Have you ever met the devil? No? Oh, yes, you have.
Not only have we met the devil, but he has taken us in. We don't come away victorious very often, as Jesus did. We are suckers for the devil's wiles.
It is easy for us to dismiss evil in our world as not being real. We would like to pretend that there is no such thing -- no Satan or the Ruler of Darkness. We put the red devil, with horns and tail, in the category of imagination, of folklore, of legend.
But just as up has a down, and in has an out, and just as light has its darkness, so good has its evil.
Jesus, in his parable of the weeds that got sown in with the wheat, said, "An enemy has done this." (Matthew 13:39)
There is an enemy out there, and we must deal with it. This is not to say that there is a kind of evil god working on us. There is only one God. And this God is to be loved and trusted. He is merciful and forgiving. And I am so glad because I've got weeds -- lots of them.
But there is an enemy out there, and we must deal with it. Sometimes we are the enemy. And sometimes it simply means that choices and decisions made in this complex world of ours are way off target.
Jesus, after his baptism, went into the wilderness and was confronted by the devil. It often happens, after a moment of high exhilaration, that we are most in danger.
And although Jesus was really human enough to be tempted, he told the devil to go fly a kite. Jesus said in the first place that material things must not have priority. "Man does not live by bread alone, but we live by the words that proceed from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)
In the second place, Jesus told the devil, "Don't expect magical interference from God for this physical body, but do expect the mystery of God's comforting presence, sustaining us in times of need."
"He will give his angels charge of you." (Matthew 4:6)
And then Jesus gave the last word to the old tempter, when evil tried to get him to become a political hero and rule the whole world. And he said, "Be gone, Satan. You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve." (Matthew 4:10)
I've never been absolutely certain that I have talked with the devil, but I do know that I've been tempted to do wrong and have had to lean on the Lord again and again. I hope I will always have the courage to say, "Be gone, Satan." Jesus did it, and I'd like to follow his example.
Francis Guither, a pastor for 46 years, is the author of seven books. Guither is retired and lives in Quincy at Good Samaritan Home with his wife Katharine. His most recent church was Carthage United Methodist.