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Evil, yes. But inside....?

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.  Jesus Christ as reported in Mark 7: 14-15 around AD 32


What a coincidence! In Norway this week the trial of Anders Breivik began and he entered his plea. He had shot dead 69 teenagers. In Jersey this week the charges against Damian Rzeszoeski were presented in court and he entered his plea. He had stabbed to death six people including his wife and children.


Many folk have begun to ask “What got into him that he would do this?” Interestingly, and solely with regard to Anders Breivik, The Times printed an article on that very subject by Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychology at Cambridge University. What did he think?


One of the first things he wrote was that terms like “evil” do not “help us to understand why a man can shoot people in cold blood.” He states that a terms like “evil” belong “to horrific fairy tales or horror movies.” He thinks that “evil” has no place in events that actually happen......... But is that so?


 It comes as no surprise that Jesus Christ addressed the problem of “evil” in his teaching of the general public. See bold above. In fact, it was because of what he taught about “evil” that he was condemned to death by two separate Courts in AD 33 – and crucified as befitted the very worst of criminals at that time throughout the Roman Empire.


But the real surprise is in what Jesus actually taught on that subject. The words in bold above set out a parallel to which all human beings can relate. Daily we eat and drink. Daily we rid ourselves of waste products arising from that. Nothing, Jesus said, that we put into our mouths can defile us. What defiles us, he said, is what comes out of us – from deep within.


Can this be correct? Most of us who read it and take it to heart realize that, if the teaching of Jesus is indeed the truth, then we ourselves may have a problem within ourselves. We realize that it’s not only Anders Breivik who needs help.


Thankfully, Jesus provided some further analysis of his parallel of contrast between food and drink which goes in and out - and evil itself.


Jesus seemed to be impatient with his key followers when they later asked him for an explanation. He said, Then are you also without understanding? Don’t you see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?


And he added, What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.


Professor Baron-Cohen’s article is illuminating as he analyses what has gone on within Anders Breivik. He calls it a “deadly mix of nature, nurture and extreme ideological conviction.” Nature = in the genes from parents. Nurture = up-bringing. Ideological conviction = beliefs.


All three – nature+nuture+belief – can be said to have given rise to who Anders Breivik actually is, to who he is within. And who he is within himself has come out of him in his actions.


So the AD2012 Professor in fact agrees with the AD32 Jesus Christ that these awful deeds come from within.


But Jesus added something more, All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.Yes, these things (evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness) are evil. They prove evil within.


How can Anders be cleaned inside? More important, how can Richard Syvret be cleaned from his evil within? How can we all have a holy life, a holy spirit – within us?

‘Were it not for sin, death would never have had a beginning. Were it not for death, sin would never have an ending.' (Anon.)
 ‘Sin is an ill guest, for it always sets its lodging on fire.'  (Thomas Manton, minister, 1620-1677)
Richard Syvret

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