This subject is often called, "The Problem of Evil!"
"Evil!" When this word is proclaimed, images come to mind of Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, a sadistic serial killer, or the mother who murders her own children. Perhaps Rwanda, Bosnia, the Killing Fields, concentration camps, gang violence, rape, heinous abuse, and murder are all images of evil. There is little dispute that such actions are evil; but, have you considered that evil can also be anything that goes against God? We may not think of ourselves as evil; perhaps sinners, moreover...
This subject is often called, "The Problem of Evil"
There is evil for there is no doubt; is it trying to get in you, or trying to get out?
"Evil!" When this word is proclaimed, images come to mind of Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, a sadistic serial killer, or the mother who murders her own children. Perhaps Rwanda, Bosnia, the Killing Fields, concentration camps, gang violence, rape, heinous abuse, and murder are all images of evil.
There is little dispute that such actions are evil; but, have you considered that evil can also be anything that goes against God? We may not think of ourselves as evil; perhaps sinners, moreover, sinners redeemed by a loving, caring God, but what about the things we do? Do our actions and mindsets line up to His precepts? Do we model the character and fruit to which we are called? Have you considered that when we do not, we are being evil?
We may not be murdering others or causing genocide, but when we oppress others or cause any harm by our actions, or our inactions to stop it, we are, in God's eyes and as revealed by His Word, being evil! We see sin as anything that goes against God, and evil as worse, but in God's eyes, it is all the same. There are varying degrees, yes. Stealing bread to feed one's family does not compare to the exploits of SaddamHussein. However, the fact is, our rebellion toward God is sin; and, sin produces evil!
An Example of Evil
There is a man in my men's group at my church who has been a victim of evil. He was not in a concentration camp or caught up in a drive-by shooting, but he is as much a victim of evil as anyone could be. The spouse of a famous political figure molested his young child. When he found out about it, he went to the police and the District Attorney who quickly investigated and began prosecution. However, because this family is well known, very rich, and connected, they hired a well-known criminal defense attorney and private investigators that made it their crusade to "turn the tables" on my friend.
The attorney decided it was in the best interest of his client to create a media image of rhetoric to make my friend out to be the criminal, and his client the victim. Suddenly, the media was out in force at my friend's home and an international media story unfolded. The private investigator's job was to plant evidence, harass the family, intimidate them to drop the allegations, to manipulate city officials, and use the media to refocus the attention from the criminal to the victim.
Swiftly, my friend because of the constant harassment was unable to work, his wife left him, his son turned to drugs, he became very ill, and his family was in total disarray. This has gone on for several yeas now. My friend was able to maintain good Christian character and become an inspiration to me and others. Such commitment came about by much prayer and the wondrous work of the Spirit in his life. His take on the situation was to seek to pray, to remain true to Christ, and to love. He would show up for court early and disguised-not only seeking to avoid the media frenzy, but so he could pray.
Where is the evil in this? That political family took action beyond defending themselves by using the proper legal resources. They were being totally self-absorbed and into a sociopathic state. They did not care for the truth or for the real victim-the child who went through a heinous experience. They sought to discredit and cause irrevocable harm and grief to an innocent family. They sought to manipulate their sin into a political weapon to destroy an innocent family; they continue to do so today. The pariahs, the social, deviant outcasts, sought to make their victims the pariah.
I had the opportunity to speak with this defense attorney. I realize it is his job to do all he can to protect his client-within the parameters of the law. (He greatly exceeded that.) He was defending a friend of a friend in another manner and I happened to be in an elevator with him, which gave me an opportunity to speak with him. I asked him if he thought what he was doing was wrong. He said, "Absolutely not! I have every right to destroy that "@#%&* (insert colorful slang/metaphor) family!" I asked "Why? Knowing that they are the real victims, this child was molested, and the family did nothing wrong to instigate or deserve this extreme oppression and abuse from your client whether he is guilty or not, do you believe it is OK to seek to literally destroy them further?" He replied, "No!"
Then he said, "Truth is whose truth. My truth is my client, and that is my only concern." Then I said, "I know you have to defend your client, guilty or innocent, but have you ever considered that you have gone too far?" He said "NO!" Then I asked, "Hypothetically, would you consider that destroying innocent families to get a heinous criminal "off" to be evil?" He said, "I do not believe in evil!" Then the elevator door opened, and that was the end of that conversation. I was left dumfounded.
I wondered if people who do evil (whether it is a Hitler or a renegade criminal defense attorney who goes way too far) know they are evil, or at least know they are doing evil. After all, we, as humans, can easily become self-absorbed and we can rationalize anything. What about me, when I want something that I know I should not and cannot have? Am I being evil? What is evil? And, what am I doing about it?
After some exegetical research, I found that the degree of separation of a Christian who sins and one who does evil is that the person who does evil does not care. The one who sins and is then convicted that it is wrong, repents. The evil person does not care and is not convicted or broken. When David sinned by having Uriah murdered, it was evil because it was for his personal agenda. That was evil-pure and simple. However, David then was convicted, he had remorse, and then he repented (2 Sam. 11-12; Psalm 32:3-5). If you sin and do not care or have remorse, then you have a problem with evil (Judges 17:6)!
It is a popular misconception that humans are basically good. Spend time with any two-year-old and you will learn that our sinful nature is on the forefront-not our goodness. Cute? Yes! But, the "no" and disobedience are the main shows of the day! If you read Scripture, you will find out what God has to say on this matter (Gen. 3:1-24; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 2:1-11; 3:10-26; 5:12-19; 7:23; 8:1-11; Eph. 2:1-3; 4:17-19; Titus 1:15; James 1:12-15; 1 John 1:8-10). The uniqueness of our humanity is we do not need to learn how to be bad at stuff. We are naturally good at hating and seeking evil just as a two-year-old comes to us unable to behave. It is a part of our sinful nature (1 Cor. 4:4; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:4). Thus, to grow beyond this filth of works (Galatians -21), we have to realize the necessity of the cross (2 Cor. 5:11) for our lives-not just for salvation but also for our daily lives. We are not basically good; we are foundationally evil, fallen, corrupted, and infused by sin. What Christ did for us helps make us willing to learn to apply the Fruit of the Spirit so we can continue to walk in the truth (Galatians 5: 22-23; Eph 2:1-10; 3 John 1:2-4).
What is Evil?
In various religious and secular circles, Evil has been described as "vice," or something that is "depraved," meaning morally objectionable. It is a malignant or malevolent principle, behavior, or deed that influences and practices; it brings about harm, destruction, and misfortune to others by direct action or inaction of the perpetrator. In most classic Christian thinking, Evil is anything that is not of God. From a biblical, theological construct, evil is sin and a form of adultery! It is adultery to God from our willful, moral rebellion against God. It is literally cheating on Him with our desires, lusts, and sins from what He has called and planned for us. It is humans' seeking that which is contrary to His will such as hatred and bigotry (Rom. ; Eph. 2:3; Rev. 21:4).
There are two, main kinds of evil; one is natural evil (floods, storms, famines, etc.) that comes from the corruption of sin in the world. The other is moral evil (such as murder, sexual abuse, adultery, idolatry, etc.). However, many theologians say there is only one form of evil because natural evil is a result of our moral evil because of "Original Sin"-the sin that affects all of creation (people and planets)-the result of Adam's sin entering the world, allowing natural disasters such as fires, floods, storms, famines, etc.
As sin is rebellion against God, spiritual betrayal, and being disobedient (Jer. 31:32; Hosea, chaps 1-3; Eph. 4:30; James 2:23), we are not as bad as we could be. We are not utterly depraved as we still have, as Calvin said, "civil good." This means we are capable of doing good works because we have a conscience, even though we are still corrupted by sin (Luke 11:39-44; Rom. -16; ; Titus ). Evil, meaning malevolence or extreme vice, goes further than sin. It means to have malicious and spiteful desires, and it comes about from the exploits of a "self absorbed" mindset in a person who has no regard for others and/or no fear of God (Rom. -18). Evil is badness, cruelty, ruthlessness, depravity, debauchery, and immorality-out of control. It is being merciless and unscrupulous in our dealings toward others. Evil is not merely a psychological disorder such as being a sociopath; it is a condition of the soul (Ezek. ; Rom. -32). It is an act of "playing God" or being self-indulgent, so we think we have the final authority, and then we act on it out of spite. Only God has the final authority (Eph. 6:12; James 4: 13-17)! We have to realize that our lives are far better in His arms of love and care than with our whims and limited ideas (2 Cor. -17)!
Evil is man being so arrogant that he ignores God, His love, and His plan! To ignore what Christ has done for us is considered evil, both for the Christian and the non-Christian! We have the ability to ignore the heart of the cross, but we do not have the right to ignore God. This also includes ignoring what Christ did on the cross on our behalf (1 John 4:4)!
Where did Evil Come From?
Evil stemmed from Satan and his rebellion (Isaiah 14:12-15), and is continued on by humanity (Matt. -19). Prior to the Fall, man lived in total paradise; it was rebellion against God that caused sin to enter and corrupt everything. We turned against God and hated Him and pursued our lives in destructive endeavors against His will (Gen. 1:28: 3:17-18; Matt. 24:22; Rom. -12; 5:12-19; ; Eph. 2:3). Sin is continuing the rebellion against God and His created order. All have fallen short of God's standards. "Whole evil is in man, and whole man is in evil," said Spurgeon.Sin has affected all of our being and the entire world (Rom.-26). Even if we have not committed any evil, it is still our nature to do so. It all comes down to this: we all have sinned-some more than others. But, the smallest sin falls way short of God's requirements. This is what "total depravity" and "original sin" are all about (1 Cor. -49; 2 Cor. ; Eph. ; Phil. ; Col. 3:10).
We, as humans, chose to fall away from God and His perfection. God desires us to live the best way possible, and experience the most out of life with happiness and joy (Matt. -29). Yet, we live in a world corrupted by sin, so everything is degraded from what it was meant to be. Man, the land, animals, plants, air-everything is touched and infused by sin. Thus, the consequences of that fallen nature impact everything. Even in this corrupted, tainted world, including our sinful selves, we have a God who offers His love and grace (John 3:16, 10:10; Rom. 5:1) if only we will reach out and respond. However, we cannot; so, His Son, the Christ, lived as we should have (Rom. 5:8; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Pet. ). In our place, He took our sins to the grave, and arose to give us eternal hope and life.
Even with the grace option offered to us, which is written upon our hearts, we still choose to rebel (Prov. ; Isa. 59:2; Rom. , ). We choose to take His wonder, love, and truth, and trade it in for lies (Rom. -31). We desire to suppress His truth and love; and, when it all falls apart, we blame God and others, refusing to take the responsibility for ourselves (Gen. 3:12-13; Rom. -13)!
We have no excuse! His revelation is clear; it is filled with our best in mind, and powered by His desire to see us saved. Let us turn from our evil ways, lest we end up given upto our desires that will be fun for a short while, but will lead to everlasting regret and torment. It is like a parent letting his kid eat all he wants in a candy store until it makes him sick-multiplied by a thousand. We have the choice to realize sin makes us sick; thus, it is meaningless. Therefore, we can either stop, or keep at it until it kills us. Evil is knowing when it is bad, yet continuing in it, thinking and feeling, "So what if it harms others." Remember, we do not deserve His love and grace, yet He gives it to us anyway (Romans 10:9; John ; Rev. 3:20).
What is the role of satanic influence? It is great (see our articles on Satan, Demons and Spiritual Warfare), but Satan's influence is limited (Job 1:6-12; Matt. 4:11-1; Mark 1:21-28; 1 Pet. 5:8-11; 1 John 4:1-6). We have to realize that we do not need Satan or the demons to do evil; we have enough sin within ourselves to permanently send ourselves to hell, corrupt and destroy all those around us, and cause destruction and chaos to all of our relationships. We need to understand this so we can be in prayer and be on guard (Isaiah 29:4; 47; Jeremiah 27:6-10; 1 Timothy 1:19-20). We need Jesus Christ in our hearts, which is the only thing that can squash evil (Rom. 10:9-10)! Our redemption frees us from the bondage of sin, something we cannot do for ourselves (Mark 10:45; 1 Cor. 1:23-25; 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 9:15).
What Causes Evil?
Our human nature loves to be in competition and to fight, but God has a higher call for us. James 4:1-6 takes us directly to the root cause of sin and evil; it all comes from one source-the conflict that resides in our own hearts! Our desires are at war with the precepts and the call of our Lord. For the Christian, this is the war between the good and evil of man versus God, of our sinful nature versus the new life in Christ. These desires converge and conflict with the desires of other people and escalate into interpersonal conflict and sin, without remorse, against others. That defense attorney, whom I am confident is not a Christian, is driven, from his lustful desire to win at all costs, to destroy an innocent family. This goes beyond his job to defend his client, and shows a total disregard for truth or justice. As Christians, we have a "governor" to help us stop, and that is the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:20; John ; Acts 1:8, , Eph. -17; Hebrews 13:5-6)!
We lust and covet after what we do not have, so it controls us; that which is wrong becomes our passion and quest (Prov. ; ; Phil. ). Then, we become jealous of others and horde what we have while we manipulate and covet what they have. We engage in strife and fighting like wild dogs and tear at one another in conquest of the demented goals we have. In all of this, we ignore God and forsake His call and wisdom. When we do ask of Him, our motives are skewed and our passions misdirected, as we seek personal pleasures and the self, not Christ and His mission for us. Our selfish inclinations and warring attitudes that bubble up from our pride cause divisions, destroy relationships, and give our Lord a bad name (James 2:14-26; 3:13-18).
When we are only concerned with pleasing ourselves and living for the pleasures of life, we are engaging in evil and then we miss what Christ has for us. We have to see where our aim in life is pointed; is it at God, His love, and His percepts, or the foolishness of our whims? When we ignore His Scriptures, we forsake our loyalty and betray our loving Lord. He is faithful with us; we need to remain faithful to Him and not allow our desires to rule our hearts and minds.
The Problem of Evil
We all know evil is real, and we all have personally experienced it in one way or another. But, a problem arises in the field of theology and philosophy. The question arises: if God is all-powerful and all loving, then why does He permit evil and suffering in the world? Why won't God just put a stop to evil?
In theology, this is called "Theodicy," the study of the problem of evil and vindication of God's goodness in the world. The issue classically attacks the sovereignty of God, and the answers are not easy, for the Bible does not give us a direct answer, nor does God need to justify His actions (Prov. 16:4 Isaiah 45:7). Why the contention? Because, we come to these issues with human reasoning and not in the parameters of God's precepts. This issue has been debated for as long as theological and philosophical thinking has existed. The secular response to evil is that God is either not omnipotent and therefore cannot stop it, or He is not loving and therefore will not stop it. To answer these objections, we have to get beyond our pain and questions, and seek God for God, that He has reasons for allowing evil to exist that are beyond our ability to comprehend (Isaiah 55:8-9 Hab. 2:4). God does not create evil; rather, evil is our insurgence against God. It is our saying to God, "Forget You! I will do as I please." If He loves us, He will allow our free will.
What about those who are innocent? What about the woman who is raped or the baby that dies? What about the 150,000+ Tsunami victims or the WorldTradeCenter? We have to realize that all of our suffering is the result of human sin. We tend to think of those who are victims as being innocent; in some aspects they are. However, in biblical theology, no one is truly innocent; we all have sinned. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. ; Eph. 2:3); thus, the evil we experience is the direct result of our sin. We can take comfort that God is still sovereign, even when we do not see it, and even in the midst of our dire circumstances!
Consider what the world would be like if God did stop all evil and suffering? I have prayed for this at times; but really think it through. What would be the result? There would be no growth, maturity, character, virtue, or spiritual growth as adversity is necessary for real growth. Without an adversary, we have nothing to strive against to climb higher in our spiritual formation. Our struggles produce patience through tribulation (Rom. 5:3). God is still in the world, using the world and its failures for His glory and the benefit of those who listen to Him (Gen. 50:15-21; Rom. 5:3; 8). Our struggles help point us to living by faith (Isa. 55:8-9 Hab. 2:4). Also, to stop evil would mean stopping the exercise of our free will and moral providence in choice. Even thinking of evil would be evil and would lead to evil. God would have to stop it, too. Then, we would be mere appliances of God without liberty or freedom and thus with no deep feelings. We would only be preprogrammed robots, unable to express the depth of love because we could not express hate.
Even so, evil at some point is perhaps necessary; we cannot blame God for it! Evil was not God's original plan. Yes, because God is all knowing, He would have known that evil would result from our free choices; thus, He created the "possibility" for evil, but not evil itself (Gen. 1-3). Evil is in this world because, as fallen creatures, we were the agents in part who brought it about. So, in some aspects, God did know before the foundations of time and space that evil would come about as a result of creation and of creating people who were capable of the moral ability to choose good or bad.
It is a concept we only see from our corporeal eyes; we live in a corporal world where what we touch can either give us pleasure or hurt us; so, all of our mindsets reflect our physical nature, and it is our nature to question and seek to understand what may be un-understandable. So, we come up with the classic question, why would a loving God allow evil? If God exists and He is love, then, there should be no evil or, at least there should be a cap on it. What we do not understand is God's perspective and the perspective of eternity.
It is not logical to assume that something that is contradictory to our mindset of God is contradictive of God Himself. Remember, God is eternal and beyond our comprehension; we can only know God by how He revealed Himself to us, through His Word. Thus, anything contradictory to what we think is bad is a result of an uncaring God or a God who cannot or will not respond. The justice of God is in the scope of eternity; it is not in our time frame, nor should it be evaluated by our limited reasoning (Psalm 73:17-27). Because God does respond, we just tend to ignore Him and focus upon our situation or ourselves. Our thinking is incomplete; we do not have the facts or the reasoning power, as life is beyond what we know and what affects us personally (Amos 5:15, 24; James 2:9). Also, we do not see what evil really is, and that is what is in conflict to God's will. That is how evil is defined in the Bible, not just bad things happening.
But, why suffering, especially for my friend whose family is a victim of a vindictive, self-absorbed, sociopath attorney? I cannot give adequate comfort or arguments on why, only that God is sovereign and thus in control. I cannot presume to answer on His behalf, but I can tell you what is in His Word. It comes down to trust and faith in God, that His ways are best even though we may not be able to understand them (Isa. 55:8-9; Hab 2:4). Thus, God allows such suffering for a reason that we do not fully understand, especially when we are at the business end of a loss or of suffering.
Remember, God is still in control and by His sovereignty, He permits suffering and evil. However, at the same time, He keeps it under His control. He wins out; evil does not get off on a technicality, or an early pardon. Sin and evil will be judged (Psalm 1:5; 9:7; 94:15; 143:2; Eccl. 11:9; Isa. 16:5; Matt. 12:36; John 5:22; Romans 2:1-3; Romans 14:10 ; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thess. 1:5 ; 1 Tim. 5:24 ; Heb. 9:27 ; James 2:13 ; James 4:11; 1 Peter 4:17; 2 Peter 3:7; 1 John 4:17; Rev. 20:12)!God is a God of mercy and a God that is Just. Evil will not go unpunished! At the same time, those who repent will be declared clean and innocent!
Another aspect most Christians and few secularists consider, as I previously stated, is that we are all evil by nature because we seek sin (Rom. ; Eph. 2:3)! This may not answer why a person loses a child, why a sister was raped, or why my friend is going through what he is going through. For these, I do not have answers, only the comfort, when I go though such situations, that God is there, He is in control, He takes my sin, and reconciles me to Him in the mist of my misdeeds and the sin of others against me.
If God ended evil and its continuance, how would we grow and mature? Consider Joseph, an arrogant teen whose brothers betrayed him. He was sold into slavery, encountered dishonesty in the mist of his striving to be honest, and received betrayal in the mist of his diligence and honor. He lost his family and friends and was imprisoned in a foreign land with no hope for freedom or return to his loved ones. Yet, God used that for good (Gen 50:20; Rom. 5:3).
If, for the sake of argument, Joseph had never gone through what he went through, he would not have matured emotionally and spiritually. The famine would have hit and his family would have starved, as they would have had no place to go. But, Joseph did grow in character and maturity, and God used him to save his people from utter disaster. If Joseph had not gone through what he did, he would not have grown out of his arrogance. Arrogance cannot save people; it only elevates the self without merit. The greatest triumph of good versus evil is our Lord's victory on the cross! Thus, evil may not have been God's original plan, but it is what is partially used now to create the ultimate good (Rom. 8)!
We are not to seek suffering and evil so we can benefit from it! Rather, when it comes-and it will come-be prepared by faith, and handle it with diligence and faith, seeking our Lord's help, not your feelings and ideas (James 1:2-12). The result is how our God of grace and love weaves His plan of redemption through our sin and misplaced priorities to give us reconciliation, redemption, and hope. We can take comfort that we are not alone in the world or in suffering; God is there, carrying and equipping us through it. The question is are we allowing His work in us or are we so focused on anger and bitterness that all we see is the situation? If the latter is so, how will you grow and overcome?
The question of the problem of evil cannot be answered with secular reasoning, as it has no real meaning or hope. And, when we try, we just end up with empty rhetoric; of course, we should still try, as I am doing here. When we just focus on the "whys" of evil, we may miss what and why it is happening. Christ did conquer sin; we only have to receive His grace to take the victory. Yes, bad things will still happen to you and to me, but in the grand scheme, what we go through is of no comparison to what will come for us in eternity.
Our focus needs to be on Him, not situations, ideas, or complaints, for these do nothing to help us cope or get through; only He can give us the power to conquer (Rev. 21:4)! We can take comfort that one day, Christ will return and all things will be set right. In the meantime, we are to strive to keep ourselves away from evil and be diligent in keeping evil from affecting us. Evil does exist; of that, there is no doubt. It is trying to get in you and it is trying to get out (Matt. 25-25; Mark 8:38; Acts 1:11; Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16-17; 2 Thess. 4:13-18; 2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 9:28; Rev. 1:7; 51-f)!
How Do I Respond to Evil?
The opposite of Evil is Goodness (Amos ; Prov. 25:22; Matthew ; ; Luke , 35; Rom. ; 2 Cor. ; Galatians -23; Eph. 5:8-9; 1 Pet. ; 2 Pet. 1:3-8). It is the engagement of love! It displays integrity, honesty, and compassion to others and allows us to do the right thing. Goodness takes our virtue and excellence and models it to others in the action of love. It is doing the right thing even when it does not feel like we should.Joseph was betrayed and sold as a slave, yet he chose to make good of his situation and to help and treat others better than he needed to. Goodness is also the model for people to see Christ at work, so they will repent and accept Christ.
To be good, we have to have a renewed nature and mindset from our Lord. Jesus calls us to an entirely different perspective and outlook of life (Matt. -44). He sees the quintessential reason for life, and our being, in relationships. He wants us to transition our thinking from selfish and materialistic matters to eternal matters and relationships, which are far more valuable and important, as love is our motivation, and unselfishness is our goal.
Why are we to be good? Because God is good to us (Psalm 86:5; 145:4-13)! God has defeated evil, so why would any rational person seek failure unless he/she is as deluded as Satan is (Matt. 5:43-48; 25:41; John 12:31; 16:9-11; Col. 2:15; Rev. 20:1-3)! Because we are to serve a God of love and in so doing we are to love (1 Pet. 2:1-3; 1 John 4:7-21)! Goodness is the application of love, whereas pride is the love, and the only love we have and use and only for ourselves (Prov. ; 29:23)! Being good will help us to be patient, kind, understanding, and forgiving to others. It will be the fruit that helps us build each other up, build His Church, reach His community, restore relationships, and seek the best in all we do. It is excellence in action! It is what builds great societies and its absence causes those same societies to collapse in debauchery!
In addition to goodness, we should be looking at the bigger picture of how we can learn fromthis, how we can build a relationship in this, how we can modelChrist and build character through this. When we focus on the situation and not Christ, we will endue hardships and suffering for no reason; it will be meaningless. When all we do is seek revenge and become bitter over a situation, it will cause us to lose our freedom and be despondent. Freedom is also a choice; we should seek Christ and our freedom in His Grace and Mercy. Paul knew this even when he was in chains! Thus, whenever you are mistreated, take this challenge from our Lord. Seek ways to turn it around, to overcome evil with good, to turn unrighteousness into relationships! When we focus on Christ, we will succeed in growth, maturity, character, and the building of relationships. Revenge and resentment will only cause despair, stress, isolation, and broken relationships (1 Sam 24:8-15; 2 Kin 6: 8-23; Gen 45:4-15; Acts 7:59-60; Heb. 10:32-34;1 Pet. 2:20-23)!
We are also to overcome evil with love by loving our enemies (Rom. 12:14‑21)!If we follow Christ, we will gain enemies who will want to destroy us. We are called to do a difficult thing, one that is completely opposed to our fallen human thinking and culture-not to pay back evil for evil. Yet, this is our first thought when something bad happens. God even calls us to bless people who hate us! So, we have to find a way to retune our thinking to these challenging precepts of Scripture.
Our response to our enemy, both secular and apostate Christian, is to love them (we are not to love Satan!). If you are in a role of hate, the thing that hurts the most is someone coming to you in love! Conviction is very painful when we do not yield. Your revenge is to be love, for this has the greatest sting! And, it has the greatest positive effect. When we turn an enemy into a friend, we have won an incredible battle and prevented future war. We are to turn strife into an incredible blessing! God will allow your enemies to teach you, as an enemy may know you better than you know yourself. Thus, go to school through their attacks. Learn and grow in Christ. Let God be the judge! He is God and knows the true motivations and circumstances of people to which we do not have access. Thus, He will judge with the right amount of vengeance. Our vengeance is insignificant, unnecessary, and unlawful before God! Let God be God.
Although our hope is in eternity and this earth is our temporary home, we are still to do our best while we are here (1 Pet. ). We are to be peacemakers. There are times when Christians must take a stand to defend morality, such as the anti-abortion movement. This must always be done in love, in listening, and in kindness, while never compromising integrity or values. There are also times when we must go to war, either for defense or to defend others. This is not a rejection of the sixth commandment of, "you shall not murder." Rather, it is the protection and responsibility to the government, which, if followed biblically, is moral and just. We must not have a desire to use revenge in order to "get even." (Duet. 32:35; Prov. 25: 21-22) As our Chinese friends say, "You better first dig two graves before seeking revenge." Jesus calls us to do the opposite of our feelings and the ways of the world. He said to love them back instead of seeking revenge and payback (Luke -33). Then, Jesus continually warns us of persecution (Matt. -12; -32; 24:9-13). We are to love them in all the characters of love (1 Cor. 13: 4-8). Real love is measured by what is costs us, not what we get from it!We are to bless them; this is also a form of love that shows kindness and self-giving from the teachings, examples, character of, and ways that Jesus acted toward those who persecuted Him.We are to pray for them, not about them. This means we do not pray that God gets them back, rather that He changes their hearts toward Him and His perfect will. This was going further that the most pious O.T. saints did (2 Chron. 24:22; Psalm137: 7-9; Jer. ; ; ).Proverbs 25:21-22 tells us that when we overcome evil with good, it totally disorientates those who hurt us, sending them into chaos and confusion until they are convicted or fall deeper into sin and death. This should give us a wake-up call that this is the best revenge; let their own misdeeds haunt them, and let the perfect Judge deal with them!
If you are not caring for others outside of your circle, then pride is in the way of His Way and evil is on its way to you and from you! Your life is a false dedication to things that are not centered upon His will. We cannot earn our way, but our way must reflect His work (Rom. ; Eph. 5:15-17; Col. 3:5; 1 Pet. 2:24)!
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Rev. 21:4).
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of "Into Thy Word Ministries," a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word, and is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in PasadenaCalifornia (M.Div.) and studies in LondonEngland (Ph.D, Doctor of Philosophy in Practical Theology). He has garnered over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant.
Have you ever had a really rough day? As you stress and toil through life, taking hit after hit from gossipers, prideful hypocrites, and others whose intentions were suspect; perhaps even malice laden. And, all the while, you remain steadfast in your walk with Christ, striving to model His character and love. Maybe what we are going though is Spiritual Warfare...
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