The Right Stuff
I have been told that sin is anything that separates us from God. An extension of that might be that evil is what harms relationships not only with God, but among humankind.
The Ten Commandments are all about relationships. Many are about what not to do to other people – kill, steal, bear false witness, commit adultery, and covet. Why not? Such actions hurt others. One could say those commandments are about avoiding evil.
Jesus boiled them down to the two greatest commandments. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” That is about our relationship with God. The second is about other people. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two “rest all the law and the prophets.”
Similarly, the Golden Rule is about human relations. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So is that admonition above to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
When we do not follow those commandments and rules, evil harms relationships with other people.
Obviously, there are a variety of things that happen in relationships that can accurately be called evil.
I know a man whose daughters seek to punish him for re-marrying after their adulterous mother divorced him. The punishment is meted out by setting an evil condition on whether he is allowed to see his grandchildren. The evil condition is to come without his wife or not come at all.
You might think that there must be more to this. Is the grampa’s wife a danger to the grandchildren? No, she is a wonderful person. The grandchildren would enjoy a relationship with her and benefit from a relationship with her, as well as their grandfather, who, by the way was a devoted father. It is simple exclusion. It is simply evil.
This evil, which is clearly the opposite of loving one another as God has loved us, and leaves no room for forgiveness (although I am not aware of what needs to be forgiven by the excluders), damages many relationships, including between the father and his daughters, the daughters and their spouses, the grampa and his spouse, and the grandchildren with everyone. It is evil. It is the opposite of honoring your parents. It is disrespecting, disregarding, discarding, and intentionally hurting them. It is evil.
Heaven help this family. Lord, forgive the evil perpetrators of exclusion and any other relative that enables the evil.
I know another family that did not allow exclusion. My friend married a woman of another race. His mother was so distraught that she said she did not know if she could allow him and his new wife into her home. A brother of this friend said to their mother, “Then the rest of us won’t come either.” The mother re-thought her position so as not to lose all her children. Loyalty is of great value. The bi-racial couple have now been married for 34 years.
By contrast, the man who refuses to meet the condition of excluding his wife in order to see his grandchildren, has had other family members make it worse. Instead of being united with her brother, his sister has encouraged him to visit alone, apparently backing the excluders and thus enabling them to have support. The sister could help by saying to the daughters that she would not go along with the exclusion but she lacks the courage to call an evil thing an evil thing, unlike the brother in the other family, who had the courage to stand by his brother when he was threatened with exclusion.
The courage of that brother reminds me of a scene in the movie, The Right Stuff, when John Glenn supported his wife’s decision to not appear on television because she stuttered and was afraid to let the cameras into their home when Vice President Johnson asked to come in to be filmed. He wanted the attention, Mrs. Glenn did not.
There were two exhibitions of loyalty. First, John Glenn said he would back his wife 110%. If she did not want the V.P. to come in with the TV cameras, then she had his approval of her decision. (The grampa who remarried is, like John Glenn, protecting his wife.) The second exhibition of loyalty in the movie came when the commander of John Glenn threatened him with not being allowed to be the first astronaut to orbit the earth unless he got his wife to let V. P. Johnson into their house. Hearing that, the other astronauts said, “Then who are you going to get?” They were saying that none of them would take Glenn’s place. They would back his decision to support his wife – out of loyalty. (The man who married a woman his mother did not approve of had the backing of his brother, like John Glenn had the backing of his fellow astronauts.)
Loyalty is usually a good thing. Exclusion is usually a bad thing. It is important to discern good from evil. Harming family relationships by divisiveness seems evil to me.