I’m not a tree hugger. But I love trees. I love the forests. I love the creatures in the forest. I love to eat wild game, and fresh caught fish. I love the bounty of God’s love, and I see things often overlooked when I do not go into the forest at our little country place and just sit a spell. This morning I did just that.

My initial plan was to bag a few squirrels to add to the venison and pheasants for the wild game dinner we plan to cook for our family next week. I had seen them rustling in the leaves the afternoon before. But they slept in this morning, and I saw none. However I saw and felt what I really needed. I saw and smelled those trees I mentioned. I studied the oaks, cedars, persimmon, pine, dogwood, and even a honey locus tree. This particular locus tree has thorns that can grow several inches long and are very hard. In fact they are so hard and sharp that pioneers would often use them for nails, when metal was scarce.

When I looked at that tree my joy about the trees was interrupted by the thought of a crown of thorns similar to the thorns on that tree that were placed on Jesus’ head, and mercilessly driven into it. I then almost hated that tree. But then I remembered that it wasn’t the tree doing the work to create the pain in Jesus. It was the evil work of men using the tree. Then I understood more, as the Holy Spirit took me deeper into that thought. Even though it was a Roman soldier who did the placement of the crown of thorns, and administered the cruel blow that pierced Jesus scalp, it was the evil behind him that inspired it. Similar to the way that tree was used by the soldier is the way evil forces use people to do evil things against others. As a result, instead of seeing where the real problem lies we often enter into a conflict with a person and often fail to truly resolve the issues. We fail to look behind the person, or even our self, and see the evil force that drives us. What Jesus faced leading up to and during His crucifixion was horrendous. But He looked behind the friend who betrayed him, those Roman soldiers who beat and killed Him, and the legalistic religious people that maneuvered Him to a horrific beating, that crown of thorns, and the cross. He saw the Evil Man who whispered in their ears, who tempted them with power, who created a cruelty in soldiers that made them the worst of the worst, and as a result He said:

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 ESV)

I know it is hard for us to grasp how Jesus could distinguish the evil in a person, verses the evil behind a person unless we understand His mission, and why He had to overcome that evil and set us free from it. Jesus knew at all times that His struggle was not against people, but against Satan and his minions, and the world’s value system that had been corrupted by him. Similar to those beautiful trees that I mentioned, God’s creation was good and beloved by Him. It still is. That is why we read in John 3:16 that God so loved the world that He gave us Jesus to set us free from the evil that drives us, and destroys us. For this reason a Christian should no longer be an instrument of evil that hurts and schemes against others. We have been freed from that evil, even though it seems that some people do not grasp their freedom from it.

Another interesting thought surfaced this morning. Why is it that some professing Christians seem to still be “possessed” by evil and do cruel things? I asked a question of a wise theologian on this subject if a true Christian can be possessed by an evil spirit, since we are the possession of Christ. The response he gave me helped me see it correctly. He said that an evil spirit cannot possess a Christian, for we are God’s child. But a Christian can still hold on to (possess) an evil spirit. It is up to us to take the freedom that Jesus has given to us, and let go of that evil. Jesus bought and paid for our freedom with what He had to suffer. It is up to us to take it. But many Christians do not let that evil spirt go, even though it is eating them alive.

As you prepare for Thanksgiving this week, may I suggest you take a walk under the trees. Smell the forest. Listen to the creation around you singing and chirping to God’s glory … and you do the same. That is the best Thanksgiving to God that you can give Him, which is to simply love Him, and look at the people around you as He does. Love them. Forgive them. Encourage them … and in doing so give honor to your King. Let go of any evil spirt, or evil thoughts or unforgiveness that you are still holding on to. It is time to let them go. Do it now. You have been freed.