This is my reflection on tonight’s Bible study at St. James Mission. Our text was Luke 4:1-13.
Have you ever noticed that movie villains are way more interesting than heroes?
Darth Vader is a much more complex character than the whiny Luke Skywalker. A full century after her first appearance, the Wicked Witch of the West (‘Elphaba’ to those who know) got her own novel and Broadway musical.
I can think of several reasons why we feel more drawn to these characters than we do to the ‘good guys’. Rather than exploring all of them, I’d like to focus on one in particular:
Evil is more obvious than good.
Especially when we go through times of crisis, it’s very easy to look only at what’s wrong with the world. Human beings have a tendency to ‘awful-ize’ their lives. It seems that this tendency affects the way in which we Christians interpret our Scriptures.
During tonight’s Bible study on the Temptation of Jesus in Luke’s gospel, we spent a great deal of time asking questions about Satan. Is the devil real? Do the nations of the earth really belong to him? Does our cultural image of the devil come from the Bible or somewhere else? And so on…
At one point in our discussion, someone noticed how the text says that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” as he entered this time of testing. It’s interesting how God will meet us in the midst of stressful situations and will spiritually empower us to make it through in one piece.
Just recently, there was an inmate in one of our local prisons who had refused to eat for an extended period of time. His physical health had deteriorated to the point where he was near death. The court had ordered that the inmate be force-fed, but the medical staff was loathe to do so.
One of the nurses, who happened to be a Christian, felt an urge to talk to this inmate (who had a reputation for violence) about the liberating power of forgiving others. Forgiveness “is about letting go of another person’s throat”, as Wm. Paul Young wrote.
As it turns out, that was exactly what this inmate needed to hear. A short time later, he started to eat again and has already regained sixty pounds. In this situation of crisis, the hospital staff was caught between a rock and a hard place. They could violate their ethics and override the conscience of a hunger-striking inmate, or they could stand by, watch the inmate die, and face the wrath of the criminal justice system. The presence of evil in this catch-22 was obvious. Yet even in the midst of crisis, God was quietly at work through one Spirit-filled person who was willing to reach out in the name of love.
When we read the story of Jesus being tested in the wilderness, it’s easy to notice how the devil looms large. Satan does and says a lot of things in an attempt to distract Jesus and undermine the Father’s work in his life. But Jesus, full of God’s Holy Spirit, is able to meet that chaos with the right words at the right time.
As Bishop Gene Robinson is fond of saying, “Sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes God calms his child.”