In the prayer Jesus gave to us to follow, he includes the line “and deliver us from evil.” I think many times we assume that this deliverance is going to passively come to us in the form of divine intervention – or at least that’s what we hope. I believe, however, that while that may be the case at part of the time, Jesus had something else in mind.
When we see evil addressed in Scripture, it is often in the context of some sort of battle. There’s a war between good and evil happening all around us. If you need evidence of this, simply turn on the evening news. Ultimately Jesus defeated evil on the cross. There will be a day when Jesus will return and set things right – goodness and peace will reign. In the meantime, however, we are living in a time when evil is thriving. I believe that when Jesus tells us to pray “deliver us from evil,” he is saying that he will be with us in this evil time, but we are not to sit idly by – we are to act.
In Matthew 16:18 (ESV), Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
The gates of any wall are meant to be a defensive advantage. You don’t charge the enemy with gates leading the way. That means that when Jesus is saying that the gates of hell shall not prevail, he is envisioning a charge let by His Church, against the gates of hell – against evil. The church is not supposed to lock our doors, hide behind our gates, and simply wait for Jesus to return. Quite the contrary! We are to be out in the world attacking and denouncing evil and injustice everywhere we see it. When Jesus says to pray that God will deliver us from evil, he’s telling us that in our forward-moving attack positions, we ask God to give us the victory over oppression, tyranny, bigotry, and evil in all forms.
As the Church we are God’s agents of love and grace in the world. As such we cannot simply wait for Jesus to return and do nothing in the meantime – we must act. We must have compassion for the sick, the widows, the orphans, the persecuted, the marginalized, the weary. But compassion is more than a feeling. Compassion without action is only pity.
Pity is a feeling that one has about the plight of someone else. But God calls us to have more than a feeling – he calls us to act. Micah 6:8 (NLT) say that we are “to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with (our) God.” Those are ACTION words!
Following Christ is not only about believing the right things, it is also about doing the right things. The right things are not always easy to do, and they often require sacrifice. But as we attack the gates of hell by doing the right things, we pray that the Father will deliver us to victory in battle. Christianity is not a spectator sport – it requires action. Look around your world, see where evil seems to have the upper hand, and then pray that God will give you the strength to conquer it in the name of Jesus.