The price of knowing good and evil

In Genesis 2:17 God tells Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then in Genesis 3:5 the serpent deceived Eve into desiring the fruit of that tree, so she ate from it. Verse 7 states that the eyes of Adam and Eve were immediately opened to know that they were naked. Presumably this realisation of their nakedness is a result of knowing good and evil, so it was an instant impartation of the knowledge.

However, in thinking about this recently I started to wonder if perhaps the sin and evil which resulted from this event are the expected effect: Adam and Eve were already experiencing ‘good’ even if they were unaware of any other state of being. To understand the knowledge of good and evil they would also have to experience evil.

One of the fundamental questions people have regarding belief in God is, “How can a good God allow evil?” The explanation must surely be that evil was demanded by the first humans reaching out to take the knowledge of good and evil. We cannot have such knowledge without knowing both what good is and what evil is.

I assume that theologians have discussed this at great length and explained it far better than my stumbling thoughts, but this is a new idea to me.

April in review

A look back at what I’ve learned in April 2015.

I have recently begun reading Emily Freeman’s blog Chatting at the Sky. Emily has a practice of looking back at the end of each month to review what she has learned before plunging into the next month. I like this idea so am trying it myself. As an insatiable learner it may help consolidate what I’ve learned and give some insight as to where I should focus in the upcoming month.

1) Bible reading

I read an average of 4.3 chapters of the Bible per day in April. This is a little below my target of 5 per day but close. Some days I did not read the Bible at all and this is something I’d like to improve on because reminding myself of the full story of redemption and the encouragements, commands and prohibitions in Scripture is important to build up my faith.

2) Blogging

I joined the Clumsy Bloggers workshop for NZ$2 at the beginning of April using a 99% off coupon. So far the course has covered: Design & Layout; Consistency & Content; Titles, Formatting & Comments; Images; and Social Media. Mostly it is revision for me but good reminders to put work into some of the basic building blocks of my blog.

3) Evil abounds in this world.

At the very beginning of April Al-Shabab attacked a Kenyan university, killing 148 people. Later in the month ISIS released a gruesome video of the killing of 30 Ethiopian Christians. There are many horrifying reports of the slavery, rape and torture of women and children by ISIS fighters. Other news reports featured Burmese men being used as slaves on fishing boats in Indonesia. Slavery is also rampant in the clothing industry. I would like to do more than wring my hands in despair.

4) ANZAC Day

In commemorating ANZAC day, our family learned more of what our grandfathers experienced in the second world war and also some details of the Gallipoli campaign that caused me to question some of the stories we have been fed about the history of our nation.

Books I’ve read

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett (Kindle edition)

A chronicle of learning what prayer means when life is a bit chaotic and has squeezed out the ability to have standard issues ‘quiet times’ with God. Micha discusses Benedictine spirituality in an inviting way and at one point describes prayer as like the soothing rhythm of fly fishing, which I particularly liked! Not a ‘how to’ manual but an encouraging read.

Social media posts

A scan of what I have posted on social media channels gives an indication of what caught my interest in the last month:

Looking forward

I noted that I want to do more than feel bad about the evil happening in the world. As Christians we are called to be a light to the world and a preserving factor in society. I’m not going to suddenly turn into a world changer in the month of May, but I can consider how God could be wanting to use me within the sphere of influence He has placed me.

God in a brothel

In this book Daniel Walker describes how sex abuse of children sucks their souls out leaving an empty body – like J.K. Rowling’s Dementors but even more terrifying because it is not make believe. Every man who has battled lust should read this book and fight that demon sin with renewed vigour as a result. Sex trafficking is a many-headed monster but we must fight it on all fronts.

There are some books that I don’t especially want to read but know I need to read them. God in a Brothel by Daniel Walker is such a book. My reason for reading it was that if I am to understand the situation for the Shan people of Burma then it is important to comprehend how sex trafficking occurs in South East Asia. This book is well written and the words are easy to read. However, what the words are saying is not at all easy to stomach.

Daniel Walker is a Kiwi police officer who worked undercover as an investigator of human trafficking in the global sex industry. It is a sickening trade in the bodies and souls of women and children.

I would recommend all men to read this book – it shows the degrading horror of what lust does when indulged without thought to its effect upon others. The darkness of sex trafficking is everywhere, because lust is everywhere and internet porn is feeding its voracious appetite. Daniel Walker describes its effect upon the victims:

I noticed that many of the older girls, twelve and thirteen years old, had lost all life in their eyes. They appeared to be in a trance or under some dark magician’s spell. They moved with a slow resignation; no amount of smiling, warmth or kindness on my part could draw them out. The systematic and prolonged sexual abuse of children and young people is perhaps the very worst crime against humanity because, as I saw day after day, it strips them of their heart and soul. It murders the person but leaves their bodies alive.

…These empty bodies existed in the netherworld of prostitution and in the vacuum of an indifferent world. I met them in every room of every brothel, and they all had the same look in their dark, empty eyes.
God in a Brothel, p89 (emphasis mine)

This man has an integrity, moral strength and toughness way beyond what I have. To face the temptations he did and the suffering he saw without falling down or falling apart is astonishing. He does discuss the issues of what support is ideal for people doing such work in order to maintain their personal wellbeing longterm and is candid about his own failing on one occasion.

He also admits to struggling on an emotional level with wanting to summarily execute some of the “predatory sex tourists, sadistic pedophiles cunning traffickers and greedy pimps” he encountered. He opens that chapter with the following:

It is easy to hate men. Men create the demand for sex trafficking, which the criminals involved in human trafficking are only too eager to supply. Without these men and their personal pursuit of pleasure, the simple fact is there would be no forced prostitution.  God in a Brothel, p79.

Remember this guys – lust is not an innocent desire. Left unchecked it is a selfish, destructive force. When the lust of multitudes of men rampages through a society it is a demonically ruthless force of evil. You cannot stop sex slavery, but you are responsible for killing your own lust.

Slavery can happen here too:

The Malaysian sex worker, who was in New Zealand on a visitor’s permit but has since returned home, told another prostitute there she had been paid $5600 to come to Auckland, and had been made to work 16-hour shifts with few breaks on most days.

Another Malaysian sex worker said she had been lured here with a $4500 cash offer, plus airfares, but was later told that it was a loan she had to repay.

Her passport was also taken from her soon after she arrived.
(NZ’s sex-slave cases ‘slip under radar’)

A case of forced labour in Auckland: Slave labour probe in central Auckland

Relevant Links

The real, real world

the-real-real-world

That time again: 5 minute Friday. This week’s word is real.
The task: Write for 5 minutes, no fixing and fiddling, just write.

Learning to be real and realistic:

Real: actual, genuine.
Realistic: seeing or accepting things as they really are, practical.

The first eighteen years of my life were based on these ideas. I liked to stick with the facts, to look for truth, be practical; and my parents drummed into me that it is foolhardy to be anything other than realistic – one must accept things as they are.

What is the real world?

But there is more to life than what folks like to call the real world, what we can see and touch. There is One, who John and the other apostles saw and touched, who cannot be seen or touched right now but is no less real for it (1 John 1:1–2).

The real real world is much bigger than what we can see and touch here and now. It includes wars, refugees, children and old people hiding in jungles from soldiers who should protect them. The real, real world contains ideas bigger and cleverer and stupider than any I encountered in small town Central Otago, NZ. It includes God – and evil – chariots of fire and legions of angels (see 2 Kings 6:17, Matthew 26:53).

Intangible but really dangerous

In the real, real world there are demons in my head that will do real damage if let loose. There is selfishness in my heart that would destroy my marriage if given free reign. There is frustration and anger in my soul that will destroy my children if released. These things cannot be touched, but they touch me and those I love.

In this world I need the Jesus I cannot see or touch.

Stop

Confession: I did do a little editing after my 5 minutes. The bold and italics, headings and scripture references were all added later.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
(1 John 1:1-4 ESV)


Image of enraged man: iStock

Evil is ruthlessly competitive

For God alone my soul waits in silence;from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
How long will all of you attack a man
to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
(Psalm 62:1–4 ESV)

Waiting in silence

David’s soul is still in God’s presence. He draws near in reverent obedience. This is an active stillness, there is intentionality and purpose involved. There is focus – a fixed confidence in God which stills all anxieties and drives out little nagging concerns. From God alone comes salvation.

Confidence that only partly relies on God is vain
(C.H. Spurgeon)

The attack of evil

Have you ever had a great ‘quiet time’ (or whatever you choose to call it) in the morning, only to begin the day and have everything turn to custard? Perhaps this is what happened to David. “In God alone my soul waits in silence”. Only to be told at breakfast that the butler has sold the sordid details of the Bathsheba incident to the tabloids.

In reading about verses 3–4, I came across this description:

Evil, being ruthlessly competitive, is attracted to weakness, to give a last push to whatever is leaning or tottering. It is also attracted to strength, the target of its envy and duplicity. It is in total contrast to the goodness which spares the bruised reed, is glad “when we are weak and you are strong”, and achieves its ends by “the open statement of the truth”.
Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)

It stands to reason that David, king of Israel, would be the target of duplicity and underhanded attempts to displace him from his position of power.

What about you?

For all who walk with God there will be ruthlessly competitive attacks of evil probing for our weaknesses and fully exploiting every vulnerability.

  • Where does your strength lie?
  • What are your weaknesses, vulnerabilities, hidden things that would be painful if exploited or exposed?
  • Who would like to see you fall or be taken down a peg or two?
  • Why?
  • How do they seek to take you down?

In what ways does evil, attracted by a hint of weakness, try to give you one last push and get you to fall?

Preach to yourself

Evil attacks and David reminds himself of where his hope needs to be fixed, he strengthens his heart in God. At the beginning of the psalm he boldly states that his soul waits for God alone. Now we get to the place I am more familiar with, telling my soul that this is what I should be doing. I have to tell myself (firmly, forcefully) that God is my only rock and my salvation, my fortress, I will not be shaken. If I pause to consider the evil trying to tear my down, I must then remind myself that on God rests my salvation, on God rests my glory. I have no glory of my own, evil cannot steal what I do not claim. My security, my refuge, is God.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
(Psalm 62:5–7 ESV)

Trust in Him at all times!

Remember that confidence that only partly relies on God is vain. It is no good stumbling around in the twilight dimness of semi-trust. Trust God whether life is going well or disastrously. When we do trust fully in God it is easier to do what is necessary to get to the place of silently waiting for Him; pouring out our heart to Him.


Image of crumbling wall: sk8geek

Love until it hurts

Mother Teresa

I have been thinking about the “Why?” question a bit lately: Why must the innocent suffer? Why is so little done to protect those innocent ones? Why do the guilty not suffer? Then, by implication, why am I not suffering?

There are big theological answers to these questions, such as God does all things for His glory, suffering and all. Judgment will come and the guilty will be punished and those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ will be saved.

But those are not the sort of answers I am seeking. The question I am really asking is, “when someone in my life is suffering and I am not, why have I been given the undeserved blessing of health and wellbeing?” What is my responsibility with the fullness of life I have been given? Further, am I going to fulfill my responsibilities? Will I give what it is that others need from me, rather than just giving the left-over bits of my life that are the equivalent to spare change?

What is my responsibility toward those who are suffering – am I obliged to help everyone? The story Jesus told about the good Samaritan touches this topic; a man helps a total stranger from a group of people he would never normally associate with (Luke 10:25-37).  Yet even in this story the issue is simplified by physical proximity (the injured man was lying beside the road) and in-your-face knowledge of the man’s need (the Levite and priest both saw him and chose to look the other way). What about the people we hear about or see on the news?

It seems to me that my obligation before God is based upon knowledge and ability to respond, both of which are limited. My knowledge is limited, but if I am aware of a need, I should respond and try to alleviate that need (see James 4:17). My ability to respond to all the needs I am aware of is also limited, I cannot sponsor every child I see advertised as needing sponsorship, I cannot heal the sick people, feed the starving or stop child abuse. But I can sponsor one child, I can at least care for someone I know who is sick even if I cannot heal them, and maybe by being supportive to one struggling family I can help reduce the risk to a child.

I think that Paul’s words to the Corinthian church also apply here:

For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.
(2 Corinthians 8:12 ESV)

Yet we are called to give sacrificially, as the story of the widow’s offering shows (Mark 12:41-44). Such sacrificial giving goes way beyond money, as the superlative modern example of compassion liked to say:

“Love until it hurts.”
(Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

I think this begins to move me in a constructive direction regarding my response to suffering. Regarding evil, I must leave that to God because human justice is, at best, flawed ( Romans 12:19). As to why I am not currently suffering – mercy and grace are the only reasons I can think of ( Luke 13:1-5). Maybe I too will suffer in my life, in the meantime I think I also am called to love until it hurts.

The question that remains is, will I?

Sorry about all the questions, I think these are things we should ask ourselves more often than we generally do, that’s why I am posting them for all to ponder.


Image of Mother Teresa: Wikimedia Commons

Only men and devils

“There is no creature that conspires against God but only devils and sinful men.” Jeremiah Burroughs in The Evil of Evils.

This sentence brought me to a complete standstill. The book it is from is not one to read quickly anyway, but the stark bluntness of being classed with Satan and demons because my sin is so evil is hard to swallow. It is true, I just don’t like it.

I have often envied the birds and animals in moments of Romans 7 frustration (see Romans 7:19-20). They simply do what God made them to do, we humans on the other hand have exchanged the truth for a lie and rebelled against God (Romans 1:25). That rebellion is sin, and sin results in death (Romans 6:23).

God is opening my eyes to see that whereas I like to refer to my sinful nature as ‘fallen’ and think of it in terms of being a bit bent and broken, God calls it evil — not that I do evil, I am evil. In the same way that demons are evil – in open rebellion against God (2 Peter 2:4, 1 John 3:8).

God is holy, totally separated from any hint of sin or evil. It is important to grasp some idea of how blindingly pure He is and that by nature we are sinners, we cannot stop ourselves sinning and so cannot exist in God’s presence. Frankly, in such a state we are doomed, not because God is mean but simply because we are evil. For people to exist in the presence of God they would have to also be holy as He is (1 Peter 1:15-16).

So, here we are, separated from God because of our sin and completely without hope (Ephesians 2:12). Then what does God do?

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)