Friday, October 21, 2005

Life Lived Backwards

During a long committee meeting this week in Chicago I rediscovered, with some clarity, what evil is. The occasion was, by all outward circumstances, a real yawner; a committee meeting on stewardship for the denomination. One member made a passing reference to a quote out of the late M. Scott Peck's book "People of the Lie". A little boy told his dad he knew what eveil was, it was LIVE backwards.

Beyond being a clever little quote, it hit me this week as we talked about what it means to be a living disciple of Jesus. I thought back to philosophy classes in college where I remembered Augustine proposing that evil was no positive entity. Augustine disagreed with philosophical dualism: light vs darkness, spirit vs flesh, God vs Devil. Instead he believed there was one good; God alone. Evil was all that fled from God. Evil was an absence of God as darkness is an absence of light. The farther one goes from light, the darker it gets.

As I chewed on this notion, I thought that evil really is life lived backwards, contrary to the way it ought to go. The principles that make life are fairly self-evident: love, truth, community, smaring, moderation, balance, beauty, safety, etc. But if you take any one of these basic principles and live them backward, go in reverse direction, you end up in the neighborhood of evil. Evil is backward living. It's less of a positive force, but a negativity of self-dstructive stupidity.

All through the Bible God calls people forward into a covenant relationship, a covenant community, and adventure of trust and discovery. When God's people do not get it, they go backward "into slavery in Egypt." Infact, so much of destructive behavior is backwards oriented, fearing the future and trying to protect some sort of lost past. For me, life is forward.


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