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Give the Devil His Due

October 31st, 2013by Joe Ollier

In the preface to his classic work, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis makes the comment that people can make “two equal and opposite errors” regarding devils.  “One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel and excessive and unhealthy interest in them.  They themselves are equally pleased by both errors…”  In other words, those who don’t believe in Satan and those who join him both have fallen into his trap.  Both have believed his lies.

One of Satan’s greatest lies is convincing people that he doesn’t exist – that Hell doesn’t exist.   It’s a smart move because we don’t try to avoid a danger if we don’t think it’s real.  You see this all the time in the animal kingdom.  The unsuspecting zebra who doesn’t see the crocodile hiding under the water at the river’s edge; or the pack of antelopes that walks right toward the tiger concealed in the tall grass, waiting to pounce.  The devil works the same way, camouflaging himself in feel-good theologies and moral relativism.  Scripture even calls him a great lion, prowling the earth looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

The other great lie is that sin is fun and that Hell is one big party, while virtue is lame and heaven is boring. As Billy Joel sang years ago, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the Saints.  The sinners are much more fun.” In this way Satan’s like the drug dealer who gives away free samples, knowing that once a person is hooked they’ll pay anything to feed their addiction.  If you’ve ever seen the pictures of meth or heroin addicts, you know that life is anything but fun and games.  We all know that once a sin becomes a habit, it’s awfully hard to break away from.  What starts off looking like fun becomes the very thing that enslaves us.  Those who choose to dance with the devil will discover that in Hell, Satan is the only one laughing.

Lewis also makes the assertion that the one thing the devil can’t stand is to be mocked. Nothing galls him more than people who know he’s real, but also know he has been utterly defeated.  They laugh at him because they see right through him; they know that everything Satan offers is counterfeit, and everything he says is a lie, and that Jesus offers so much more.  For them, the devil is sort of like the playground bully whose weakness has been discovered. He’ll lash out, but no one pays him any heed.

That’s why Halloween is so interesting to me.  Some Christians fear it, calling it the devil’s holiday.  They’ll do anything to avoid it.  Others fall into one of the two great errors that Lewis warns about.  But the Catholic Church gets it right.  The Church says we have nothing to fear – not because the devil isn’t real, but because he has been totally defeated.  Halloween isn’t the Devil’s day, it’s the Church’s day – the night we proclaim, with All the Saints, that Satan and his demons have no hold on us because Jesus Christ is Lord.   Happy All Hallow’s Eve!

Joe Ollier

Joe Ollier is the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Ascension Parish in Kettering where he and his family are. He has 20 years experience in youth ministry and a Masters Degree in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton.