2Co 11:13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. (14) And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (15) So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
Most of you know that the sin of abuse hides. It hides in plain sight by donning a facade, a disguise, a costume of righteousness. The abuser is a chameleon, changing his outward appearance as necessary to not only blend into the current surroundings, but to even stand out a bit as an eminent example of whatever society (such as a local church) he happens to be in. I think there are some super-hero villain types in recent movies who can change their form at will?
Evil hides in plain sight. It puts on camo paint and blends, so that it looks like the “good” around it. What better vantage point to strike from? You never see it coming. Hidden in disguise it can work its harm for years, picking us off one by one. I think of the rabbits in Watership Down, willing to be domesticated and gain the comforts of it all — though it did seem that some of their neighbors mysteriously kept disappearing. Oh well.
How good is the disguise? Very, very good in many cases. So good in fact that even after we have seen it for what it really is, been stung and injured by it many times, we still find ourselves having to actively tell ourselves that it is not what it appears to be. Know the feeling? “Yeah, the guy murdered 25 people, but I talked to him and he seems such a nice guy! Hmmm. Maybe we’ve got him all wrong?” I have sat face to face with evil ones like this, listening to them talk so convincingly, and at the same time in my mind I am saying over and over again, “he is lying, that is a lie.”
God’s Word tells us repeatedly that we have to be on guard against evil “creeping in among us” in the church:
Jude 1:12-13 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; (13) wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
Hidden reefs designed to make shipwreck of our faith, and they are sitting right beside us at the communion table! They have no fear, though they should tremble at the Lord’s wrath against them. Peter gives us the very same kind of warning (as does Paul in the Scripture cited at the beginning of this post):
2Pe 2:12-14 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, (13) suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. (14) They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!
“While they feast with you….They entice unsteady souls.” Their motive is greed, self-love, a craving for self-glory. They are entitled to power and control. Did you notice the “unsteady souls” reference to those who are enticed and deluded by them? To a degree, let’s face it, that describes each one of us, especially in the days before we wised up to the nature and mentality and tactics of evil (abuse). Every Christian needs to get their “sea legs” real quickly and stand steady against these chameleons.
Here is the same thing described again by Paul:
Rom 16:17-18 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (18) For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
“They deceive the hearts of the naive.” They do it by using “smooth talk and flattery.” Ever hear that? It behooves us then to cease being naive to evil, just as Christ instructed us to be innocent yet wise when it comes to the machinations of the evil one.
The scene in our churches is much like one of those “Where’s Waldo” pictures in a child’s book. He’s in there, someplace. In disguise, blending in with the surroundings. Waldo is harmless, but just imagine if he were evil, hiding there like a chameleon in plain sight? Danger! “You say he’s where?” “There! Right there! Can’t you see him?”
With all of these warnings graciously given us by the Lord, why is it that it remains so easy for evil to hide in a local church? Do we think that we are wiser and better than the Lord? “Oh, no. Not here. Not in my church. Couldn’t be!”
Yes, pastor, it could be. Don’t you see him? There, right there. Sitting beside you whispering in your ear.