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Hey, this is John Ortberg passage to wisdom with a word for today. An invitation, a challenge offer gentle non cooperation with evil. You may think from time to time as I do, what do you do when it feels like, Aw, hell is breaking loose. What do you do when you feel like you are coming up against, uh, darkness, brokenness, wrongness inside yourself and outside yourself. That’s way beyond your pig offer gentle non cooperation with evil. That’s a phrase that comes from Dallas Willard. I’m gonna look at some of his thoughts today. We’ve been living together with screw tape letters and CS Lewis writes at the beginning of it that human beings fall into two equal errors. When it comes to devils, one is to disbelieve in their existence and the other is to believe, but with a, an unhealthy level of interest in them. And there’s all kinds of confusion when it comes to evil.

For us, we wonder is the real problem in our society with individual human hearts, or just try to change people one at a time, or are there systemic issues that need to be addressed? And if we could just clean up the systems, would everything be okay? And we’ll see this, for example, on issues of race, where you have one side saying there is no such thing as systemic racism. It’s not really that big of a deal. Maybe there are some bad individuals out there, probably not too many. And then other people that would say, if we simply could create just systems, everything would be fine. And then this also gets into questions of what role does ideology have, where do we just want to have people with the correct ideology and what role does the formation of character play? So I wanna read a few thoughts today from Dallas Willard’s book, the spirit of the disciplines, the most impactful book I ever read.

These are a bit dense, but I think enormously helpful. How do we understand evil? And how do we offer gentle non cooperation with evil Dallas rights are, are constant asking why in the face of evil, why does such bad things happen? Why do people do such terrible thing? Signals a lack of insight, willing our unwilling into the forces that inhabit the normal human personality and thereby move or condition the usual course of human events above all. Here’s the key. It shows a failure to understand that the immediate support of the evils universally deplored lies in the simple readiness of decent individuals to harm others or allow harm to come to others. When the conditions are quote unquote, right? That readiness comes into play. Whenever it will help us realize our goals of security, ego, gratification, or satisfaction of bodily desires, this systemic readiness that pervades the personality of normal, decent human beings is fallen human nature to understand this is the first level of understanding the why of evil people do.

He says it’s like, uh, something that is flammable and is just waiting for a spark and it’s inside all of us so that it doesn’t take much for me to lie. Doesn’t take much for me to gossip. And I’ve often not aware of how deeply it’s in me. I remember several years ago, when the transcripts from Richard Nixon’s office were made public, he was long since dead, but one of the conversations was one he had with Billy Graham where he said some terribly antisemitic things and Billy Graham instead of confronting or challenging him just seemed to agree. And Billy Graham felt terrible about this. Interestingly, he did not remember that conversation. That’s part of the way that our mind that our memory works. Um, but repented and met with a group of rabbis, uh, had I think, a really exemplary response to it. But what it showed was in the moment, there was just a readiness to agree with a really powerful person in a way that was not congruent with the values that he would most deeply feel at all.

And that’s inside me, Dallas, I’ve heard in several of his talks, discuss how a turning point in his own life was as a student, when he came under conviction by the holy spirit, cuz he had cheated on a test and he went and confessed this to people at his college, even though he might well have gotten expelled. And it made me think about times that I can remember when I was in school and I cheated. And uh, although I had a vague sense of guilt, mostly I just tried not to think about it. And I never experienced that kind of coming close to God under conviction. That would move me to, uh, tell a teacher or the person that was in charge or seek to make it right or find out what causes me to do this and how do I get healed of it?

So there is inside me a readiness to do wrong and it is still there and it’s inside all of us, but that’s not the end when it comes to the issue of evil, there’s the next level individuals are ready to do what sits in them, ready to burst forth. And this goes far to explain why people do the Gastly things they do. They are set to do them. There is a real presence of evils carefully beneath the surface of every human action and transaction. But this still does not go far enough. The magnitude of evil in human deeds is also a result of the institutional structures or common practices that emerge at the social level in politics, art, business, journalism education, the intellectual life, government service, sexual family relations and sports and entertainment. This is our system. So now sin, uh, wrongness evil, the readiness to harm gets into our bodies.

It gets into our habits, but then corporately, it gets into our systems and roughly a system is to a community. What a habit is to an individual, never thought about it, exactly like that before. But I think it’s AC generally accurate. This is our system. A woman who earns a million dollars per year on wall street is more acceptable to her colleagues if she uses cocaine. So she surrenders to this force. A contractor can meet his budget by skimping on materials and bribing and understanding inspector a worker in a plant is excluded from training and advanced techniques because he has an American Indian. A professor is influenced than is grading by the need to have many students or he manufactures data in order to get grants, produce publications and gain advancement over his colleagues. A young black woman cannot train well enough to get a scholarship to a university because her high school is not supported financially.

The social structures exhibited in such cases are strictly speaking, not in any individual, but in the world where we live though, they totally depend for their existence and power upon the readiness is that are in us individually, structural evils are practices that whether they are stated or not explicitly are accepted and enforced by others in the context of our actions, but none of these evils would continue to function if the 10 commandments and the two great principles of God love of God, a neighbor were generally observed in that case. Malnutrition wore oppression, class and tribal conflict, overpopulation crime and violence. Family strife would eventually cease to be possible as mass conditions because individuals would not cooperate in their development and would take measures to stop it. Such non cooperation would transform the social and political as well as the personal areas of our life. Almost beyond recognition. I admit it is difficult to imagine what such a world would be like. Try picturing a world where lying does not exist. Imagine that human beings became constitutionally incapable of telling a lie in word or behavior.

He talks about how the kingdom of evil structurally is very weak because it depends on the readiness of individuals to do what is wrong. In one sense, then the kingdom of evil is very, very fragile, pull one string and the whole thing unravels, but individuals cannot be counted on to do what is right. We must be transformed. And so finally, this, we must, at some point, stop looking for new information or social rule arrangements or religious experiences that will draw off the evil in the world at large abolish war, hunger, oppression, and so forth while letting us live and continue to be, as we have since Adam, this is the illusion of our age, the holy grail of modernity, a pleasant dream in the sleep of secularism. The monstrous evils we deplore are in fact, the strict causal consequences of the spirits and behavior of normal human beings. Following generally acceptable patterns of life. They are not the result of strange flukes, accidental circumstances, or certain especially mad or bad individuals. The tyrants, satanic forces, oppressive practices of this world play upon our merely decent lives as a master organist dominates his or her instrument, but as holy powerless without it.

And so the solution, the response, the invitation today is offer gentle non cooperation with evil. See the odd weakness of evil is the only reason that I gossip or judge other people or lie is that other folks will collude with me in this to get what it is that I want. And of course now I can’t stop cooperating with evil on my own. I can’t, but he can. I think I’ll let him. So those of us in the fellowship of the withered hand seek not just not to cooperate with evil, but to do that by of course, cooperating with the holy spirit as I go through this day, as you go through this day, ask God to speak to me, not about the evil that is out there in somebody else, but the readiness that is in here, God help me to see and understand the flammability inside me, my, my predisposition to cheat, to lie, to judge, to lust. And would you replace all of that? God, as I am ready with a predisposition to love and to speak truth and to live in courage. And so I can be a little part of the divine conspiracy to bring in another kingdom today, offer gentle non cooperation with evil and I’ll see you next time.