Should we love Satan?
This is one of those topics which is covered by blogs, articles, discussions, and almost universally with the same conclusion: No. No. No. Absolutely not. With a heavily implied, “Are you crazy?” underlying the discussion.
It is not my purpose here to define Satan, so feel free to hold throughout to whatever definition you ascribe to Satan: be it the Old Testament adversary in God’s employ, the post-Mediaeval anti-Christ figure, the metaphorical representation of all things evil. Musings on the nature and substance of Satan could, and do, fill many books, and we needn’t be distracted by them, though they are a significant and sometimes even dominant part of people’s theologies. Suffice it to say that we are talking about the embodiment of all things evil, irrespective of substance or residence.
Should we love the embodiment of evil?
I want to take a moment to dwell on “yes”.
There are some important questions:
1. Does God care how we feel about supernatural entities?
2. Does our love of Satan necessarily, in part or whole, enslave us to him?
3. How does our relationship with evil change when we greet it with love?
Firstly, and here many would disagree, I would say that scripture is ambivalent about our relationship with the metaphysical. What I mean by that is that when scripture gives instructions for our behaviour, it doesn’t specify whether angels, demons and the like are covered. If anything, there is a sense that these things are beyond us, and that they are in a sense, on God’s turf, and we should just focus on ourselves, and our place within Creation as a whole. I think this has a lot to commend it, but I’m also aware that many people feel tormented, attacked and in a constant state of warfare with evil forces, embodied and otherwise.
We are to hate evil, but love our enemies. We are, in popular phrase, to love the sinner and hate the sin. But can we love the embodiment of sin? Is Satan a sinner, or Sin itself?
I propose that Satan is not Sin itself. Falstaff declares in Henry IV, “I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men.” Falstaff is the model and the source of wit, as Satan is the model and source of Sin. But wit and sin here are disembodied principles, the product of acts, not substances themselves.
In most Christian theologies of the Devil, there is a transformation of some sort, a fall, a rebellion, so that our sense of the Devil focuses on an entity which was not sinful, but then became so. Scripture tells us that the Devil will not be redeemed, but does not tell us that the Devil is and always was Sin.
So, perhaps we should mourn Satan, the only named thing in all of Creation whose fate is foretold, inescapable, disconnected from grace, from free will, from salvation. Some early theologians found this idea so abhorrent, they imagined some kind of ultimate redemptive grace, even for Satan, maybe even especially for Satan: a true, pan-physical universalism.
Because with Satan, there is an ultimate conundrum. He is part of Creation, part of God’s plan. Evil is meant to be amongst us. I cannot fathom a theology in which there was a cataclysmic “whoops” in the Garden, and the Creation since then has been going completely against His plan, with Him staring on helplessly. So, if there is meant to be evil, there is a reason for it, far from our understanding as it may sometimes seem.
So, if we love this doomed creature, does that play into his hands? I think at heart that this is a Pharisaical idea, that we need to avoid contact with evil. Jesus encounters evil time and time again, and greets it time and again with agape. Even in the wilderness, there is no hate. I’ve always been struck by Jesus in the wilderness. It runs as an extended, lengthy debate, not as an epic battle. Why? Because Satan has no hope for victory. Jesus is calm, because he has no cause for alarm. And on the cross, that victory is made eternal. On the cross, we share in Jesus’ victory. It is our right.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
That is not a power reserved for Jesus. That is ours. James is clear. Resist the devil. The devil flees.
Easy? No. Why? We tend to ascribe it to our own weakness, in a sort of indistinct generic way. We are weak. Undefined. Unelaborated. I increasingly wonder if that weakness is because our own love is limited. If you love Satan, then the reach of agape through you is infinite. There is no evil incapable of your forgiveness, no enemy beyond your love, no action beyond redemption. If you hate Satan, and hate evil, then you create a safe haven for bitterness, a resting place for your hatred, for your lack of forgiveness, a secret cache where you can hide away all the things outside your ability to love. What we have then done is to categorise, to scale evil to our own design. And by exclusion, to limit love to our own design. These things I can love. These things I cannot. And there lies a foothold for hatred.
Loving Satan is not loving evil. It is not condoning or worse, celebrating, suffering, depravity and destruction. By loving Satan, we are making a declaration that, contrary to intuition, Satan is powerless to us. In loving Satan, we our declaring God’s love, through us, over all of Creation.
If you love Satan, there is no place for hate to hide, and no recess, no crevice, no darkness, into which our light will not shine.
Perhaps it is in hating Satan that Satan wins. In hating Satan, we relinquish our victory.