mind that there is an absolute truth, an absolute good and an absolute evil in this lifetime. Where absolute truth and goodness dwell is in the eternal perspective of God's kingdom. Where evil seems to be, is actually an opportunity to "refill" it with goodness and truth the way God intended it to be. When we live for the goodness, truth and the beauty of God in Christ, we begin to live in eternity which is what today's message truly is about. As you head into this week choose to not only point out all the evil but to respond by filling in that absence of God with His love, his truth and his perspective. In taking this approach you will be "Giving them heaven" even when the world is telling you to "give 'em hell".