The Day I Started Believing in the Devil

My recent posts about showing the Lord of the Rings movies out at the prison reminded me of some stories and insights I share in Reviving Old Scratch.

Specifically, thinking about the hobbits as the heroes of the story in the Lord of the Rings, and how their weapons where the Fruits of the Spirit rather than the Ring of Power, reminded me of the story I share at the start of Chapter 10 in Reviving Old Scratch, about my first attempt to teach the Beatitudes inside a maximum security prison:

From Reviving Old Scratch, Chapter 10: The War of the Lamb
I vividly remember the day I started taking the Devil seriously.

I was teaching class out at the prison. We were at the start of Matthew 5, the start of the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes.

I was reading through them. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are those that mourn…Blessed are the meek.”

But then I stopped.

Stopped because I’d noticed something on the faces of the men. Skepticism. Growing skepticism that culminated when I hit the word “meek.”

I put my Bible down and looked around. “Looking at your faces,” I said, “it doesn’t seem like you’re buying this.”

There was an awkward pause, a lot of staring at the ground and uncomfortable shifting in the seats. Finally one of the men spoke up.

“It’s not that we disagree, but you just can’t do that stuff in here. In here meekness is mistaken for weakness.”

And the implication was clear. If you are weak you’ll get hurt. Inside a maximum security prison weakness is dangerous...

To this day, I vividly recall that Monday night out at the prison. That night was a turning point for me. A conversion experience. That was the night I witnessed a head on spiritual collision. At close range saw the Beatitudes crash into the world. And it wasn’t pretty.

Later, after I had sorted through the wreckage of my well-prepared Bible study, I realized that was the night I started believing in the Devil.

From the beginning of this book I’ve been describing “the satan” as the force or forces which are adversarial to love and the Kingdom of God. And that night out at the prison I stood face to face with the Devil.

“You can’t do that stuff in here.”

There were forces that were adversarial to meekness in the world of the prison, and to all of the Beatitudes, making the Way of Jesus risky, costly and dangerous. The Men in White wanted to follow Jesus, they wanted to obey, but they had their worries, fears even. To follow Jesus was to swim upstream against a dark and satanic current.

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