Distinguishing Good From Evil

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Hebrews 5:14 (NIV)

14 “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

Current political debate seems to hinge on how one defines what is good and what is evil. I hate politics. I hate arguing. I understand the need for debate but I seldom see it handled well. I watch in awe when I visit friends where the family members move in and out of discussions with disagreements and the relationships and emotional health of all seems to be just as strong as before. I’m sure my anxiety around this subject is related to how disagreements were handled in my family growing up. I wanted  to handle conflict differently in my home. Model for our children a healthier way of discussing controversial subjects. We failed. Any attempts to discuss highly controversial subjects with our adult children seems to end in a few harsh statements or accusations and then complete avoidance of the subject for years…maybe forever.

More and more I have become silent when controversial subjects come up. I want to avoid the whole subject. I dread election years and simply hold my breath until they are over. But lately it seems there is always something stirring up controversy in such a way that I’m forced to admit an opinion. Or at least wrestle with the questions myself and try to come to some stance on the subject.

This morning I read the Book of Hebrews in one sitting. I like to do that from time to time so that I keep each verse in context and get the overall message. I’m always amazed how different verses catch my attention at different times in my life based on what I’ve been experiencing and thinking about. Today it was this verse.

I find I’m always internally asking ‘What is good or bad about any given situation.’ I don’t conscientiously want to be asking that question but I cannot seem to help myself. Sometimes in the shape of  ‘What is beautiful and what is ugly?’ Whether it be inside myself or in the environment around me. ‘What to feed and what to kill?’

I’ve been wanting to appreciate and add to the beauty of God’s creation, focus on beauty, which is good and turn away from the ugly. Rather than focusing on all that is wrong in the world and constantly trying to change that (in me, in others or in the world in general). It was movement away from trying to control the uncontrollable. As a woman of a certain personality or bent, that is one of the ugliest things about me. I try to change other people. Even in my nobler attempt to change myself it seems to be a futile struggle that leads to a really negative outlook on life. I admit it, I was starting to want to be happier.

After listening to Sara Groves CD “Add To The Beauty” a million times or so, I became more interested in seeing, appreciating and adding to the beauty that already exists around me. The interesting thing is there is no way around seeing the darker side by comparison. The ugly, the bad and sometimes downright evil mars the beauty on this earth, so sometimes adding to or creating beauty must first require some removal of the dirty, ugly or evil.

I listen to a new friends story, hear her excitement over a budding romance and I easily rejoice with those who rejoice. And then the rest of the story is told and there are secrets, deception and unhealthy compromises. Now what? I don’t want to be critical, judgmental or a Debbie Downer (as my daughter sometimes calls me). The question of good and evil is so daily. It is not loving to rejoice in evil. It is not wise to call evil good. I’m certain I should err on the side of silence in these situations. In most cases my opinion is not wanted. Those who have loved me well over the years wait to be asked for their input.

But in my silence there is much work to do internally. God wash my heart with your mercy. I want to be a vessel that breaks and pours out love rather than judges and condemns. There is an objective good and evil but I do not always know the difference. In verse 12 of this chapter in Hebrews it says “…though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again….” It seems like it’s time to grow up, move from milk to solid food but it’s not as much fun. It requires study, deep reflection and a willingness to be wrong. I’m afraid it might include discussions with people I don’t automatically agree with. It might even include some civil debate.

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