One of the problems with evil is that too often we have a disconnect between what we understand about evil in theory and what we see in real life. This two-part essay is about how to spot evil in real life, and includes warnings not to be lulled by the beauty of the vehicle bringing it.
First, let us be clear about the underlying premise. Evil exists. The Bible declares that evil exists. We must say that out loud because we live in the post-modern age. The faith is riddled with a skewed perspective that God is love, but that He is only love (and not holiness, wrath, or justice.) To listen to some, one would think that the faith is populated by people hand-holding along candyland stepping stones amid rainbows and unicorns. But the faith is a bloody, constant battle to vanquish evil, including the evil in ourselves. Evil’s lifelong effort is to besmirch, blot, and destroy the goodness of God. It’s to supplant God. Ours is a lifelong effort to overcome evil, to work to expand God’s kingdom, and to give glory to the Goodness of His Name.
We also remind ourselves that evil exists in order to rebut the skewed definition of the word tolerance in today’s faith. Sin is evil. Yet we’re told that tolerance means to accept one’s sin without remark. Like this on a Facebook Community Board:
In the old days that statement would mean that a person is looking for a church filled with saints who strive to be holy (nice), who do not judge one’s past as a sinner because they recognize they are sinners too (non-judgmental) and is populated with an inter-generational demographic because the Bible gives commands that apply to every age group, and the Spirit installs people in local churches from all ages in order to edify each other (young couples).
Nowadays that statement has come to mean the person would be looking for like-minded liberal people (nice) who won’t enact church discipline, preach against sin, or warn me about my attitude (non-judgmental), with young couples (because I select my church based on a ‘shopper’ mentality’ and not by leading of the Holy Spirit, or doctrine, or truth).
To rebut the modern culture, we must constantly remind ourselves of the basics. Today the basic reminder is … evil exists. Here are just a few verses from God’s word regarding evil.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13)
We are told that fearing the Lord begins with hating the evil that he hates.
To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. (Proverbs 8:13)
We are told to turn away from evil.
Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)
We are told how to struggle against it.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We read in Romans 12:21,
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Evil exists. It’s not the occasional Hitler or Stalin. Evil haunts the Christian every day. The Bible gives clear instructions about how to deal with it.
We know all this. We read the Bible and any sensible Christian understands what evil is, the hazards that it poses and the need to resist, struggle, and overcome it. However that is not the problem. The problem is applying the Bible’s verses to life. This is especially hard to do it seems, when it comes to acknowledging that evil is in one’s midst. In our minds, evil is historical (Hitler). Evil is ‘out there’ (Chicago. Cambodia. The city. The country. Elsewhere…). But evil can be and is in your church. Your family. Your circle of friends. Your co-workers. It’s here and it’s everywhere.
Evil is beautiful.
Water hemlock is the deadliest plant in North America. Yet, so beautiful! Do not be deceived!
|So pretty! So deadly! Source Alderleaf Wilderness College|
Water hemlock is the most violently toxic plant that grows in North America. Only a small amount of the toxic substance in the plant is needed to produce poisoning in livestock or in humans. Livestock usually show signs of poisoning 15 minutes to 6 hours after they eat the plant; they may die within 15 minutes to 2 hours after signs appear. Cicutoxin is a severe convulsant and most animals die as a result of the asphyxia and cardiovascular collapse that occurs during the convulsions. Source: USDA
The cone snail is so pretty! But so deadly!
The bright colors and patterns of cone snails are attractive to the eye, and therefore people sometimes pick up the live animals and hold them in their hand for a while. This is risky, because the snail often fires its harpoon in these situations. In the case of the larger species of cone snail, the harpoon is sometimes capable of penetrating the skin, even through gloves or wetsuits. The sting of many of the smallest cone species may be no worse than that of a bee or hornet sting, but in the case of a few of the larger tropical fish-eating species, especially Conus geographus, Conus tulipa and Conus striatus, a sting can sometimes have fatal consequences. Source Wikipedia
Because we all sin, we’re all evil. (Genesis 6:5). As RC Sproul said,
When I sin, I choose my will over the will of God Almighty. By implication I’m essentially saying that I’m more intelligent, wise, righteous, and powerful than God Himself.” ~RC Sproul
That’s evil. But today I note that there is a special kind of evil that revels in the chaos it foments. It’s purposeful, gleeful, and in a league with satan that goes deeper than the stumbling Christian or the unknowing pagan. Often it’s in the midst of the most benign of situations, the most gentle of churches, the kindest-seeming of people.
When we encounter this deeper kind of evil, our minds want to suppress the truth of it. So, what does that kind of evil look like? More in part 2.