Tag Archives: Sam

Purposes and Implosions of Evil

“I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian—
    brother will fight against brother,
    neighbor against neighbor,
    city against city,
    kingdom against kingdom.”
Isaiah 19:2 (NIV)

‘Yes, they quarreled, seemingly,’ said Sam. ‘There must have been a couple of hundred of the dirty creatures in this place. A bit of a tall order for Sam Gamgee, as you might say. But they’ve done all the killing of themselves.’
The Lord of the Rings, Book 6, Chapter 1

Evil falls prey to its own nature. That’s one of the themes that Tolkien threaded through his epic stories. Left to its own devices, evil implodes from its self-seeking appetites:

  • Several characters relented from killing Gollum and Gandalf even believed that Gollum had a part to play in the fate of the ring. Gollum’s insatiable lust for the One Ring was what ultimately saved Frodo and everyone else, while destroying both the Ring and himself.
  • In the Tower of Cirith Ungol Sam is able to find Frodo and rescue him because all of the orcs fought and destroyed each other. (see quoted passage above)
  • The orcs who took Merry and Pippin quarrel over their captives and their quarrel is leveraged by the hobbits to plot their escape.
  • Gandalf refuses to kill either Saruman or Wormtongue. In the end, Wormtongue finishes Saruman off himself.

I thought about this theme in Tolkien’s stories, and its caused me to think about my responses and reactions to evil that I encounter around me and in others. As a young man I was far more given to the notion of swift and final justice of any perpetrator of evil. The further I get in my journey the more I’ve come to appreciate that life is not always as simply black and white.

Even God, through the word of the prophets, makes it clear that sometimes the agents of evil unwittingly serve the greater design of the Great Story. In Isaiah’s prophetic messages to the nations in the past few chapters there has been a recurring theme of Israel’s enemies accomplishing God’s larger purposes. And, sometimes  implodes and devours itself.

Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement,” Gandalf says to Frodo regarding Gollum’s deserving justice. “For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

This morning I’m thinking about grand themes of good and evil, of mercy and justice. I would love for things to always be simple in the story telling and to avoid the messiness of the mystery. I would especially appreciate it as I apply these themes to my own life and relationships. Yet, my life journey has taught me that things are rarely that simple. The truth is that I would have quickly dispatched Gollum and considered it a just end, but then how would the larger epic have ended?

I’m left, as I am so often am, praying for wisdom and discernment. I’m trying harder than ever to suppress my natural eagerness to deal out judgement. I’m trying harder than ever to increase love in tangible ways.

 

chapter a day banner 2015

 

The Latest 08-02-2015

Weeks come and go, but this past week held special significance:

Wendy reading her Charles Martin book in Starbucks as we waited out Taylor's 3 hour flight delay.
Wendy reading her Charles Martin book in Starbucks as we waited out Taylor’s 3 hour flight delay.

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  • On Tuesday night Wendy and I picked up Taylor at the Des Moines airport as she moved back from her year in graduate school at the University of Edinburgh. Her flight was supposed to be in at 8:30, but strong storms in the Des Moines area delayed her flight until just before midnight. Wendy and I holed up at the Starbucks on Fluer until they closed at 10:00. It was a late night and had been a long day of travel for Taylor. She fell into our arms and cried. We got home just before 1:00 a.m. to give her a tour of the house and show her to her new room.
You know it's been a long day on the road when you watch the sunset in your rear view mirror!
You know it’s been a long day on the road when you watch the sunset in your rear view mirror!
  • Busy week work-wise for me. Road trip to Sioux Center on Wednesday. Hopefully it will result in a new client. End of the month always means deadlines, so the end of the week had me chained to the desk.
Photo: Jim Palmer
Photo: Jim Palmer
  • It was the second weekend of USP’s Fiddler on the Roof which means we’ve seen very little of Suzanna. Wendy and I have been helping with ticket sales.

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  • Madison flew in on Friday. We tried in vain to remember the last time that the four of us last had a meal together at home. It’s been years. We boiled up some Iowa sweet corn, had Italian chicken in the crock-pot with salad and a nice bottle of wine. It was so wonderful to spend the evening together. After dinner we enjoyed wine and chocolate as the girls played videos and we all laughed.
  • After the girls headed to bed Wendy and I buzzed down the road to our friend Cyndi’s where we enjoyed an after show drink and conversation with she, Megan, and the McQuades. Lovely evening chatting about Fiddler and theatre. We were up much later than we’d planned on [shocking].
  • On Saturday morning we were up early to get ready for our nephew, Sam Keithley’s, wedding to Lydia Yoder. We had to be on the road for Des Moines at 8:30. It was so fun for me hearing Taylor and Madison getting ready together, hearing them laughing and singing. Made this papa’s heart extra joyful. We arrived at Westkirk Presbyterian at 9:30 for a quick Vander Well family photo. The wedding was at 10:30 with a brunch reception after. The bride and groom zoomed off to their honeymoon about 2:00. We headed to the folks new apartment in Woodlands Creek to hang out with them. Tim, Kumi, Terry, Bonnie, and Ellie all joined us. They, along with Taylor and Madison, had not seen Grandpa and Grandma’s new apartment. Madison took her leave to spend the night with Nancy. Taylor, Wendy and I made a stop at Baskin Robbins (Taylor’s request) before driving back to Pella.

 

The Implosion of Evil

merry and pippin held by orcsWhen Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. Acts 23:6-7 (NRSV)

One of the themes I have noticed in epic literature over the years is that evil tends to implode from within. In the Lord of the Rings, Merry and Pippin were able to escape from their captors in large part because of the infighting between the orcs Mordor and the Uruk-Hai of Isengard. Likewise, the reason Sam was able to rescue Frodo from the Tower of Cirith Ungol was because all of the orcs killed each other. Factions of hatred have a hard time uniting.

I was reminded of this as I read today’s chapter. The Jewish council had two main factions who disagreed on theology and who seemed to hate one another more than they hated Paul and the followers of Jesus. The Sadducees didn’t believe in life after death or in the spiritual realm while the Pharisees did. Paul, seizing on the opportunity to stir up the on-going debate between the two factions, sided loudly with the Pharisees and got the two factions arguing (orc-like). The Pharisees were suddenly defending Paul as an ally and the Romans were forced to rescue him from the ensuing tumult.

Today, I’m reminded that Jesus command to love others, even our enemies, has powerful consequences far beyond the spiritual health of our own souls. The power of love to unite is one of the most powerful weapons we have against evil.