"The Devil's Disguise"
(© 1986, by Edward M. Hays.)

10-14-98 Story of the Week from Church Within #1
Greetings my Dearest Sisters and Brothers, and welcome to our first of a new weekly service we are calling S.O.W. [No... not like a mother Pig... like what you do with seeds... Geeze... ;-)]

This week's SOW #1, contributed by: Pastor Daniel and Minister Jill Megow. [All I had to do was find it... Jill had to type it for me. ;-)]

Story of the Week
(From the book: "St. George and the Dragon and the Quest for the Holy Grail". copyright © 1986, by Edward M. Hays.)

"The Devil's Disguise"

        One day the Devil came to heaven to visit God. The Devil was upset because the ageless contest between Good and Evil had become an unfair match: Evil did not have the same opportunities as Good. At this most important of all summit conferences, the Devil told God, "I've only been able to squeeze in an occasional temptation! By the way, God, that was sneaky of you to choose a stable for his birth. I had my agents posted outside every palace, once we became aware that you were planning an invasion, but you tricked us! Who would have guessed that a God-King would be born in a stable?"
        God's face broke into a big grin, like that of a Las Vegas blackjack dealer with all the winning cards in his hand, and said, "All's fair in love and war, my old friend and competitor. But I hate to think of myself as a cheat. Okay. I'll agree to your becoming incarnate in the world also. You're right, ever since Bethlehem I have had a slight edge in our contest."
        "Great!" said the Devil. "I knew you were a good sport. `Now, do I also have the same freedom that you had, to come any time, anywhere and in any form I choose?"
        "Only sounds fair," said God. "Any time, anywhere and in any form you choose," and they shook hands on the deal.
        And so the Devil, after a quick look around his old home, left heaven and raced like hell for hell, and a meeting with his Ace Demons. As he rushed through the swinging doors, they were jumping up and down, eager to hear what had happened in heaven. "Lord Devil, tell us, tell us, what did the Enemy say?" they shouted.
        Wearing a victor's smile, the Devil began, "Well, it wasn't easy. The Enemy agreed that I was right. I've been given complete freedom to become incarnate on the earth in any way I choose."
        At this the demons all pounded the table with their fists in fits of uncontrollable glee. The Devil signaled for silence and said, "But now we must put our horned heads together, boys, and figure out the best way for Evil to come to earth! As my advisors, what suggestions do you have?
        "I got an idea," drooled a demon who had white beads of saliva drilling from the corner of his mouth. "Lord Devil, why not come to earth as one of those jasmine-smelling, full-breasted, hot-lipped women of Babylon?"
        "What a stupid idea," snapped the Devil. "Too limited. All we'd get would be a few men fooled by lust. No, dummy, we have to find a better disguise---more universal and not so obvious."
        For a long time (it's impossible to say how long, since the clocks in hell don't have any hands), the Ace Demons tossed out ideas for the disguise. Some suggested that he come dressed like the god Mars, posing as war. Others suggested that Evil come as money, still others that liquor would be a crafty disguise.
        "Shut up, I need time to think," shouted the Devil, as he reached over and turned up the thermostat, causing the big black furnaces to leap into action, sending the temperature up another hundred degrees. And so the Lord Devil and his cronies sat in stalled thought and steaming silence.
        "I've got it!" yelled the Devil. "It just came to me. I shall come to earth disguised as the Enemy! Yes, I shall become incarnate in the world as LOVE!" At this all the Ace Demons roared with riotous laughter, as their little tails beat furiously on the scalding steel floors of hell.
        Now, if we are honest, we will have to admit that it was a truly ingenious scheme for the Devil to come to earth as Love. For that was how God's son had come and was present in the world at that very moment, even as the best make-up artist in hell was busy transforming the Devil into Love. Actually, the Diabolic Disguise Department provided him with a whole trunk of love disguises.
        And so, the Devil came to earth on Valentine's Day, the Feast of Love. He opened up his trunk and took out a disguise. He first put on his red, white and blue suit of LOVE OF COUNTRY. Disguised as "Love of the Father-or-Motherland," he had to work overtime as he busily engaged in war, destruction, lying and spying, brutality, murder, rape and a wide assortment of other vicious deeds. Love of Country made it possible to justify the refusal to forgive, it fed centuries-long resentment and the desire for revenge. It also made possible the blindness to truth that allows evil to flourish in the hearts of people, as the Devil went about singing, "My Country, Right or Wrong . . . ."
        Next, the Devil took out the disguise of LOVE OF ONE'S OWN RELIGION. This costume was beautiful in its stained glass colors, heavy with tradition and respectability. Wearing this disguise, it was possible to make people be silent in the face of obvious error and injury. It bred pride and the spirit of superiority --- each institution thinking that it was the "one and only." This love also gave permission to hate those of other religions, even to slaughter them in so-called "holy" wars or to ridicule and spread lies about them. The power of this disguise was that it made Love a thing that demanded obedience and unquestioning assent to its teachings, instead of the desire to question or to explore. It was especially effective in the synagogues and streets where Jesus was teaching, as the Devil moved through the crowds whispering, "Heresy --- he must be silenced!"
        The Devil also wandered over the earth in the form of LOVE OF ONE'S NAME, or SELF-RESPECT. Wearing this form of love, he was able to engage people in murderous duels and fist fights, and other unseemly affairs of "honor" that involved anger, hate, frustration and domination. Another of his incarnations was PARENTAL LOVE. This was a clever mask that made possible the reappearance of one of history's oldest evils, slavery! As Parental Love, the Devil employed sweet, juicy guilt as a tool to let parents control their children even after they were grown. By the use of guilt, parents were able to manipulate and make decisions for their children, making them servants, clones, and vicarious agents for their own needs.
        Now, you may have raised an eyebrow when I told you that the Devil became incarnate on Valentine's Day. That you should be surprised should not surprise you! In fact, before the Devil left hell, one of the Ace Demons questioned him: "Lord Devil, WHY are you coming to earth as Love? I suspect that you have another reason, other than to come disguised as the Enemy."
        "Ah," said the Devil, "you're a clever little demon. Yes, you're right. I have a very good reason: Love makes people blind! If Evil comes as Love, I can blind them to the reality of what is happening. They will become 'a people living in darkness.' I have chosen Valentine's Day because it is their Feast of Love. While I can sell evil under the form of Love of Country or Religion, under the disguise of Love of One's Name, or even Parental Love, the more clever ones will see through my disguises. But who will ever suspect me as LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER/"
        And so, as Love For One Another, Evil introduced domination, control and the exploitation of others. While ordinarily kind people would never think of stealing money, Love allowed them to steal affection, time, pleasure, body and soul --- and never really to share themselves. Under the disguise of Love, one person could "own" others, keeping them from loving anyone else by giving or refusing affection. Pain could be inflicted by words, suspicions, by refusal to forgive or by the ugly use of silence. People who never lied could be easily led to use lies like, "I love you . . . I will always love you . . . ," without ever backing up such words with commitment. And the people who were being injured by this disguised love? They themselves participated: they were silent when they should have spoken. They allowed exploitation and did nothing. They reacted out of guilt and did not rebel . . . all because of "Love"! Oh yes, under these forms of Love, Evil was able to dwell in every home and heart. The Devil was so right: earth-people DID become "a people living in darkness."
        At half-time, the contest between Good and Evil seemed to be over! The Devil was winning with such overwhelming odds that his victory seemed certain. So the Devil sent God a message, asking if Good wanted to "toss in the towel" and concede defeat. Not it was God and his angels who sat in silence, pondering the questions, "How do we lift the darkness? How do we dispel the blinding gloom, so that people can see the difference between God as Love and the Devil as Love?
        Finally, after much reflection, God spoke slowly, "I know a way to make my children see the difference. But oh, how I hate to use it. It pains my heart to even consider such a solution, but I know no other way. The Light must break loose, or else the world will be truly lost to Evil. I shall ask my son, Jesus, to show them the difference."
        And so, on a certain Friday in Spring, Jesus died on a cross on a barren hilltop in Palestine. At that moment a light flooded the world, so intense that no one could mistake the difference between real love, and Evil disguised as Love. The cross revealed the enormous difference between the two: real love gives unconditionally, while counterfeit love takes. Authentic love gives freedom; imitation love, on the contrary, enslaves and attempts to own the other. Genuine love is expansive, is ever out-reaching, while love as a forgery is a closed circle, restricted and exclusive, allowing no room for others. Godly love is humble, generous and honest, while evil love is proud and self-seeking and basically dishonest. All this the death of Christ made clear in a blazing revelation. It was not on Christmas that the Light entered the world. No, it was on Good Friday, the Feast of the Revelation of True Love. On that Black Friday, a people who lived in blindness, in darkness, saw a great light --- and it revealed TRUE LOVE forever!
        So, even to this day, those who are uncertain if their love is real or only a counterfeit can illuminate the darkness of doubt by holding up their love to the eternal sign of the cross.
Hope you enjoyed it!

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