One beautiful Sunday morning, everyone in North Java woke up early and went to church. Before the service starts, the people sit in their pews and talk about their lives and their families. Suddenly, at the altar, Satan appears!! Everyone starts screaming and running for the front entrance, trampling each other to get away from Evil Incarnate. Soon, everyone is evacuated from the church except for one man, who sits calmly in his pew. This confuses Satan a bit. Satan walks up to the man and says, "Hey, don't you know who I am?" The man says, "Yep, sure do." Satan says, "Well, aren't you afraid of me?" The man says, "Nope, sure ain't." Satan, perturbed, says, "And why aren't you afraid of me?" The man says, "Well, I've been working in the barn with your brother for 25 years."
The devil is either naively ignored, as some dark superstition from the past, or is immortalized in the movies as some underworld force that can throw little girls into mustard-spitting convulsions. Most people today do not even believe in the devil, either as a person or a force. What can we say about the devil?
The gospels name the forces of hell in two ways: Sometimes they speak of the devil (diabolus) and at other times of Satan (satanus). The terms are not synonymous. Diabolus means to divide, to tear apart; whereas satanus, most curiously, means almost the opposite, it connotes a frenzied, sick, group-think that accuses somebody or something. In essence what the gospels tell us is that the powers of hell, Satan and the devil, work in two ways: Sometimes they work as the devil by dividing us from God, each other, and from what is best within us. Sometimes they work in just the opposite way, as Satan. Here they unite us to each other but through the grip of mob-hysteria, envy-induced hype, and the kind of sick unity that makes for crucifixions.
At the root of both lies the same thing, envy. Through envy, the devil works at dividing us from each other. From envy we get the kind of paranoia, jealousy, sense of being wronged, and bitterness that dissipates families, communities, churches, and whole nations. The devil tears us apart. Satan, using the same weapon, works differently. Satan uses envy to pit neighbor against neighbor. The devil causes us to be distant and distrustful of each other, whereas Satan causes us to be caught up in a sick unity that comes of scape-goating, vicious gossip, and leads to excommunication of your neighbor, in-laws and friends.
In Jesus, the first word out of his mouth (“metanoia“) is a word uttered against the power of the devil: “Be un-paranoid, do not let envy and suspicion divide you from each other, God, and what is highest inside yourself!” Everything else Jesus says and does is intended precisely to lead us beyond division, rejection, and being apart from each other. The kingdom he preaches is about coming together (the opposite of the devil).
God loves us as we pray: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1).
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are the victims of envy and fall victim to Satan’s desire to divide our families. Help us to find the God in our hearts that seeks to bring us together in peace and love.