Branch or Root
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." (Henry David Thoreau)
The branches of evil are easier to deal with than the root, making going after the root a task many will avoid simply because of how hard it is to discover and then deal with in an effective manner. There are a whole lot of harmful things in this day and age, but actually being aware of their harm is another thing. Evil has learned to mask itself in ways we don't easily recognize, making it harder than ever to get at the root of it in our society today. As Thoreau proposes, there are a lot of attempts to expose evil, but very little is actually being successful at permanently eradicating it. The same can be true in our own lives - for evil lurks in places we might not have even considered - places we don't like to look!
12 God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So your new life should be like this: Show mercy to others. Be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. 13 Don’t be angry with each other, but forgive each other. If you feel someone has wronged you, forgive them. Forgive others because the Lord forgave you. 14 Together with these things, the most important part of your new life is to love each other. Love is what holds everything together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking. It is for peace that you were chosen to be together in one body. And always be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15 ERV)
If we want to deal with evil in our own lives, we follow the above instructions. If we want to do more than "hack away at" the branches of evil in our society today, we follow these same instructions. It begins within each of us and it then begins to affect the root from which evil is able to find effective growth. Consider this:
- We have been chosen. When we go to the grocery store, we have something in mind which we will prepare for our meal. As we make the rounds to the various shelves and display cases, we observe a wide variety of products all promising us "good stuff" inside. We "choose" the ones we want based on whatever it is we desire - the low fat if we are watching our calories, the low sodium if we are concerned with how much salt we get in our diet. Based upon our desire, we choose what we believe to be best. God has already chosen each of us - that means he has selected what he believes to be the best! He has plans for us - a use for each of us. As his chosen, we begin a journey to be rid of evil ourselves and then to be instruments of his grace to help others to be rid of evil themselves.
- Evil gets an inroad anytime we refuse to follow these instructions. When we allow anger to burn deep within, it leads to hatred, and eventually to bitter and disgusting displays of hurtful actions. Evil is best eradicated where true love exists. God's love cannot tolerate evil - and his love indwells us as his grace embraces us. Evil isn't going to just disappear - it is "loved out of us" by his constant love and mercy! Now, we live by this same means - loving the evil right out of others as God has loved it right out of us!
- The root of almost all evil has the richest ground for growth in the realm of our thoughts. Thinking needs to be transformed if evil is to no longer rule in our own lives. The peace of God is the very thing that transforms our thinking, in turn transforming our attitudes and actions. It is impossible to truly be embraced by the love of God and continue to think the same way we once thought. His love will transform our thinking, in turn transforming the "root" of all we say and do. Just sayin!