I think it’s a disservice to teach our children that good rides around on a white horse and evil lurks in shadows. When they grow older, they will be attracted to what is sparkling and beautiful. They will think that church always means goodness and prayer pills are popped for headaches and sour stomachs. They might think that shiny happy people would just naturally have pure intentions, and fail to see truth.
Because evil lurks in beautiful things.
Sin is alluring, my sweet children, pushing a small seed into a pure heart, surrounded by warmth and lifeblood and privacy. A woman’s breast and curved back. The shiny feel of money. A message that tickles your inner euphoria and make you think, just this once. It’s harmless. No one will ever know. The devil sticks his tentacles around the vessels and grows ever stronger, wrapping and leafing and blooming into a great darkness. And for a moment, during the pulsing and the beating and the loving and the looking, there is a sense of power. Everyone is on even footing. No one is sanctimonious.
And just like that the heart grows hard, choked out by all the weeds and guilt and shame. Out of it flows tainted blood and it’s no longer full of grace. Because the heart is the key to power. Sampson was stripped of it. We are all bound by it.
It’s where evil grows best.
Jesus said that what comes out of a person is what defiles them, not what’s put in. “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:21-23. But what if darkness has grown so deep and so intertwined that the flesh is rotten underneath? How can one ever crack open their chest and pull it from the roots?
I honestly have a hard time answering that question. I hear things like be washed in the life-saving blood of the lamb, but try telling an adulterer this odd phrase as a helpful pocket tool of wisdom and watch them run for cover. Try to find a way to explain the power of Christ or how hearts can be healed or how darkness abhors the light. It falls on deaf ears, because old habits die hard. Humiliation and addiction are so strong that it’s hard to pull against them long enough to get a word in.
But the truth is more powerful than evil. My daughter attends a Christian school, and last year I heard many renditions of Psalm 139. I remembered these words being uttered from my six-year-old’s tongue and they suddenly took on new meaning. You have searched me, oh Lord, and you know me. For where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light becomes night around me. But even the darkness will not be dark to you.
God knows the heart. He sees the trunk of sin. There isn’t anyone too broken to kneel down and pray those words in Ezekiel that a heart can be renewed. There is no sin too great and deep to be forgiven. Jesus did it over and over. Put away your stones. Walk away from judgment. Accept the grace and mercy and new blood that so naturally flows from a pure heart.
Evil is everywhere, my children, and we must simply be strong enough to recognize it. To pull it toward the light. To ask God to rip it from the roots with humility and honesty. And then we are finished. Our jobs are done. Our prayers are laid bare.
God can handle the rest.