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Clear Words

Clear Word – Presence and Absence (3 John 11)

Today’s Reading: 2 John – Jude

Today’s Reflection: 3 John 11

Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

There is a popular story about a professor and a student debating the existence of God.  In it, the professor states that if an all powerful, good God existed there is no way evil could exist.  But since evil unmistakably does exist, then God cannot.  In reply, the wise student (usually revealed to be Albert Einstein, but that’s a falsehood) makes the point that cold doesn’t exist, that what we perceive as cold is in fact just the absence of heat.  Then he adds that darkness doesn’t exist, that what we perceive as darkness is merely the absence of light.  Finally he says that evil does not really exist either, that what we experience as evil is in fact the absence of God.

Who ever came up with this story almost certainly read the letters of John.  With this logic, today’s reflection text could be rewritten to say in part, “don’t follow the absence of God.”  The text could then go on to say, “follow the presence of God.” Yes the text says ‘good’ rather than ‘God’, but many scriptures make it clear that the two are one and the same.

Luke 18:19 – And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

James 1:17 – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

What this also tells us is that while good only comes in one variety—those who are of God—evil can come in many guises.  Those who have ‘not seen God’ doesn’t just refer to those who deliberately worship the devil, or idols, but can mean anyone unfamiliar with the truth of God and His redemptive work which includes the Gospel.  It can even mean people in churches who have heard the word preached but have not allowed it to take root within them because they are hardhearted and stubborn.

John 12:40 – “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”

One of the things this means is that evil is more common, more subtle and more ordinary than we may realize.  But thanks be to God that He has already overcome the world and every evil in it (John 16:33).  If we are of God we can as well (John 1:12 ; Romans 8:37)

Romans 5:20 – Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

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