Monday, March 12, 2018

Evil in Unexpected Places

“No one gives up on something until it turns on them.”
― Thomas Ligotti

Ligotti’s statement may or may not be true, but there is something to be said for people who live consistently.

Those who have become disillusioned by the behavior of Christians are among the most intensely disillusioned people I have ever met. How do you initiate any kind of dialogue with someone completely convinced he has taken the measure of your faith and found it wanting?

A Tree of Life

Solomon speaks of the peculiar repulsiveness of evil that catches you by surprise:
“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
Ouch. A gentle tongue is a mode of speech that is wholesome, soothing or healing. It is speech that promotes health. Like the other qualities Solomon praises, it is a characteristic that brings blessing, unity, harmony, peace and joy. It is speech that has a refreshing quality; that nourishes you rather than eats away at your conscience whenever you recall having been party to it.

It is, in its way, a little foretaste of heaven.

Drunks, Tramps and Politicians

There’s nothing particularly shocking or disturbing about a foul mouth on a drunk slobbering at the bar. It is precisely what you expect to find. There’s little offence taken nowadays when a politician fabricates rubbish. It is anticipated and even applauded in some quarters. And no man ever had his faith in humanity destroyed by the revelation that the tramp on the street corner wasn’t initiating conversation with him out of sheer benevolent goodwill.

In all these situations, a person’s speech may be perverse, deceitful, immoderate, untrustworthy, undependable, duplicitous, dishonest or crooked and nobody bats an eyelash, because what they hear is precisely what one would expect to hear, given the source.

A Gold Ring in a Pig’s Snout

But a duplicitous statement, a blatant lie, an intimation of betrayal or a bit of dirt or gossip about you from a trusted friend, a parent, a partner or a loved one, a Bible teacher, an authority figure — anyone for whom such a thing was previously unthinkable? That gets a reaction, and not a reaction that is easily forgotten. As Solomon says elsewhere, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.”

It’s the incongruity that causes outrage, and the sense of having been betrayed. Of having trusted and been let down. THAT’s what breaks the spirit.

Spirits Broken

Picture the messengers sent by David to the house of Uriah the Hittite tasked with bringing Bathsheba to the king’s bed. How banal and shoddy David must have suddenly appeared to those poor servants sneaking another man’s wife into his palace — the wife of a faithful soldier willing to risk his own life fighting David’s war for him while the king idled at home. Such things cannot be kept private by royalty. I’m sure his servants knew David wasn’t perfect, but this would have been a stunning betrayal, don’t you think?

Here was the man who wrote “The Lord is my shepherd” reduced to dispensing instructions about things such as which gate to bring Uriah’s wife in by, perhaps, and making sure anyone in the know was told to be discreet. That conversation itself was an act of perversity, let alone the events that followed. To those who knew David well and saw him every day, the sheer dissonance must have been heartbreaking.

Talk about a perverse tongue that breaks the spirit. I’m sure those servants never saw David the same way again.

No one gives up on something until it turns on them, but when it does, watch out.

There is great value in living for the Lord and practicing the principles he taught. There is greater value in doing it consistently.

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