On Resisting Evil and Pursuing God
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." --- James 4:7
An Innate Disposition to Vigorously Push Back
The injunction to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you” is one that is very deeply ingrained into the soul. The tripartite idea that evil exists, that it must be resisted in an active manner, and that earnestly doing so is guaranteed to prove effective, are all part of the soul’s innate take on the challenges and trials of life in the world. This is important to understand, as much for the sake of its implications in a context where a child of God has gone quite far astray, as for the sake of its utility in preventing such a situation from occurring in the first place.
Even when an individual has become strongly conditioned to the ways and standards of the world, he yet tends to retain a fairly strong inner sense about the importance of resisting evil, as well as about the assured efficacy of earnest and heartfelt efforts along such lines. As his conceptions of good and evil become increasingly blurred, this can then lead him to struggle and lash out against individuals, situations or states of affairs in a way that may well play powerfully into the perpetuating and accelerating of negative conditions, trends and developments. Such a struggling and lashing out can then also very readily become a strongly reactionary mechanism, as well as a strongly personally-destabilizing one. And all of this can be very readily exploited by individuals who desire to draw souls away from the paths of God or to exercise control over people.
A populace that is strongly predisposed to vigorously resist what it conceives of as evil, at the same time as having acquired a very relativistic moral outlook and adopted a very lax personal ethical code, is bound to prove a dangerously unhinged and manipulable one. This has perhaps never been as evident as in the last few years, especially against the backdrop of Donald Trump’s presidency. There was something unique going on in all of the polarization that took place during and in the immediate aftermath of his term in office, and this had a lot to do with what I am discussing.
Many people instinctively lashed out against Trump quite out of proportion to his faults and shortcomings, and quite out of proportion as well to the controversial nature of some of his policies and statements. And many of them were shockingly easily manipulated to further react against his presidency and against much of what he stood for through the influence of the media and various political figures. All of this had the effect of greatly increasing the degree of implicit support for the other side of the political spectrum, despite all of that other side’s growing radicalization.
What has been going on politically in the United States over the last few years is strongly and worryingly analogous to what occurred in China in the 1940s. Resistance to the nationalist movement (which assuredly had many faults) was integral during that critical period in Chinese history to the rise of the communist movement (which was considerably worse). This connects to the broader observation that wickedness generally makes the greatest and most lasting strides when it is in a position to convincingly present some imperfect or flawed alternative as a great threat that needs to be resisted at all costs. The perennial effectiveness of such a strategy—and the facility with which people who have already lost a significant sense of perspective can be brought to very quickly lose a lot more—owes a lot to what I am describing.
And so, much of the growth of wickedness in the world paradoxically owes much to the soul’s innate disposition to vigorously resist it. This disposition subsists even when an individual has come to acquire a very poor capacity for judgment about right and wrong, along with very little understanding or commitment when it comes to resisting the devil on an inner or personal level. Such a situation can then very readily lead to tragic results with major long-term repercussions.
This is why the first half of the biblical verse of which I have already quoted the second half is so important. “Submit yourselves therefore to God:” these are the words which proceed the injunction to resist the devil. This is extremely pertinent, because when an individual downplays or ignores the primordial importance of submitting himself to God, his misguided response to an innate disposition to resist evil can very easily lead him to adopt an end justifies the means sort of mindset. He can then also very readily be led to conform to depraved norms, buy into ridiculous narratives, or throw his support behind deleterious movements. He can, in short, become much more worldly and much more strongly conditioned to the downward trending ways of the world in large part because of his commitment to resisting evil, when he approaches such resistance in a problematically stand-alone manner.
The Need for a Positive Thrust
Resisting evil is altogether integral to the spiritual path, as well as to doing your part to make the world a better place. But in the absence of a positive thrust to draw nearer to the Father and strive to live up to His standards, the counterpart of a negative thrust against wickedness taken in isolation can very readily morph into a detrimental thing. And when their efforts to resist evil as they conceive of it come to be right among the most powerful factors facilitating and deepening people’s estrangement from God, that makes for a very perilous situation indeed. Unfortunately, it is a situation that is very widespread in the world today, and it is crucial to understand something of why this is the case.
When actively eschewing evil is not approached quite explicitly as a counterpart to actively pursuing God, you become very prone to inadvertently choose the greater of two evils as opposed to the lesser of the two in many situations. This is because embracing some of the negative demands of attempting to walk uprightly without adequately embracing (or even acknowledging) its core positive demands is a pretty sure recipe for compromising your sense of perspective. It also opens the door to pretence, hypocrisy and affectation taking greater hold in you consciousness, as well as to increasing your tolerance for falsehood, duplicity and tyranny.
Poorly conceived resistance against error can thus prove to be a principal factor behind just how prone many people have come to be to poorly conceived ideas, justifications and premises. And this can turn into a self-reinforcing cycle, as a compromised capacity for judgment leads them to increasingly turn towards responding to a felt urge to stand up to something that they perceive of as wrong as a surrogate for earnestly responding to a felt pricking of the spirit to come up higher. Their ethics can then start to pivot quite exclusively on “doing enough,” at the direct expense of pivoting on bringing the full weight of their capacities and inner resources to bear for the sake of charting the best possible course and then following that course in the best possible manner.
The truth is that resisting evil is certainly integral to walking after the spirit, but it is crucially not its first principle. Similarly, the essence or core of morality and upright living does not (and could not) lie in resistance to anything, but rather lies in positive effort expended in striving towards objective standards and ideals. This is important to recognize, as is the related point that fending off wickedness has to begin on an interior and personal level. Wickedness will assuredly have to be fended off in the world as well, but the general imperative to resist it must not be approached as something that begins on the outer. Ignoring this principle can only be a recipe for a society spiralling into degeneracy and decline.
It is very dangerous to conceive of your duty to resist evil primarily as a duty to play your part in a collective reaction against some (real or supposed) malicious individual, organization, movement or situation. Rather, you need to begin with a conception of that duty in terms of a personal process of resisting (largely intangible) negative influences, and only on the basis of that to extrapolate to a duty to resist evil on the world stage in tandem with other people. Otherwise, failing to submit to God can play right into submitting to the pernicious influence of a world gone astray, right as refusing to submit to individuals who stand out to you as particularly iniquitous or dangerous can play into submitting to particularly iniquitous or dangerous individuals hiding behind a collectivist popular movement.
If you do not learn, assimilate and apply this lesson, you may well find yourself part of a crowd yelling “crucify him” in chorus with virulent high priests in one age, or of a mob dishing out political persecution as part of a Marxist uprising in another. What you are almost certain to find, in any case, is that failing to submit to God will result in becoming dangerously malleable to the prevailing downward-trending ways of the world and those who most forcefully espouse those ways. And far from acting as a mitigating factor in this, your innate predisposition to strenuously resist evil is very likely to considerably facilitate it.
Misguided reactions by well-meaning individuals against perceived wickedness have long been a very reliable well of frenzied support for malicious and self-serving individuals to draw upon. That well is almost always at its fullest level during periods when things really come to a head on the national or world stage, during which periods it is therefore more imperative than ever for children of God to be keenly on guard against having the implications of their inborn spirituality turned against them. This reinforces the key importance of being primed to respond to all potential stresses, disruptions and challenges by striving first and foremost to personally come up higher. Striving first and foremost to pull anything down on the outer is never an adequate substitute.