By Elizabeth Prata
- “I’m a good person”
- “People are basically good.”
- “There’s no such thing as evil.”
- “Can we all just get along? Can we get along?” (Spoken by Rodney King whose 1992 acts of resisting arrest and beating by LA police was videotaped by amateur video & sparked massive riots in the city).
The unsaved mind rejects evil in the world. Why? Because then they would have to face their own evil. As cartoonist Walt Kelly’s character Pogo famously said,
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
In contrast to the world’s view of humanity, the Bible says of us humans that we are enemies of God, doing evil in His sight all day long. (Genesis 6:5).
- “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one”; (Romans 3:10)
- For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)
- The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
- For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matthew 15:19)
Emerging this month is a tragic story out of Tajikistan. Two idealistic and optimistic twenty-somethings from the US decided to quit their jobs and see the world. Being avid cyclists, they decided to do it by bicycle. They pooled their life savings, which wasn’t much since they were 27 year olds who’d just started their professional careers in Washington DC.
I can understand that urge to be a part of the world by seeing it and experiencing it. I did that with my husband. We both quit our jobs, and being avid sailors, bought a boat and sailed down the coast of the US to the Bahamas to see what we could see. Some people just have a wanderlust.
These two twenty-somethings remarked again and again that the people they met along the way were kind and hospitable to strangers.
As they biked along with two others they had met, one from Switzerland and one from the Netherlands, a car loaded with men spotted the group. The men turned the car around, sped up, aimed for them, rammed all four cyclists, ran them over, and then on the dusty roadside they stabbed the cyclists to death like dogs. They later claimed allegiance to ISIS and vowed to kill all unbelievers.
Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan had documented their journey on their blog and on Instagram. They basked in the hospitality of strangers, reciprocated kindness, and loved the world as it unfolded before them. Some say they saw it through dreamers’ eyes.
An unsanctified mind overlooks the evil we do, rejecting that our own evil is against a holy God for which we deserve punishment. The world is evil. It is under the dominion of the evil one. Unsanctified minds see the world as good, because they are so embedded in evil they don’t see it. The cyclists tragically misunderstood human nature, in choosing to believe that the surface kindness they experienced went deeper than it did.
Here is Jay explaining their worldview, written in a blog last April as they entered Morocco.
You watch the news and you read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place. People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil. People are axe murderers and monsters and worse.
I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own—it’s easier to dismiss an opinion as abhorrent than strive to understand it. Badness exists, sure, but even that’s quite rare. By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind. No greater revelation has come from our journey than this.
There is a difference in believing that we can connect with people on a friendly level despite differences in shared values, and realizing that we humans are all the same because we share the most fundamental similarity of all: an inherent evil.
Evil most certainly is not a make-believe concept. Satan was highest and most beautiful of the cherubim until the day evil was found in him. (Ezekiel 28:15). He perpetuated his unrighteousness with Eve and Adam, persuading them to rebel against God. Ever since, humans have been born evil. (Psalm 51:5).
I was born evil. Jay and Lauren were born evil. They did evil every day of their lives (Romans 5:12). It is important to recognize evil for what it is. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines evil by first stating that what is morally good is not what human society decides is in its best interest, but what the revealed will of God declares. Evil is opposition to God’s declared will. Psalm 5:6 says that God hates evil.
Recognizing one’s one evil and our own culpability before a holy God is a first step in understanding our need for Jesus. His Gospel commands us to repent of evil. If one denies that evil exists, then one is effectively stating that one does not need Jesus. We need Him to rescue us from our evil. It’s strange to think that the hopeful, evil-denying bikers are seen by God as just as evil as the ISIS men who stabbed them to death.
The question of the reality of evil, is not just a philosophical debate. When one eventually enters the other side of the veil, there are two destinations. One is for evil people. The other is for forgiven evil people. Evil is indeed real. But the grace of God gave us His Son, who took on all of God’s wrath for those evil deeds we do, and God punished Him instead of us evil-doers. If we repent of our evil deeds and ask Jesus to forgive us, He will. Otherwise, on His Day when many say to Jesus that they were good people,
Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:23 NIV)
This isn’t an academic issue. It’s a heart-rending issue. I’m not making light of the cyclists. In the world this very day, four sets of parents are mourning the loss of their children. Mothers are weeping and fathers are mourning. Evil is very real. The parents know it. Evil took their children. But the fatal flaw in that thinking is believing that they themselves are not evil.
Satan delights in deluding people that evil either doesn’t exist, or it’s a problem ‘out there’… or ‘somewhere else.’ The reality is, evil is in every heart. Only repenting to Jesus for our evil thoughts, speech, and deeds can absolve us of being punished for it.
If Jay and Lauren were not saved (and I suspect they were not), it is too late for them. It is not too late for any person still consciously drawing breath to appeal to the Son for forgiveness of our own evil.
FMI on the cyclists:
I’m always interested in passing along sermons, essays, or books that discuss evil from a biblical perspective. There are a lot of kooks out there ‘teaching’ about the devil and his demons. This sermon from Grace Community Church is good. I listened to all of it. It’s called The Domain of Darkness, and teacher Chris Gee focuses on satan, demons, hell and what the Bible has to say about them.