Deliver Us from Evil ...
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil ... (Mt. 6:18, KJV).
I recently had my “annual” physical (that I get every two or three years … I know … typical male) last week, and because I turn 60 this year there were a number of tests that he felt I needed to have. All of these tests were “preventative” in that they could show the potential for future problems given my age and condition.
During the last week, I have been led to examine and unpack the phrase, “deliver us from evil,” as used by Jesus in teaching us the Lord’s Prayer. Spending time on this phrase has been deep.
Of course, one meaning of this phrase is our asking of God to protect us from the evil that is in our world. This understanding harkens back to the Psalms and David’s hymnic urging of us to “look to the hills from whence our help comes” (Ps. 121).
Perhaps this is the most common understanding of the phrase.
But there are other implications in this statement, one of which might be similar to the intentions of the tests ordered by my physician. One understanding would be asking God to examine us to see what evil might reside within us and to “deliver us” from that potential.
You see, when we are honest about ourselves, there lies within each of us the possibility of doing evil.
It lies within our own love for ourselves, our love and longing for those close to us.
It lies within in those prejudices, biases and false beliefs.
It lies in our ignorance of the presence and the reality of the presence of these weaknesses within each and every one of us.
In recent weeks, we have seen a great amount of evil happening in our communities. The perceived victims have been African American men and the Black community, but the real victim is much broader … it is all of us … and not just because of the hurt in knowing that a trusted representative of our government has failed us so badly, and that we could be next.
No, there is an even more important way that all of us are victims.
We are all victimized in these events if we fail to admit to ourselves that, but for the grace of God, it could be me who is perpetrating evil.
And, please, don’t misunderstand my saying this as making any sort of excuse for the officers and people who have been perpetrating evil.
I say it recognizing that a part of my angst and passion at these events is to disguise … to hide … to mask and to hopefully push away my own propensity for evil. Perhaps it is a physical way of my expression of “deliver us from evil.”
Prayer: 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Ps. 139:23-24).
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains