When writing a story, an author considers two initial plot devices: what the main character wants, and what stands in his (or her) way. And, as their character is revealed during the resultant drama, we sympathize with the hero according to how they overcome their obstacles.

In my life, I am the main character; in yours, you are. Regardless of who we are, we share the same adversary. This obstacle unites us, equates us, and blocks our way. As we seek to live free from the impairment of fear, hopelessness, and despair, as we strive to be born again, and maintain such enlightenment, who is our own worst enemy? What obstructs all humanity, throughout all time?

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”-John 8:44.

In my ongoing study of what born again means, I examine what’s in my way, what’s preventing me from attaining my goal: my obstacle. Part of what unites us is that we share this common enemy. We project this adversary outward, because it seems to be a force that is apart from us. If it is, then we can’t do anything about it. We’re victims. But if we’re going to accept responsibility for our lives, and our souls, then we must accept that this evil comes from us.

Then we can do something about it.

“In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”-1 John 3:10.

When we do not love everyone, friends and enemies alike, then we are of the devil. The absence of love is the presence of hate. There are no shades of gray with God.

“He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”-Matthew 12:30.

Let us examine our qualities: the characteristics of Satan. First, the name Satan is a Hebrew word, meaning “adversary.” This is our opponent, what stands in our way of being born again. How we deal with this plot device reveals our character, and determines if we are of God or of the devil.

In that first quote, we should note to whom Jesus was speaking, and where he was.

“And early in the morning [Jesus] came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. / And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery….”-John 8:2, 3.

Yes, she was the woman whom Jesus saved from being stoned.

“…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”-John 8:7.

The scribes and the Pharisees wanted to kill her in the temple. They wanted everyone present to join their fun. And they wanted to see if Jesus would say something to stop them, so that they could accuse him of defying Moses’ law.

“And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”-Leviticus 20:10.

A brief aside: another name for Satan is “the devil.” It comes from the Greek word diabolos (pronounced dee-ab’-ol-os). It’s actually an adjective, and it means “slanderous: to accuse falsely.”

Now, the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, for the Jews, and in Greek, for the Romans. So the language reveals the writers’ intentions, which are often quite different from how the modern world has come to interpret them.

“These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple….”-John 8:20.

There’s a long dialogue between Jesus on one side, and the scribes, Pharisees, and Jews on the other-of God vs. of the Devil, what we know as right versus what we believe as right.

They claimed Abraham as their father. Jesus countered that if they were of Abraham, then they would do as Abraham did.

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”-Luke 6:46.

That verse from Luke, and the original quote from John, show us the cost of Christianity: Our deeds reveal our true nature, our character.

“[Jesus said,] Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said [the Jews, scribes, and Pharisees] to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.”-John 8:41.

We cannot say, Lord, Lord, or claim to be of God, or Christian, if we hate one another. Remember, if we aren’t loving, we’re hating.

Their father, then, isn’t God. And since we can draw a parallel between the hypocritical Pharisees, and the modern Christian who doesn’t love everyone (as Jesus taught), then we see that our deeds reveal our true parentage.

“Ye are of your father the devil….”-John 8:44.

So we can’t hate homosexuals, Liberals, Conservatives, Catholics, African-Americans, Mexicans, etc., and still be Christians. Remember Jesus’ new commandment.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. / By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”-John 13:34, 35.

Those two verses counter whatever justifications for hatred we conjure. Christianity is that simple.

Before we are born again, our father is Satan. That means we accuse others falsely, hate others. God is all things. Whatever we hate, we are actually hating God.

“I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me. // I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”-Isaiah 45:5, 7.

I love the Old Testament prophets: They don’t pull any punches. And neither does Jesus.

“…[the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him….”-John 8:44.

When we hate, we deny love: We murder love. God is love. Jesus is not only love, but life, and the truth. So, when we don’t love, then we are killing the truth. That makes us liars. Remember the translation for devil is slanderer, and means “to falsely accuse.” Hate is never the truth. Jesus is the truth. Therefore, love is the truth.

This is a startling revelation.

We are territorial, tribal. To think of loving the other tribe, with their different colors, strange gods, and natural hatred toward our tribe, and jealousy of our territory…It’s all too much to ask. Isn’t it? We must hate them, destroy them, before they hate and destroy us!

The Bible, in general, and Christianity, specifically, exists for this very reason. It reminds us of our unconscious, all-too-natural response to our neighbors.

“And [Jesus] said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”-Luke 10:18.

Whatever else it is, the Bible is poetry, storytelling.

If we take the Bible literally, viewing only the surface, and thinking no further, then we learn nothing about ourselves. Satan falling from heaven is simply that. It’s ironic that, by not interpreting the Bible metaphorically, like poetry, and having storytelling characteristics, our surface-level reading interprets that quote from Luke as Satan’s origin story.

It goes like this: There was war in Heaven.

“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.”-The Revelation 12:9.

This has no bearing on our morality, except that Satan and his angels tempt us, preventing us from loving one another.

The Greek word for temptation is peirasmos (pronounced pi-ras-mos’). It does not mean “to seduce, or trick.” Rather, it refers to “a test, or trial.” We are tested to see if we’ve learned the material, if we’re ready for greater burdens, more responsibility. What happens if we fail the test?

“…I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”-Luke 10:18.

The war in heaven is not just a war in heaven. Heaven is within us. The war is within us. It is our responsibility. When we are born again, and yet fail to love one another, then we fall from heaven: quickly, too, like lightning.

Whatever greater truth Jesus meant, regarding fallen angels and bottomless pits, the human lesson is that we can fall from grace faster than anything imaginable.

“But [Jesus] turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”-Matthew 16:23.

Did Jesus just call Peter (the rock on which the church was built) Satan? How jarring! But when we remember the Hebrew definition (adversary), Jesus’ meaning becomes clear.

First, “Get behind me” likely referred to the tradition of disciples walking behind their teachers.

Jesus is always teaching, even today, right now. A good teacher is never off duty. Peter was swept up by his emotions, because Jesus had just told him of the coming crucifixion. Peter didn’t want Jesus to die.

We tend to sin when we’re caught up in our emotions. Thinking is often the opposite of feeling; either can be replaced by invoking its opposite: When your feelings are strong, think logically, do some math, or look at pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope. That’ll fix you right up. Or, conversely, if you’re thinking too much, listen to some music, take a walk in a park.

Like Peter, we assume that we know everything, but we are disciples. Every day is the like the first day of school, because everywhere we look there is something we don’t know or understand. This is how our teacher reminds us that we are always learning, and must always be open and humble.

Peter wanted to prevent Jesus’ crucifixion. But without the cross, Jesus would have no glory; with it, he would stay in the minds and imaginations of countless millions over millennia. Peter didn’t know about that.

Only God knows everything.

“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”-Matthew 24:36.

Secondly, we shouldn’t take it at face value that “the things that be of men” means that humanity, or the world, is evil.

“For God so loved the world….”-John 3:16.

The world isn’t evil. God loves the world. Humanity isn’t evil. Jesus loves us.

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”-John 15:9.

We have to stop blaming Satan, and other people, for our evil.What is evil, then? Where does it come from? And how do we stop it?

“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”-Matthew 15:11.

We can find the answer to all three questions by looking into a mirror. Evil comes from our judgment. Since we don’t know everything, we’re unable to make sound judgments, especially of each other.

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”-Romans 12:19.

When we get angry, judging others for what we judge to be bad judgment on their part, then we’ve committed four sins back-to-back. Judgment belongs to God, because only God knows everything. But by thinking we are capable of doing what only God can do, then we are the adversary. That’s what Jesus was trying to tell Peter.

“…behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”-Luke 17:21.

Heaven is within you, within all of us, meaning all around us. To think that another person is evil is to think that heaven is evil.

“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”-Genesis 6:5.

Evil comes from our thoughts, when we make uninformed judgments. We must learn to accept God’s will: Remain open to the possibilities, without deciding that this means that, when we don’t know what this means.

I know how difficult it is to not make up your mind. We have to make decisions, every day, all day. But that’s because others are making decisions. We feel the need to keep up, to match evil for evil, eye for an eye.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: / But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”-Matthew 5:38, 39.

Jesus got rid of that eye-for-an-eye rubbish. If we resist evil, then we become evil. We must break the chain, or it will go on forever. Love is the only way to stop hate.

God is love.

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”-1 John 4:8.

Jesus’ message is love.

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”-John 15:12.

Jesus’ message is God’s will.

“And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.”-John 8:29.

God’s will is for us to do that which pleases him: to love one another, i.e., to love God. This is how we defeat evil. When we are calm and at peace, then we are open to God, able to experience love. When we must make decisions, then ask, What does God want me to do? If we keep our minds open, then God’s messenger can enter.

“And [the angel] laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is called the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.”-The Revelation 20:2.

That’s what being born again does to our anger, fear, and despair. We are reborn, away from our old father, the devil, by accepting the will of our true father.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”-John 14:6.

Jesus’ lessons about Satan teach us the truth. And the truth is love; it’s our only salvation. Without it, evil perpetuates itself. But with love, we break the chains (our old habits); and with those chains, God’s message of love binds our old life, and tosses it into the fire.

“…Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”-Matthew 25:41.

The revelation is that we have not been following God’s will, but our own. And when we aren’t following God’s will, then we are of our father the Devil. But when we learn to let go of our fear of death, and the desperate, hasty actions resulting from that fear, when we breathe deep the beauty of God’s world, and realize that we are one of billions of main characters, and not the only hero, then we understand how natural and rewarding it is to love one another.

Satan exists in our judgments. Temptation is not a seduction, or a trick; it tests our resolve, and reveals our true character.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil….”-Matthew 6:13.

We don’t pray to avoid temptation, but to be delivered from our inner evil. (Remember the Jewish practice of parallelism, where the second part clarifies the first.) The temptation is to do our own will, because everyone else is doing their own will.

Accept this weakness. It is the truth. If we can accept it, and when we do, then our inner Jesus has overcome the world; our main character has defeated Satan. And we are born again.

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