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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Why is Satan Selfish?

That Isaiah 14 passage
We are not told much about Satan's origin, but Isaiah chapter 14 is often - and I believe correctly - thought to reflect his fall. Although it is a description of the king of Babylon's fall, interpreters have read in these verses an echo of that darker previous fall (Satan and his followers are not very original, and behind the fall of anyone filled with pride is the same old devilish pattern):

12 How you have fallen from heaven,
    morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
    you who once laid low the nations!

It's all about me
Nothing strikes us more in Isaiah 14 than all the personal pronouns, "I", "my" and "myself", seven of them:

This is what the once-glorious creature said in his heart: 

13 You said in your heart,
    I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
    above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
    on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.”
15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
    to the depths of the pit.

It's all about number 1, all about him, all about his own concerns. This is in such stark contrast to the other-love of God, "For God so love the world."  Satan is consumed with himself and with his own concerns.

But why is Satan selfish?
But why is Satan selfish? That may seem a strange question to ask, but it is instructive. At least one reason is this: he is a unity, not a plurality. Satan is on his own, he is a unity of person, if we can credit personhood to such a twisted being.  

Satan isn't used to having to hang out with anyone else or submitting to anyone else. He is not used to talking to anyone else or taking advice from anyone else. He is not used to submitting to anyone else. He's the king of his castle. All he can think of is his own (destructive) ends.

God is a Trinity
At the other end of the spectrum (although we are reluctant to place God on the same spectrum as the evil one) is the Creator God. The true and living God is a Trinity and this doctrine has a profound effect on everything he is and everything God does. Although he rises infinitely above us in glory and majesty, and though he is beyond our thoughts to comprehend, yet we can understand a little.

From all eternity God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has had communion within himself - we catch wonderful glimpses of this intra-trinitarian communion in John's Gospel. Father, Son and Holy Spirit have loved one another from all eternity. This is why God can be called love, "God is love" (1 John 4:8) and why "Love comes from God" (1 John 4:7)

God's vision is outward looking towards a lost world because he loves already within himself. Love comes from within the Godhead.

What does this mean for us?
God made us in his Trinitarian iamge, not the ugly image of the unitarian evil one. We must trace all self-centredness, all "me-itis" to Satan. Whenever I expect  the world, my church, my family or my marriage to revolve around me or my concerns, I should recognise the orgin of  such selfishness: not the outward seeking trinitarian Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but the all-on-his-own, unitarian self-seeking Satan. 

In fact here's a test: we know we are being formed into the likeness of Jesus, the one who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many, when the direction of our hearts and lives and thoughts is outward looking and filled with love divine, and when we find it easy to "submit to one another out of reverence to Christ".

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