‘Whatever is true … whatever is lovely …’
Faith & Inspiration | Not allowing the evil of this world to dominate our thoughts
by Andrée Seu Peterson
Posted on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, at 5:26 pm
There are things I wish I’d never heard of. Images seen that cannot now be unseen. Films that had best not been watched. Photos once snapped, undeletable. A blood relation, unbeknownst to me at the time, took my son to see The Silence of the Lambs when he was 10, and the boy was damaged goods upon return.
There are things God meant our minds to be unaware of. There was a blissful, holy ignorance in the Garden. “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Genesis 2:17) was His prohibition to guard that pristine quality of mind. Our first parents already knew the good—only the good—and had joy undiminished till they grasped at knowing evil too.
Now we know evil, and what shall we do with that? Now there are only two kinds of time for us in our Philadelphia suburb: time before and time after we learned of the fate of Grace Packer, who was not safe in her mother’s home and whose memorial service yesterday was thronged with community members, township teachers, and a phalanx of bikers against child abuse.
In the 1970s I was eager for the young man who led me to the Lord to share with everyone details about his dissolute past, reasoning that in hearing they would be converted by the contrast. He said no because people would fixate on the prurient stuff and not the message of the cross. He would not give the devil more free press.
The preacher at Grace Packer’s memorial service asked: Why are we here? For a testimony. To say out loud this wicked thing did happen. The angels saw it. The trees at Bear Creek where her dismembered body was dumped saw it. And God saw it. Our God is, as another ill-used woman named Hagar was made happy to learn, “a God of seeing” (Genesis 16:13).
And yet, “it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). So do we speak of them or not? God does so in His Word (see Judges 19) but with the restraint of a jurist who must convict but finds no pleasure in it. For we are to “expose” evil (Ephesians 5:11), which requires knowing it. That’s different, then, from Cypher of The Matrix who chooses total oblivion. He cares not that the steak is not real, because it seems real enough and is juicy, and “Oh, just give me the blasted blue pill and let me forget all this crushing reality!”
But the question is, what do we allow to dominate our thinking—which thoughts get to move in with their luggage, prop up their feet, hang the drapes, and dine with us? God says evict them:
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
The Lord’s Prayer, first thing in the morning, is defiance against unsavory mind squatters: “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever,” we say to God, not them. If they knock again, we evict them again.
Will not the God of the Garden have His desire? Yes He will. What a long, strange trip it’s been, as the Grateful Dead sang—and it was necessary to know evil in order to know the extent of His love. But in the end: He “will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17), and all that causes defilement. “The former things shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).
C.S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce:
“All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world. … Look at yon butterfly. If it swallowed all Hell, Hell would not be big enough to do it any harm or to have any taste.”
“It seems big enough when you’re in it, Sir.”
“And yet all loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies and itchings that it contains, if rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of the joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all.”
Meanwhile, what is the truest truth you know, what is honorable in your neighbor, what is excellent in Grace Packer’s memorial gathering, what is lovely in Christ?
Think about these things.
Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine and the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.