Thursday, October 16, 2008

Deliver Us

  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

                        Matthew 6.13

Requesting a Break

It’s not incorrect to read deliver as save, as in “protect” or “spare us” from the evil one. But it also misses an aspect that adds understanding to what Jesus teaches us to pray. Deliver in this case also implies vacating space—much like an expectant mother is delivered of her infant. When a mother “delivers,” the symbiotic relationship between her and her child is interrupted. Her body’s involuntary responses to her baby’s needs—his/her hunger, growth, etc.—now become voluntary responsibilities. Admittedly, this comparison is not the best. Motherhood is a sacred trust that begins in the womb and continues through life; it’s humankind’s highest example of our Creator’s power and love. Yet it’s also instructive, I think, to apply a similar dynamic to this prayer phrase. We ask God to deliver us, requesting a break in the symbiotic relationship between the Tempter and us. We want him out and we want God’s kingdom, power, and glory in.

Change that Matters

“Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,” Romans 6.4 tells us, “we too may live a new life.” The seed of Christianity’s promise of new life is planted right here, in the closing phrase of The Lord’s Prayer. Asking our Father to unseat the reigning evil influences in our lives—the Tempter and his “What-about-me?” selfishness, insecurity, and fear—is the first step to experience change that matters. It has to happen before new life begins in us.

In his first epistle, John said he wrote to young readers “because the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2.14) When God’s word is alive in us, when we nurture it, let it shape our behavior, and govern our hopes for the future—just like pregnant mothers do in response the new life developing within them—deliverance from the evil one is a fait accompli. We’ve overcome him, released ourselves from his force and influence.

Post-Partum Complications

Expelling the evil one’s presence from our hearts and minds doesn’t fully banish him from our lives, though. There are post-partum complications: he continues to beg for our love, attention, and nourishment. For the sake of the new life growing in us, we can’t feed his demands. That’s why John followed his statement above with, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2.15) For some of us, it’s harder to purposefully deprive former desires and habits than it initially was to give them up. We hate what they do to our lives, but we love them, too. We have to let them go, let them starve, let them die slow, natural deaths.

We can’t feed the Tempter and nurture new life at the same time. So we consistently pray that God will deliver us from the evil one—that he’ll remove his influence over us and protect us from his attempts to draw our attention away from what matters. James tells us that when we ask God for anything, we “must believe and not doubt.” The man who asks and yet doubts “is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1.6-8) We ask God to deliver us from the evil one. We believe He will. And then we live and nurture newness of life.

God delivers us from evil so we can nurture His new life in us.

(Tomorrow: Home at Last)


Cuboid Master said...

I am so happy to see you included fear as a mark of the evil one's influence. Yes, when we are unable to fully invest our trust in God and instead cling to worry and fear -- both signs of distrust -- we are assuredly under the influence of the evil one.

Actually, I think fear is the basis for most spiritual problems, be it addiction, anxiety, narcissism ... even depression. Of course, there is often a very real physiological basis for such afflictions, but having a lack of faith only exasperates these problems and makes them chronic.

A clear sign of the evil one's influence (or, as I prefer to say, "the absence of God")is preoccupation with self. Freedom begins through service to others and it is the only way, beyond sincere prayer and the Grace of God, to find closeness to Jesus.

When John states, "Do not love the world or anything in the world," I think he also means, "Do not be preoccupied with self." Jesus demonstrated the power of service during His Ministry. It seems to me the core of His entire message was love, forgiveness and service. The Son of God bathed the feet of others -- the Son of God! That is a powerful argument for service.

Anytime I read your posts, I always ask myself, "How can I make practical application of this message in my life?" Today, I will take this lovely offering from you and translate it into greater service to humanity, specifically to other gay young men like my son. Many of them have no parental support. This is terribly sad.

I feel tremendous fear for my son as I know the trials that often meet gay, lesbian and transgender young people. To eliminate my fears, I must become a part of the solution, not simply fret and cry piteously while I beg God to take care of my son. My tears, though sincere, achieve nothing. I have to do something to give them meaning.

It reminds me of something my Scottish grandfather always said to me when I made an error in judgment. In "kid terms," he said, "Trust in God but lock up your (bleep) bike." Ha-ha! I miss him so much! God the Father is always there to provide, but He wants us to prove our sincerity through action.

Thanks again, Tim. :-)

Tim said...

CM, thank you for these insights. Lately, I've been having my own little struggle with fear. I've been traveling and working long hours, lacking both the proper time and environment to give these subjects the thought and attention they deserve. With every click of the "publish" button, I've had a pang of fear that they feel hurriedly cobbled together and aren't as clearly reasoned or laid out they might be under better circumstances. So you do me a great service by chiming in!

I completely concur with you that fear is the enemy's biggest, most effective weapon against us. I believe that our inability to embrace all of the ideas and actions called for in The Lord's Prayer (and every other aspect of Jesus's unnatural lifestyle) is rooted in fear. And I also believe the cruelties, bigotry, and self-righteousness aimed at all of us--and GLBT believers, particularly--can be traced back to the fear of those who oppose us.

In his first epistle, John wrote (and I'm paraphrasing), "There is no fear in love, because love has to do with punishment... but perfect love casts out all fear." When we fix our hearts and minds on obeying Christ's law to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, we displace the evil one's ability to leverage fear over us.

Freedom from fear IS freedom to love and to serve. That's why Paul told Timothy, "God hasn't given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind." Love casts out fear, power overcomes the Tempter's influences, and a sound mind makes sure we remember to lock up our bleepin' bikes!

Thanks again. Blessings, Tim