To understand love and forgiveness, I think it’s necessary to meditate on what sin is, and where it comes from.

“And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”—Genesis 3:13.

We are tempted to sin, mesmerized by evil. Temptation is continuous. No matter how good or careful we are, eventually we surrender to it, or indulge in it. Still, as Jesus told the adulterous woman, after saving her from being stoned by the mob: “…go, and sin no more.”—John 8:11.

I have to believe that sin can be identified, resisted, and, perhaps, extirpated entirely. This possibility was illustrated by Peter the apostle walking on water, until his faith wavered.

“And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. / And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. / But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”—Matthew 14:28-30.

This is one of my favorite scenes in the gospels. It’s a remarkable, miraculous thing done by a human, not by Jesus—at least not directly. The scene symbolizes the importance of faith, and the difficulty in maintaining it. I also can’t help but see it as an example of what we might achieve with practice. We can’t walk on water. But we can choose, when faced with a storm at sea, to put our faith in love, to remain compassionate. In this way, I believe it is possible to overcome sin.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”—John 16:33.

Jesus was able to overcome the world, because he accepted the sins of others. That’s the key. Acceptance is faith in action. And I must accept that the sins of the world will overcome me, if I try to fight them, take an eye for an eye. It’s an impossible fight without love and acceptance. I’m outnumbered 7 billion to 1. It comes down to human nature: man’s greed vs. God’s ideals, lust vs. love.

As Jesus said to Peter: “…Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”—Mark 8:33.

While the world of God (which is love) and that of men (which is sin) appear to be distinct, Jesus also said this: “…The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: / Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”—Luke 17:20-21.

So if the things of God exist within us, and, certainly, the things of men are crafted by us, then where does evil come from?

To define “sin,” I look to the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). I propose this simplified summary: Don’t be a jerk. Whenever I’m mean or snooty, dismissive or short-tempered, I have sinned.

In the Bible, sin and temptation are symbolized by Satan and his devils. While I find numerous references to them, it’s seldom that they appear and speak. And while they are symbols, I think it’s important to meditate on whether or not they are also the source of evil, or if we are. If evil comes from us, our greed, then maybe we also hold the cure. If it comes from the Devil, then it’s out of our hands.

“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”—Genesis 3:1.

While this is generally thought of as Satan’s introductory scene, he isn’t mentioned by name. Instead, he’s referred to as another beast of the field. The metaphors are all there: serpent, beast, and temptation. But it’s missing the basic, dramatic component of identification. If the serpent isn’t a specific entity, then it is just an idea, a tool, and an abstraction—which points us back to the importance of the human beings in the creation story.

The serpent was able to trick Eve by telling her what she wanted to hear.

“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”—Genesis 3:5.

We want to be gods. We want power over others so that the world can be made to match our perception of it, so that we don’t have to change.

The next verse doesn’t show the serpent doing anything further to tempt Eve.

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”—Genesis 3:6.

The serpent wasn’t even mentioned. We are the origin of sin. It isn’t thrust upon us. We choose. It is our will, our honor, or the lack thereof that allows for sin, creates it so that we might exercise power over the world.

Satan first appears by name in the Book of Job.

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. / And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.”—Job 1:6-7.

He doesn’t show up again, by name, until the Revelation. The rest of the time, evil is shown by the actions of sinners, those who act according to the world of men, not the kingdom of God.

Those possessed by devils are the most compelling examples of this representation through action. But even their stories are only hinted at, referred to in passing.

“And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, / And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils.”—Luke 8:1-2.

And though Jesus refers to the source of his temptation in the wilderness by name (“…Get thee hence, Satan…”—Matthew 4:10), the narrative text does not.

“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.”—Matthew 4:1.

The lower case use of devil doesn’t indicate a proper noun. And, as discussed in one of my former essays (In the Wilderness Part Two), the forty days and forty nights of temptation that Jesus experienced could be interpreted as inner temptation, i.e., not coming from without.

Jesus even addressed Peter as Satan in the previously quoted verse from Mark 8:33: “Get thee behind me, Satan….”

The Bible’s message can be tricky. It’s easy to take a verse out of context, consider that to be the truth, and meditate no more on it. This is one of the most frightening examples: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”—Exodus 22:18. It was the basis for the Salem witch trials.

Likewise, consider this next verse.

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”—Isaiah 14:12.

And it goes on from there, describing what was echoed in the Revelation about Satan’s origin story.

“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, / / And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”—Revelation 12:7, 9.

Isaiah was writing about the tribes of Judah being freed from Babylon.

“And it shall come to pass in the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve, / That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon….”—Isaiah 14:3-4.

But, being Isaiah, the story takes a surreal turn.

“Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.”—Isaiah 14:8.

So the trees are singing to God, celebrating the release of the Jewish people from slavery. Then things get really weird.

“Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming; it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.”—Isaiah 14:9.

So the trees are singing; the dead are rising—not just the dead, but deceased kings. And they have something to say to God and, more directly, the Jews.

“And they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us?”—Isaiah 14:10.

The dead are the ones speaking. This is an important thing to note, as only one verse remains until we get to the supposed origin of Satan.

“Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms, cover thee.”—Isaiah 14:11.

That’s just more of the dead kings speaking to the Jews, who have been brought down to the dead’s level of humility. I put a period at the end of the quote, but, in the Bible, a comma is used; this indicates that the next verse, which ostensibly addressed Satan, the fallen angel, is really more of the dead kings talking to the Jewish people…as the trees rejoice.

See what I mean? Tricky. While appearing to describe an angel who fell from God’s grace, the Bible uses the various names (Satan, Lucifer, serpent, tempter, etc.) as a title, a signifier for those who sin. Again, this is about the people who are sinning; they (or, more appropriately, we) are Lucifer.

Peter was called Satan because he protested that Jesus must die. He didn’t know that Jesus had to die to save us from our sins. We are often ignorant of the big picture, which is why we need faith.

“And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. / And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.”—Mark 8:31-32.

It was for this lack of faith that Jesus answered Peter’s rebuke by saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan.”—Mark 8:33.

When I lose my faith in love, that compassion will lead me to what is best, and not self-interest, I have lost my faith in God. When faced with the choice of doing what I know to be right or being a jerk and doing what I feel is justified due to my indignation, I must have faith in whatever path I choose. This is the faith that can move mountains.

And if this faith is not impeded by a supernatural force, then I am all that stands between my soul (i.e., the child within), and the kingdom of Heaven that is also within.

We are left with only one story that actually shows possession by evil, instead of just referring to it, one story to help define sin as (possibly) something other than man’s actions.

“And [Jesus] asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.”—Mark 5:9.

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