Deliver us from evil?

Last Sunday, I watched the livestream of the Easter service from San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. The recital of the Lord’s Prayer brought me up short.

I have always mentally heard the prayer as asking the Lord to “lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil,” but it’s not. In other words, I always thought the prayer asked for us to be delivered from the evil others directed our way. It isn’t.

The prayer instead asks the Lord to deliver us from evil that we are tempted to do. As originally stated in the Bible (Matthew 6:9), we are to ask the Lord to “deliver us from the evil one.” We are to be delivered from the clutches of Satan – and how do we place ourselves at the mercy of Satan? By committing evil.

All of which asks, “What is evil?”

As one can see from the prayer, a lot of evil follows temptation. At least five of the deadly sins result from giving in to inducements to desire – avarice, lust, gluttony, sloth, and pride all come readily to mind – but is there a temptation towards anger? It seems to me that to be tempted requires at least a modicum of awareness of the temptation being fought. Too often anger seems to arise almost with no warning, with no knowledge of how near it is. Anger is often a sin, but not always: sometimes anger is a righteous answer to injustice. Jesus was angry when he cleansed the temple, and I do not know any Christian who would claim He was acting sinfully. Too often we do not engage in enough anger – or at least not enough of the right type of anger, the anger that means something.

Everyone thinks they understand sins of commission: breaking of the Ten Commandments, say. We actively do unto others – sometimes unto ourselves as well – indefensible things. Sins of omission…they’re trickier.

It is accepting credit where we deserve none.

It is, by what we do not say, causing emotional pain to another human being.

It is staying silent in the face of injustice.

It is allowing ourselves to slip into despair.

It is indifference to the plight of others.

It is all the “You were great”s, all the“I’m proud of you”s, all the “I love you”s never said.

These may be small evils, or maybe not. But evils they are. All of us, at some time, commit them. It’s the human condition; nobody’s perfect. 

May God deliver us from these evils.

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