12 Oct 2008

The Devil Foiled

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It’s Sunday and I’ve already put up a bunch of posts dealing with mammon, so I thought I should at least post one on the Lord.

Most people know deep down that there is something “wrong with the world.” Sure, atheist evolutionary biologists (and I realize that is a subset of all evolutionary biologists) can try to explain it away, especially after studying some game theory. But deep down, most people know that it doesn’t make sense that the most intelligent creatures on the planet cause themselves so much unnecessary misery.

But this is no cosmic accident, in the Christian worldview. Behind every conspiracy theory and other explanation for it all, lies the fact that Satan is doing everything in his power to hurt us. I have not studied the topic sufficiently, but I believe his ultimate goal isn’t our suffering, but rather to get us to join him in his rebellion against God. However, since God gives us commands for our own welfare, it necessarily follows that to the extent he is successful in gaining our “independence” from God’s will, Satan causes us misery.

According to the Christian, the reason you need Jesus for salvation is that you don’t stand a chance against Satan yourself. You may be clever, but he is more clever, and he has a lot more power and a lot more experience. He has been tricking people into hurting themselves for thousands of years. In contrast, you’ve only been around for a century at most. You don’t stand a chance. As a poet once said, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody. It may be the Devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

Now, when Jesus walked the earth, the Devil unleashed a masterful plot against Him. He actually tricked the masses of people–those whom Jesus had been literally healing daily–to demand that Jesus be tortured and murdered. They even insisted that a murderer be freed, in order to ensure the punishment for Jesus. In terms of convincing us that we are worthless scumbags, and that God couldn’t possibly love us like He says He does (so why believe His other promises?), the Devil should have won. It would be impossible for him to have engineered a better move; that should have been checkmate in the battle for our souls.

Ah, except for one thing. While He was bleeding to death, Jesus asked His Father to forgive us. This dovetails with the (Protestant) emphasis on salvation through grace, not works. Even in secular terms, if you commit an affront on somebody else, the power to fix the relationship doesn’t really rest with you. Rather, the other person has the power to forgive or hold a grudge. If you break somebody’s TV, you can pay him back to make up for it, I suppose. But if you torture and kill somebody who has spent His adult life literally healing you and your friends of bodily sickness, there’s really nothing you can do to rectify that. It should be unforgivable.

Except that it wasn’t; God did forgive those people, and by extension, all of us. With that voluntary action, He proved that His love was more powerful than our sins.

I am not sure of this last point, but I think it entirely possible that when Jesus asked for our forgiveness, the Devil was shocked. “What?!” I picture him as having moved his Knight into check, thinking the game was all over. And then the Lord did something that the Devil hadn’t even considered, since it was so alien to his worldview.

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