Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Praying for the Demons

     Growing up I did not live in ideal conditions. To put a long story short I was made to feel like I was worthless by an important person in my life. Despite their efforts to destroy me God had other plans and rescued me at a crucial time in my life. Realizing the significant damage this person did to me I began to contemplate the fact that the deserve eternal damnation. In hoping for their destruction God revealed something very powerful to me that changed the whole way I looked at my situation. When thinking of the justice they deserved I felt the Lord saying, "I let it happen". From that point I made a constant effort to forgive this person and anyone else that has hurt me.
     I don’t think I will ever fully understand the reality of God letting us harm others. As father I am swift to wrath at the first sign of someone hurting my children. However, from what I discovered in the scriptures even though God hates what we do sometimes this does not mean he is not coming to the rescue. God has a way to defeat evil that we cannot comprehend and we see this most with the way our Lord defeated the power of death by allowing himself to become a victim. From the perspective of the Cross the people that crucified the Lord were the true victims. Enslaved by the powers of darkness they had no clue to the harm that they were bringing upon their selves. The Lord himself testifies to this when he says, "Forgive them for the know not what they do".
     From our perspective we would have had no problem with our Lord calling down fire from heaven to consume those causing him pain. We even celebrate the death of our enemies with jubilation with the satisfaction they got what they deserved. For example and to our shame, a well known Atheist a few years ago criticized Christians who were celebrating the death of a famous terrorist. He was correct in doing so for in many ways it made us look like hypocrites not to mention it failed demonstrate the nature of who God is. For in following the commands of Christ we are not to celebrate the destruction of our enemies. In contrast, we are called to mourn and even love our enemies.
     In loving our enemies we may never get along with them and in some circumstances it's safe to keep a distance. However, when it comes to showing mercy we find God not leaving us much room to waver. For if we don’t forgive from the heart we will not be forgiven by God. Unforgiveness effects us at so many levels it becomes our greatest enemy and keeps us from becoming what God is. To be God is to be merciful and being called to be what he is by grace we must be the same. From this perspective to fail to forgive is to ultimately to reject God himself.
     Looking at the lives of some our Byzantine saints I had often wondered why we find them praying for demons. There has always been plenty of speculation at the nature of their actions to level if what they are doing is right or wrong. If we can get beyond these factors I think we can see what they are truly accomplishing, which is becoming what God is. Like these saints we need to be open to the endless possibilities of God's mercy. We need to be willing to forgive and pray for those who have done us the most harm. It will always be a mystery to us why God allows the evils we face. However, he has made a way for us to defeat them through the self giving underserved love that we see from the Cross.
    The enemy thought he was victorious when he came to consume a weak forgiving man on the cross. However, as St. Gregory of Nyssa once pointed out when death came to swallow the humanity of our Lord it met God. Death was defeated by what we would see would be a man who failed to get off the cross when he had the power to do it. Sometimes we to have the power to hate or take vengeance on those who harm us. It's in these moments when we need to recognize that the evils that we experience by others are only truly defeated when they experience God. For just like in the death of the Lord the source of evil is overcome by the encounter with God, which begins with our act of forgiveness.

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