It is no secret that evil has a terrible impact on our world. Innocent people are killed. Violence goes unchecked. Fellow human beings go to war with each other. Trying to list specific acts of evil from the news seems like it would fill the page, while not paying enough respect to any of the individual victims.
From a Biblical perspective, this doesn’t look like what Jesus taught as the way that we human beings should live. While on earth, He brought life, rather than taking life. He made sick people whole, and brought peace to those who were consumed by evil spirits. Even though He was righteously angry at those who corrupted the teachings of God, He did not vent his anger in a sinful matter, nor did He let sin get the best of Him.
Continuing in that Biblical perspective, a few questions occur to me:
- How many of the evil acts on our world are brought by demon-possession? What number of mass-killers, bombers, and violators of human dignity have given their lives over to Satan? When I see how many of these people take their own lives, I wonder if they are the final victims of a life led by the evil one, who seeks the destruction of those that God cares about.
- How many more heinous actions result from belief in the lies of the deceiver? External temptation can never be used as an excuse for a human being’s choice to sin (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). The right answer is always an option, but when people – including followers of Jesus – continue to believe the lies that come from the father of lies (that is, the devil, who is not a fictional character, but rather a real being who has chosen to seek out the destruction of humankind), they fill up on a mental diet of poison and corruption, which comes out in their actions.
- And, if evil does persist in the world from a combination of evil forces, along with human weaknesses and selfishness, would our solutions look different? To be clear, I’m not suggesting that a civilized society shouldn’t have rules and laws, and I understand that God places authorities (like governments) in place for a reason. But, in addition to keeping weapons out of the wrong hands, teaching the vulnerable in our midst to defend themselves and to make smart choices, and standing up for those who are at risk of harm…is there a deeper source of evil that will always seek a way around the boundaries of a community’s rules and guards? Should we confront the underlying sources of evil as we seek to root it out, rather than only addressing the symptoms? How much better to point someone to the life change that Jesus offers, and make a good citizen out of one who was heading down the wrong path, than to merely catch them just before they destroy the lives of others?
(Note that this article is written from a Western perspective, as I watch leaders in the Americas and Europe trying to fix problems with only legislation, punishments, and rhetoric. I understand that many cultures elsewhere in the world are more aware of how people can be controlled by evil forces, compared to Western society in general.)
I’m not trying to paint all perpetrators of evil with the same brush. There seem to be those who have chosen the path of evil, without much prompting from dark forces. Still, what if we sought to fight evil the way that Jesus did? I think of two things that He did, which we might want to emulate:
- First, Jesus called out evil for what it was. Evil wasn’t just someone being misguided or making a mistake, or something that could be excused away because someone had previously had a bad experience. Evil is evil. Evil is sin: the conscious choice of a man or woman to do the wrong thing, contrary to the instructions of God. It is not a different opinion or preference. It is not a function of one’s upbringing, the Internet articles one reads, or the majority in a given country. Good and evil are defined by the God who created the universe, whose nature defines righteousness. Evil is what remains: rebellious acts against God; decisions and actions that violate His pattern and instructions.
- Second, Jesus lived a life of righteousness, and taught others to do the same. He didn’t go out and fight evil groups with the sword. They were already condemned by their sin, and they needed Jesus’ sacrifice to pay for their sins, just as much as the “good” people did. Jesus was clear about what right and wrong were, but He called people to repent and stop sinning. Then, He gave His life willingly, so that all who believed in Him could be saved from the eternal penalty of their sins.
I cannot see into the hearts of those who perform atrocious acts in our world today. Our world has been fallen since the first couple was expelled from the Garden of Eden, and their oldest son became the first recorded murderer. We are unlikely to defeat sin on our own, but with God’s help and following the examples of Jesus, maybe we can help some people replace a life of sin with the better life that Jesus offers – both in this world and in the next.