Summary: We ask that the Lord protect and deliver us from evil. We do this not fully understanding the extent to which evil has enslaved us.
We come to the end of our reflections on The Lord’s Prayer. We started off realizing that when we pray for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done we are praying that we will live in God’s kingdom and carry out God’s will. We recalled how God provides us with our daily bread. Reminding ourselves of this truth helps us to be thankful and to cultivate lives of gratitude. We talked about how God has already forgiven all of our sins—past, present and future, and expects us to share that forgiveness by being forgiving of others.
Today we focus on how we face the temptations and evil that are a part of our everyday life. As we live in the reality of God’s kingdom and seek to live out God’s will, how do we overcome the temptations and evil that we encounter?
The word used translated “temptation” can be understood in two ways. It can be either a test or a temptation. A temptation is something that seeks to have us fail. A test is just the opposite. We are tested with the hope that we will succeed. Most students dread finals. When we were students, though we didn’t like finals we would study hard for them. Our hope was that the finals would accurately indicate how well we had mastered the subject.
We all seek comfortable lives and we would prefer to avoid the trials and tests of life. Such desires though are unrealistic. We know that they will come, and when they do, we are praying in this petition that we will succeed rather than fail. We are praying that we will live faithfully and obediently in God’s kingdom of love and grace.
Frequently, we are too narrow in our understanding of temptations. We focus on not cheating on our income taxes or forgiving our neighbor who throws loud parties and allows his dogs to poop on our front yard. There are greater temptations than these. In this prayer we are also praying that the Holy Spirit might keep us from despair, unbelief or false belief. Such beliefs could limit or even destroy the abundant life that we have been given through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Not only do we pray that God would not lead us into temptation, but also that we would be delivered from evil. Perhaps the most poignant story of being delivered from evil is that of the deliverance of the demoniac.
Jesus and his disciples sail to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. It is a place of the gentiles—the non-Jews. The moment Jesus steps ashore, he is confronted by a man who is demon possessed. We often miss the point of the story because we enter into discussions about the reality or non-reality of demon possession. Avoiding this discussion, let’s focus on the fact that the man was engulfed in a world of evil.
• The man was a danger to others—they had tried to subdue him with chains.
• The man was a danger to himself. In other gospel accounts he was naked and had cut himself.
• The man was excluded from society. He lived among the tombs and was considered unclean in many ways.
If we look hard enough we can see a little bit of ourselves in the demoniac. There are times that we are so filled with hate, anger or despair that we are a toxic presence and a danger to others. Self-loathing, depression or hopelessness can overwhelm us and make us a danger to ourselves. We can get so deep in the pit or hurt so much that death starts to become preferable to life. The evil that enslaves us separates us from others—people don’t want to be around us and we feel so very much alone.
Whatever separated the man from others, did not separate him from Jesus. Jesus did not turn away from him, nor did Jesus ignore his condition. Jesus confronted the evil that controlled the man and cast it out. Jesus healed the man and put him in his right mind. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus—not even the evil of this life.
GO AND TELL
The man who had once been overwhelmed by evil wanted to stay with Jesus, but Jesus wouldn’t allow it. Instead Jesus instructed the man to go and tell his neighbors what Jesus had done for him.
After we go through the trials of life and face the evil that surrounds us, we are able to share with others how God’s love and grace has given us the victory. We are able to walk with our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers who are facing the trials and evil that we encountered and offer them the strength of our presence and the encouragement of our experiences.