The world is broken, and the evidence for this is all around us: mass shootings, sanctioned slaughter of the unborn, inability to know who we are, sexual evils, and the incivility that plagues almost any discussion are symptoms of a greater problem.
When major problems arise, people immediately start trying to figure out answers. Why did this happen? The media presents story after story about evil in this world, often giving much attention to those who perpetrate the evils. Why?
We are searching for answers. The truth is that answers are likely multifaceted, yet not really that complicated. I’m not talking about this from some pop-psychology point of view. I don’t know what factors lead someone to commit horrible evil. I’m talking about recognizing some of the following:
1. Sin has broken this world. When sin first entered the scene in Genesis 3, the consequences were immediately felt. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), and death will continue in this world, by whatever means, so long as it stands.
2. People commit evil. Sin has many faces, some subtle and some not. When has there been a time since Adam and Eve that there haven’t been evil people committing horrible atrocities? The Bible tells us of people like Cain, Ahab, Jezebel, Athaliah, Manasseh, Herod, and others who had no respect for God or man. History is filled with the violence of evil people whose personal ambitions were greater than their respect for human life. People commit evil, and it’s hard to be surprised anymore.
3. The fact of moral evil underscores free will and responsibility. Actions do not occur in a vacuum. People often make a series of choices that culminate in sin and death. We often act deliberately and willfully. The responsibility for this rests squarely on our shoulders, and this is important because our society has long been trying to avoid personal accountability. We don’t accept the blame for anything. Yet if we follow such a course, we’ll excuse the most heinous of crimes. Yet, the responsibility for sin rests with those who commit sin (cf. Ezekiel 18), and that includes all of us.
4. God is still there. Every time a moral tragedy occurs, public discussions will often turn to the question of God. As is to be expected, atheists will use evil events to argue against God’s existence, or at least against the idea of a God who is loving and powerful. Believers will turn to God to find comfort.
However, remember that if there is no God, then speaking of events or people as “evil” would be pointless. Without a standard by which to define evil, evil could not exist. People cannot miss a target that isn’t there.
The same divine standard showing that senseless acts of murder are evil also shows the evil of other actions. Part of our cultural problem lies right here. Our culture defends abortion on demand, sexual promiscuity of all kinds, lying, and other forms of sins, then balks at those who would call these things evil. We have denied the standard for so long that we cannot tell up from down. As in Isaiah’s day, we call evil good and good evil (Isa 5:20). We support the teaching that God had nothing to do with our existence and that we are products of chance, accidental processes. We have taught that life has no ultimate purpose. Not understanding that ideas have consequences, we then wonder why people commit senseless acts of evil. I realize that different sins carry different kinds of consequences, and I’m not saying that because a person commits one type of sin that he will therefore commit all types of sin. But at the root of the problem is a disrespect for God and His standard. Once the Lordship of Jesus is denied, and no ultimate standard is accepted, then why should we be surprised when people do whatever they want? We can’t pick and choose with God’s will. The same standard that condemns murder also condemns fornication, gossip, and prejudice against others.
5. God has and will deal with all evil. The story of Scripture is the story of the cross, and the cross is God’s ultimate answer to the problem of evil. He suffered more evil against Himself than we can begin to imagine. By His taking evil upon Himself, He has provided the greatest of answers to the problem. Christ is the answer. Through Him, evil has a day of reckoning. Through Him, the enemy of death is destroyed. Through Him, salvation from evil is secured.
Don’t lose heart. We know there is evil in this world, but we know it because there is a God who gives us the ability to make choices. If we choose not to submit to the Lord, then we choose the same side that we have grown to detest. Don’t choose the side of evil, then complain that there is evil in the world. Choose to follow the Lord so that you, by faith, will overcome the world, “for whatever is born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4).