The Devil Within

Early one morning when I was in grade school, I approached my dad with the moral dilemma troubling me big time. “If we’re supposed to love everyone, what about the devil?” He answered, “You can love the devil, but not the devil’s ways.” This made sense and gave me some peace.


As an adult, I have sought a simple idea such as this one to help me wrap my mind around how I can understand the devil today. Does the devil even exist? In biblical stories the devil takes all manner of form – the snake, the trickster – to pull one over on us.

And then there is Christ’s response to the Pharisees when they question why his disciples break the tradition of the elders and don’t wash before they eat.

“Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ …For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts…” (Mark 7:14-20)
The devil is not some outside force, peering in at the window, ready to strike us at our weakest points. Just like God dwells in each of us, so can the devil.

Was it really the snake who tempted Eve in the garden? Or was it more like Eve was hanging out in the garden, kind of bored, and a snake of an idea slithered into her mind – there’s a tree smack in the middle of everything that God said don’t touch…hmmm…wonder what would happen if I touched it?  

The force that separates me from God comes on most strongly when I am bored, when I’m frustrated and anxious and fearful, and, surprisingly, when I am right. Oh, how I love to be right! How I love to lord it over other people that I am right, and then the little devils get loose in my mind and go to all the places where I am right-right-right. Because when I am feeling right, then I don’t need God.

The devil, at its core, is the idea that I am God.

Felicia Schneiderhan is a freelance writer based in Chicago, where she lives year-round on a boat with her husband Mark. Visit her blog at Life Aboard Mazurka

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