Posted by: Botolff | November 7, 2009

The “Bold Love” Approach to Evil People.

Hello all.  I’m back.  A few days later than anticipated, but I’m once again settling into the snoozy city of Seattle.  Fall is definitely passing and the typical dreary days are developing.  I can feel the temptation to find a fireplace and a hot cup of coffee to rest the day away.  That combined with some serious jet lag makes for a foggy Friday.  I’m just not as centered as I like to be, but I don’t so much mind the relaxed approach to life.  With little to do the next couple days, this might be my chance to recover lost lingerings and an overloaded mind.  

You might be wondering where I was off to?  Well, I went back to what was once known as the dark continent…Africa; Kenya and Tanzania to be exact.  I was there for an unexpected 16 days on business, and I glimpsed first hand some of the manifestation of the term “dark” that has so often described such a glorious yet groaning culture.  I had a conversation with my friend Charles while we were there in which we talked about the label “dark continent”.  Often the term was used to refer to the skin color of the people; but at other times, it has been used to describe the level of oppression and evil that still seems to be so pervasive throughout the culture.  A friend recently said, “I hear it’s hard to do business in Africa.”  She was right.  At every turn we were up against corrupt government officials, corrupt law enforcement and people looking to make a buck at the expense of robbing their victims of everything we had come to so graciously offer.  Does this mean that Africa is more evil than America?  Not for a second do I believe that to be true; any more than I believe that the converse of that statement would be any more true.  People are people.  Just as we came face to face with extreme levels of corruption and deceit, we also met with some of the most gracious, giving, glorious people on the planet.  In the face of adversity, and the cultural bent of many to take advantage of every opportunity and every unsuspecting person, there were those who were saddened by the hearts of many of their own people.  And it was these that have invested their energy and very lives into offering an example to their own communities of an honest and loyal pursuit of goodness for all.  I am grateful for these that have sacrificed so much to be sure we weren’t sacrificed during our time there.  It takes courageous and risky people to press against those who mock the goodness of God. 

“Evil will not be conquered as long as our hearts live to obtain immediate relief or escape profound loss.  Only when we have little or nothing to lose will we be willing to love.” – Bold Love.

Like I had said before I left, I am going to be spending some time doing something of a review of the book “Bold Love” and its connection to the marriage of evil and shame.  Why?  Because if we don’t dare venture a look into the darkness of evil, and the shame it subsequently creates, both are bound to have unhindered impact on our lives and the lives of the people around us.  If you struggle to believe that what I just said is true, read the headlines of any major newspaper in the world today.  How far do you get before you set your eyes on a story about murder, adultery, embezzlement, theft, arson, etc., etc., etc.?  One of the biggest problems we have with evil is acknowledging its existence in a way that impacts its advancement.  For some, often religious folk, evil is around every corner and responsible for each new hang-nail that appears.  I don’t believe that kind of approach respects the true impact that evil has on our culture.  For many however, we are good at acknowledging that evil exists…over there.  For some reason(s) we want to hold on to the belief that evil is out there, but not that it has any real impact through real every day people on us.  Hence maybe the reason why people seem so shocked if they find out their neighbor is a serial killer.  How many times have you heard people say in interviews…”He seemed like such a nice boy.  I would have never thought he was capable of this.”?

I want to suggest that we are often very unaware of evil working in people, including ourselves.  In some respects there may be some glory in this, if it’s a sign that we trust God, as we should, that He/She has our best interest in mind and is bigger and more powerful than the darkness that looms.  But in other regards it can also be unhealthy because trauma and abuse can claim a lot of attention and impact that it doesn’t need to have.  Sometimes we work hard not to see the evil that exists around us.  I believe maybe this is because of our fear of the cost that comes with finding out that we are not the people who we have come to believe or fantasize that we are.  Still other times evil is learned enough to camouflage itself from even the most keenly trained investigators, and this is often when the shame of discovery can seem so overwhelming.  Given these three scenarios, is it any wonder that we are so consciously or unconsciously blind to evil at work?       

How is it that I have become so familiar with evil and evil people?  Well, I am not an expert in either category.  However, I seem to be on a very revealing journey to learn and to learn to love.  I believe the only way that I can even be on that journey is to begin by peering deeper into my own soul.  First and foremost I have had to become more in tune with the wicked longings of my own heart.  Often a wandering heart, disobedient, dismissive, dissociative heart; and at times a murderous, adulterous, deeply idolatrous heart.  I see the parts of me that make my stomach turn and my mind want to run away from itself…and yet I know I am loved.  This has been the beginning of my journey in this arena, as my journey must always start with me. 

Propelled by a self-examining eye, my life has also been directly influenced by a number of seemingly evil people who have crossed my path in my biological family, church family, “friends”, a grade school teacher, ministry leaders, neighbors, etc.  How do I know this?  Because my life is marked by extreme loss that has come with seeing, and often naming, the very evil that has freely shown its own face in the face of a handful of people who I have been so close to.  At best some of these particular people displayed a false kindness on the surface, only to quickly reveal more deceitful motivations.  Worse, some of them promised a love and acceptance that turned out to be a pipeline to personal fulfillment and a devouring and all-consuming spirit.

It takes people willing to see and accept the evil that can so easily manifest itself in the lives of our best “friends”, our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, neighbors, church leaders…ourselves…in order to truly drive a stake in the ground to claim our commitment to pursue an end to the violence that evil and shame invite.  But as “Bold Love” says, only when we are ready to let go of our pursuit of immediate relief, and fear of profound loss, will we truly be ready to love. 

More to come…

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