“We are all evil to the core…”

“Take a look at the world around us and the mess it is in.  We are all evil to the core”

This is the gist of a line that was spoken aloud last night to a group of gathered Christians in a sermon.  The preacher was a young student for the ministry.  I know what he was trying to say.  He was making reference to the Scriptural teaching that all mankind has fallen short of the glory of God, i.e. that all humans are in sin.  What he was trying to say I have no problem with whatsoever.  However, I do have issue with some of the language that he chose to use.  You see to refer to all the gathered people as “evil to the core,” is problematic because of the definition of evil.  Evil is a word which should not become overused in any context.  It should be reserved to describe the most heinous of crimes and offences only.

When I think of evil, I think of Milosevic in Serbia, Hitler in Europe, Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Kone in DMC.  Each of these ) and there are many, many morehave committed evil offences and stolen the lives of many hundreds of thousands of people.  Quite rightly, these individuals can be described as evil because of the ideologies they each promoted in their respective contexts and because of the fact that they knowingly ordered others to commit crimes on their behalf.  Evil, as a term, should be reserved to describe the acts of these men and other human beings like them.

To speak to a small group of mostly elderly people who have, for the most part, led good, honest lives of service and devotion to God and others, and describe them as evil is wrong.  I again want to state that I understand the theological point that was trying to be reinforced.  But these people are not evil in the truest sense of the word and to refer to them as such (even in an attempt to reinforce a theological truth) is unhelpful for them or for the kingdom of God.  It is no wonder that many Christians in this part of the world fail to realise their potential in Christ because they are so busy nodding their heads when preachers refer to them as evil.

The truth is that we are indeed all sinners and we are indeed all in need of grace, but this point does not need to be exaggerated in order for it to be made or reinforced.

At the service in question, just before the young preacher made the statement which sought to remind us all that we are all evil to the core, he also said that it was good to be among God’s people.  Taking this literally, which I know I should not essentially do, the young man was stating that he was among God’s people who were evil to the core.  For this young preacher God’s people within whom God’s spirit dwells are evil to the core.  Can you see where I am going with this?  How can anyone or anything within which the Spirit of Almighty God dwells simultaneously be evil to the core?

Again, I say it – the kid was trying to make a valid theological point about the human need for the grace of God.  But the language with which he chose to make his point was inappropriate and unhelpful.

The other trouble I have with this term, “evil to the core” is that many human beings (Christian and non-Christian) simply are not evil to the core and quite contrarily are the opposite – are actually good people!  Yes all have sinned and all do sin – even the good ones – but not all can be referred to as evil.  When I sin by breaking a road law am I truly to be considered evil?  No, I am not.  Distance from God which leads to sin does not necessarily make me or anyone else evil.

Anywho…that is my rant over for now.  Just in case any preachers do stumble over this blog post, could you all learn a lesson – watch your language.  As wordsmiths, preachers have such a prestigious calling and the words we use can literally bring the pilgrim closer in their walk with God or push them further away.  I only want to whisper words that will call people closer to God and I can make the point that all have sinned and are distant from God without calling them evil.

Rant over!

Been a while…

45 days to be precise.

That time has encapsulated the entire 29 days of February that there were this year.  What a month that was. It was loaded with performances, retreat, trial stuff, as well as all the other usual day to day stuff of ministry.  I reached the end of February wondering where both it and my energy levels had gone to.  It was a lot to take on for one month – probably too much truth be told.  But it is over now and I am in recovery still.  The body will heal and energy will be restored, thank God.

Why do people burn themselves out for faith?  Everything I was doing was wonderful in terms of the ministry that it was.  900 people came to see the panto.  10 men had their lives changed forever during the Walk to Emmaus retreat.  Three congregations came together for a memorable service when I was on trial (for preaching!!!)  It was all good and in some way, I am sure, fruitful.  I suppose that is why we do it.  Because we see the fruit in the lives of others.

Ministry is relentless.  One Sunday gets completed and the next one rolls along very quickly.  One person gets buried or cremated and the next phone call comes from the undertaker.  One pastoral situation shows signs of improvement and then another comes on the horizon.  You put away one batch of paperwork and admin for the Connexion and another one arrives to be done.  Relentless.

I seriously wonder how I will cope with this in the long term if I do not come up with ways of counteracting the busyness now.  Rest is important.  Devotion is crucial.  Steadiness of pace is needed.

Ministry is also lonely.  That is ironic because I do spend my life with people.  I visit.  I have meetings.  I am around other human beings so much.  And yet, this is a lonely place.  I am in a wonderful family and have amazing friends.  And yet this is a lonely place.  I worship an intimate and personal saviour in Christ and yet this is a lonely place.  It is also lonely for my wife.

Is all this worth it for the fruit?  It is when I sit with family and listen to their pain and know that in sharing it with me there is some relief.  It is when I hear a word of encouragement from someone who has been blessed by something I have said.  It is not when the loneliness and doubt of spiritual struggle set in.  It is not when I yearn to be an ordinary man in an ordinary job.  It is when I remember that God has called this very ordinary and fallen man and that I am privileged to do such an extraordinary job and be invited into the lives of people.

Basically, I love and hate my job simultaneously ad this will continue to be the way.  God grant me the grace to live well with this tension.