An Appearance of Godliness – Case Studies in Evil (Part 5)

I had a good friend. I met him at Bible college many years ago. He was a very kind man and spent quite a lot of time with our family over the years. He never forgot our birthdays or our anniversary – a card would come in the mail or a phone call. He evidenced Christ in his life and I still believe that he was a real Christian.

But he is dead. He committed suicide several years ago. We never knew. We never saw it coming. He never said anything to us. So what happened?

I think I know.

He was a person who was very naive about the evil that is in this world. He assumed that people were what they appeared to be, that they could be trusted, that they would treat him kindly, just as he treated them. But they didn’t. Many did, because he was a very good and likeable person. But it was his failure to be as wise as serpents regarding evil that killed him.

A worldview,  you might say, like my friend had – at least in respect to understanding human beings – is deadly. It sets you up for a huge fall because at some point you are going to be faced with reality. A real world where evil abounds, where people are more like this:

Jeremiah 9:4-6 ESV  Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.  (5)  Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.  (6)  Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the LORD.

It seems to me that it was the shock of seeing just how evil people could be that led my friend to an inability to go on in such a world. Things just came crashing down on him as the storybook world he lived in crumbled. He had grown up in church, but no one there ever taught him the real wisdom about evil that the Lord has given us in the Bible.

And I suppose the cracks in his world started to form quite some time before he died at his own hands. I remember him telling me something once when a person he had trusted betrayed him – sinned grievously against him – and others in his life, people who claimed to be Christians, took the side of the evildoer. And he told me, “I waited and waited for my friends to do something about this. For my church to do something about it. And then one day I realized, ‘you know what they are going to do? Nothing.’  And he was right.

So, in a sense, I am presenting my friend’s tragic story here as one of these case studies in evil. He was not the evildoer, but he is a sad example of what happens if we insist upon denying the real nature of fallen humanity.

Let me give you still another perfect illustration of living life in a fairytale world where everyone lives happily ever after. I watched a movie version of Shirley Jackson’s novel “We Have Always Lived in the Castle.”  Constance is a person who had experienced horrific tragedy. And yet she smiles. Constance is always smiling (and isn’t that what a good Christian always does?). If her smile ever begins to sag a bit due to wickedness right in front of her, she forces those smile muscles back into place right away. All the while her world is caving in around her. But Constance simply will not admit the truth – that in reality she lives right in the midst of terrible evil.

Most professing Christians today are much like my friend and like Constance. They want to see good. They assume most everything and everyone is good. That people who say they are Christians almost always are. But Christ has taught us otherwise. He spoke of wolves in wool. This is an evil, fallen world in which we live out these earthly lives. Insisting that “they all lived happily ever after” in it is a deadly formula. It led to this very sad effect my friend’s death had upon one of his children-

I wish this was not how my Dad left this world he thought was so wonderful. I wish he could have known how much we all cared about him.

Let me conclude by quoting a wonderfully accurate and insightful description of this very subject. It was written by “LG,” one of the followers of the blog.  I literally could not say it better:

I truly had no idea such people even existed and for a long time was left spinning and dizzy with confusion.

Even though I had grown up a conservative “bible believing” church (PCA) I never learned about the perniciousness of evil and evil people. Nor was I ever once encouraged to learn how to recognize it and the importance of being wise and discerning of evil. I had no idea people could even be so deceitful or dishonest. Nor had I ever heard of the term “gas lighting.” If someone has no idea that someone who can be so deceitful even exists in real life in the first place, then there is no way to even prepare or be on the look out for people like this.

Instead, the idea of being “wise” and “discerning” was limited to being taught that “scoffers” described in Psalm 1 meant those who had sex outside of marriage, dressed immodestly, watched “R” rated movies, and hung out with the wrong crowd, or “unbelievers” and non-church goers, don’t read trashy romance novels, heck don’t even read secular novels unless they are classics, and all the things along those lines. I was also taught that any tragedy resulting from divorce was somehow deserved by the woman for not being this or that enough.

I was taught that memorizing Bible verses was encouraged to give “the appearance of,” and not as something that was a life saving sword. I was never taught what the armor of God, the shield of faith and sword of the spirit was really intended to protect us from. Instead it was superficially reduced to combating personal temptations of lust, greed or laziness.

I was never taught what a strong and wise woman really looked like. In the part of the country where I live there are many women, and people in general, who are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth,” even in the church. Everyone is a proud academic and if you are published you earn even more respect. Sermons are typically geared as college level interest seminars.

Despite all the advanced degrees and PhDs around me, no one talks about the nature of evil, the psychology of sin, or what is really means to be wise, discerning, and strong enough to not be deceived, led astray or captured.

Thank you LG. This is what killed my friend. I am so glad that you survived and are now wise.

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