Humanity has an amazing propensity for preferring people to be the same. Once people are perceived to be different we can feel challenged, perhaps threatened and our defense might be to label, perhaps criticize, or scapegoat the other, lest we find our own lacking in life exposed.
Does it surprise you that Jesus found himself in this position? He stood outside conventional behaviour. He was not intimidated by being different. And his difference greatly challenged people. In that world, sickness or deformity were believed to be the result of sin. His healing and cleansing of possession displayed a power that unsettled everyone.
He turned the normal world order upside down. And what do we see? Yes the typical defensive human behaviour. The crowd, the religious leaders accusing him of evil powers, while his family fear he is out of his mind. Isn’t it strange? Jesus is being ostracized. Good is perceived as evil. White is rendered black.
WHAT IS EVIL?
This is a challenging question for it is rarely described, rather, it is just named. The common explanation is to speak of fallen angels under the headship of the personification of evil, namely the devil. This type of image is supported in the book of Job where the story describes Job coming under the attack of the devil who roamed the corridors of the afterlife.
In today’s gospel reading, we hear of one contemporary belief of the Jewish people of the time of Jesus, when they aligned Jesus with the evil power of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons. The problem of personifying evil in this way, is to place the blame on something else. I believe we must take far greater responsibility for it. The gospel account my have important insights into dealing with what we call evil.
PROBLEMS OF DIVISION
Jesus himself is accused of being evil. Jesus defense is grounded in his argument, why would the devil cast out the devil. Such a kingdom would soon fall. His simple logic is common sense. Evil is aligned with division. Jesus makes a telling statement about his actions.
To overcome evil, one must address the root cause of evil, that, in his example he calls the strong man. Then you can mop up the symptoms of the evil root. This is the mission of Jesus, that is, to display his power over the root cause of evil.
For Jesus, evil is division.
FORGIVENESS & UNITY OF WILL
He proceeds to speak of the worst kind of division. It is to call black white, that is, good bad, life evil. Ultimately this would mean calling the Holy Spirit your enemy, which is the ultimate blasphemy. Everything else is forgivable and redeemable. But such an extreme mentality locks you into never even wanting forgiveness.
If you never want forgiveness how can you be forgiven?
His final example gives us the way of life.
It is unity of will.
The account describes Jesus being told his family, his mother and brothers have come to look for him. His mind has moved to a deeper concern. Biological family is important, but only to a certain point. His mission is way beyond family unity. He has a mission for a far greater family, the family of humanity. That family is racked by division and it needs to find the pathway to unity. We read, “And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
The mind of God seeks the unity of all people. Such unity is grounded in the depth of human life, that which we call the Spirit.
Strange how easily people put others down, denigrate them, ridicule and ostracize them. Jesus knew the experience. I wonder if you can bring to mind your own such misfortune of rejection. Simply the breaking down of life, of people and community is the way we call evil.
The challenge is that we all live in a world so caught between division and unity. Our responsibility is to seek the pathway to building up life and community, a life of unity. This pathway is grounded in the depth of being, the mind and will of God. It is the way of the Spirit.
We have begun the long season called the weeks after Pentecost. It is the season of learning to live in the Spirit. Can we embrace such a depth of living that works with the spirit to enhance the unity of the great family of humanity?